BIJAI SINGH, by Bhai Vir Singh, is a historical romance constructed around the heroic figure of Bijai Singh, a fictitious character, through whose spiritual integrity it endeavours to delineate a whole people, its inspiration and way of life. First published in 1899, Bijai Singh is the author`s second novel and, like its predecessor Sundari (q.v.), it is situated in the same 18th century period of suffering and trial for the Sikhs. Bijai Singh is in every sense an exemplary character. Born Ram Lal in a Hindu Khatri family of Lahore, he received the new name Bijai Singh as, moved by the gallant deeds of the Sikhs, he, along with his wife and son, receives the initiatory rites and joins the ranks of the Khalsa.
The family quits home to take refuge in a forest, but is spied upon and captured by a Mughal troop. All efforts to convert Bijai Singh to Islam and persuade his wife, Sushil Kaur, to enter the Nawab`s harem fail. Bijai Singh is released on the intercession of a Sufi saint Sabir Shah, and his wife and son, the sixyearold Varyam Singh, sent to a detention camp. The Nawab is still desirous of marrying Sushil Kaur, but Murad Begam who, like her husband Mir Mannu, is a historical character, protects her. After her husband`s death in an action against the Sikhs, Murad Begam assumed power in Lahore.
Bijai Singh joins the jatha or band of Sardar Karora Singh that is a real name from Sikh history, but wounded in a battle, he again falls into captivity and is taken to Lahore. Here Murad Begam loses her heart to him and proposes marriage, exempting him from the condition of renouncing his faith and embracing Islam. He, however, spurns the offer. The Begam`s intrigue to get rid of Sushil Kaur by having her thrown into the rivers also fails. The Sikh spy Bijia Singh who happens to be around, picks her up as well as her son and brings them back to the camp of their leader, Karora Singh. While the mother and son regain health in the jatha, an attack is planned to get Bijai Singh released.
Although the plan succeeds, Bijai Singh is wounded grievously. Back in the camp, he bleeds profusely and dies with the Guru`s name on his lips. Sushil Kaur also breathes her last at the same moment. Their son, Varyam Singh, is brought up by Karora Singh. As the author himself proclaims in the preface, he wrote the novel with a view to resurrecting Sikh values and belief. The Sikh actors in the story are presented at their idealistic best. This makes plot as well as characterization somewhat tentative. Yet the novelist did succeed in his purpose of stirring the hearts of his readers. For them Bijai Singh and Sushil Kaur became real persons, embodying the Sikh virtues of faith, tenacity and sacrifice.
1. Harbans Singh, Bhai Vir Singh. Delhi, 1972
2. Kohli, Surindar Singh, and Harnam Singh Shan, eds., Bhai Vir Singh, Jivan, Saman te Rachna. Chandigarh, 1973