SRI GURU PANTH PRAKASH, popularly Panth Prakash, by Giani Gian Singh (1822-1921), is a history of the Sikhs in verse. As the title suggests, it is an account of the rise and development of the Guru Panth, i.e. the Klialsa or the Sikh community. The author, a theologian and preacher of Sikh religion belonging to the Nirmala sect, made his debut in the field of historiography in 1880 with the publication of this book which he wrote at the suggestion of his teacher, Pandit Tara Singh Narotam (1822-91). Its first (1880) edition was lithographed at Delhi with only 65 bisrams (chapters or sections), and 715 pages.

It covered the period of the Gurus, Banda Singh Bahadur and of the Sikh misis, that is the same as covered in an earlier (Prachih) Panth Prakash by Ratan Singh Bhangu. A revised and much enlarged second version, in two parts, (pages 1,418), was lithographed by Diwan Buta Singh at his Matba`Aftab at Lahore in 1889. Owing to the differences he had had with the publisher, Giani Gian Singh liad a fresh edition lithographed in 1889 through Bhai Kaka Singh Sadhu at Matba` ChashmiNur, Amritsar. This edition comprised 73 sections and a total of 960 pages, the first 533 being a copy, with minor alterations, of the Delhi edition.

The fourth edition of Sn Guru Panth Prakash, 115 sections and 1085 pages, was again published by Bhai Kaka Singh Sadhu in 1898, but this lime typeset at WaziriHind Press, Amritsar. Two reprints of the fourth edition were published by the Khalsa Tract Society. The Punjab Languages Department, Patiala, brought out a reprint in 1970. In the same year appeared a revised and richly annotated edition in five volumes prepared by Singh Sahib Giani Kirpal Singh, Head Granthi of Sri Darbar Sahib (later Jathedar Sri Akal Takht), Amritsar. Scattered throughout the Panth Prakash are references at least to 23 different sources which the author consulted or made use of.

He especially mentions Ratan Singh Bhangu`s (Prachin) Panth Prakash, Bute Shah`s Twarikh iPnnjab and Bhai Santokh Singh`s Sri Gur Pratap Sura; Granth. Other sources referred to include Gurbiias Dasvin Patshahl, Bahsavalmama, Dabistan i Mazahib, and Siyar UJfMutakhariri. Sri Guru Panth Prakash covers a vast span of Sikh history from Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the faith, to the annexation of the Punjab by the British and death of Maharaja Duleep Singh. The last three chapters contain an account of some Sikh sects and cults Udasis, Nirmalas, Nihangs, Kukas or Namdharis, Gulabdasias, Satkartarias, Niranjanias, Hiradasias and Gangushahisand the author`s reflections on contemporary social situation, with some autobiographical details.

Giani Gian Singh was a devoutly religious scholar, but not a critical historian. His approach to history was traditional, and the impulse behind his historical writing (besides the Panth Prakash, he also wrote a voluminous history of the Sikhs in prose entitled Twarikh Gun`i Khalsa in five parts) was the projection of the glory of the Sikhs` past. Some of the facts, dates and sequences of events in the Panth Prakash do not bear scientific scrutiny, yet the work enjoys much popularity and prestige. It is expounded formally in Sikh g”urdwaras and has served to shape the historical imagination of Sikhs over the generations.

References :

1. Bliagat Singh, Giani Gian Singh. Patiala, 1978