On birthday 30 August : Eminent Punjabi scholar and lexicographer Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha
By Dr Ravinder Kaur Ravia
Great Punjabi scholar Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha was supreme amongst the great personalities of his time (1861-1938 A.D). His ancestral village was ‘pitho’ in district Bathinda and he was ‘Dhillon Jatt. Born on 30th august, 1861 to Mata Har Kaur and father Narain singh , in village Banera Khurd in the state of Patiala. Bhai Kahan Singh’s ancestral culture matches with that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s assistant, Baba Naudh Singh. He was married to Bibi Basant Kaur, daughter of S.Hardam singh of village Ramgarh (Patiala). He had a son, Bhai Bhagwant Singh (Hari ji) in 1892 A.D form her.
Form literary point of view, he was a patriotic person.He did not attend any school or college for formal education,but studied several branches of learning on his own. His published, unpublished compositions count above two dozens. Indian culture and modernization had same impact on his ideals. His individual efforts surpasses the work of many organizations . He was an eminent scholar, a Gurmat researcher, a learned annotator a scientific lexicographer, a language expert, a great poet and an excellent editor in Punjabi. Bhai Sahib served the Nabha state from 1886-1912 A.D & 1917-1923 A.D, being on different posts like private secretary, city magistrate, deputy commissioner, foreign minister , judge of high court, member of judicial council of Nabha State etc. He worked as a lawyer in the political agency of Patiala State ,under Maharaja Bhupinder Singh form 1915 to 1917. Renowned scholar, Mr. Max Arthur Macauliffe (England ), Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha state and his wife Maharani Sarojni Devi were prominent followers of Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha.
Bhai Sahib started his literary work in a traditional mode under the influence of Brij & Devnagari languages. His first book is’ Raj Dharm’ publish in1884 A.D.This was written at a time when he was serving with Maharaja Hira Singh.( The House of Nabha). ‘Teeka Jaimani Ashvmedh’(1890 A.D.) and ‘Natak Bhavarth Dipika’(1897A.D.) also are famous books of Bhai Sahib related to Indian culture.
Being under the effect of Singh Sabha Lehar, he also preached Gurmat by Sikh principles. He was a man of letter. In his books’ ‘Gurmat Parbhaker’,’Gurmat Sudhakar’, ‘Hum Hindu Nahin’ ‘Guru Chhand Divakar’ ‘Guru Shabadalankar’ and ‘Gurmat-Martand’ is a true picture of Sikh religion and its ideology. ‘Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature’ (Gurushabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh), the only one of its kind, is Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha’s entire life's hardwork ,it was published by The House of Patiala on instructions of Maharaja Bhupindera Singh in four magnificent volumes in 1930. It is not only restricted to Gurbani or Sikh literature, but it is a unique literary composition to know Indian culture and traditions. Now it had been translated to English language by Punjabi University,Patiala.Undoubtedly Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha was great scholar and lexicographer of India, because there has been no lexicon of any other Indian language, which is comparable to Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature (Gurushabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh).According to Swarn Singh Boparai Ex VC Punjabi University,Patiala’ Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature,is 12th in the history of encyclopaedias in the world .Yet the world is unaware that a Sikh scholar did this pathbreaking scholarly work single handed at that time,when no modern research facilities were available.’Besides the references on Sikhism his Encyclopaedia gives information of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit words as well. According to Dr Jaspal Singh VC Punjabi University,Patiala, ‘In Mahan Kosh ,Comments on technical and theological terms belonging to other religions have been made in a liberal spirit without showing the least sign of sectarianism.’ This great work,of Bhai Kahan Singh present time is a boon not only to the Sikhs but to all Punjabis and the students of Comparative Religion, Theology,Litrature and Poetry.
Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha has put his selfless service and inspiration towards the completion of the world famous book ‘ The Sikh Religion’ written by famous scholar Mr. Max Arthur Macauliffe (1907-1908). Mr. Macauliffe has said, in his Preface to the Sikh Religion (Vol. I, page xxix), “For literary assistance I must acknowledge my indebtedness to Sardar Kahan Singh of Nabha, one of the greatest scholars and most distinguished authors among the Sikhs.” He also contributed in the establishment of Khalsa College, Amritsar .Keeping his political intelligence in view, Maharaja Hira Singh affectionately called him 'niti ji' (Diplomat).Col Dunlop Smith first British Political Agent to the Phulkian States(Nabha,Patiala,and Jind) wrote a letter from England in18 July1905 to Maharaja Hira Singh Nabha that’ ‘I have always had a high regard for Sardar Kahan Singh.I never met any official in any of the Phulkian States who so faithfully served the interests of both his Chief and his State.’Kahan Singh ,successfully represented Nabha State as its Lawyer in the Privy Council at Londen in 1908 A.D.He was also Co-authored “Anand Karaj Act’ with Tikka Ripudaman Singh of Nabha,which was successfully passed in the assembly in oct1909.In recognition of his services to Nabha State and the Punjabi Community he was honoured with the title of “Sardar Bahadur”by the British Government. Due to his all sphere intelligence and multitalented dynamic personality, he is known as ‘Bhai Sahib’, ‘Panth Ratan’ and ‘Sardar Bahadur’ in Sikh Panth.
Among his descendents, his only son Bhai Bhagwant Singh (Hari ji),his daugter -in- law Bibi Harnam Kaur and his grand daughter –in –law Dr. Rachhpal Kaur have also contributed their invaluable services to Punjabi literature. From this learned family of Nabha state, Major Adarshpal Singh great grand son of Bhai kahan singh and his talented daughter Bibi Roopika also have literary interests. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha’s viewpoint was universal, idealistic and scientific. Presided over The Sikh Educacational Conference at khalsa colleage Amritsar(4April,1931) in a Lecture,Bhai Kahan Singh says that "Educated people are honoured in this world,and illiterate ones are disrespected.Their is no power equivalent to knowledge and everyone has to bow before it.As long as india remained a centre of learning,outsiders came here as students to acquire knowldge and regarded India as a teacher,but when it diverted from education,it lost its prestige and became dependent on others." There have been scholar and annotator who have annotated the human values and mystic principles of Gurbani in sikh religion. But after bhai Gurdas ji,if all sikh scholars and commentators are listed,then the name of Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, ( the compiler of Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature ) shines like a moon in the star studded sky. Nucleus of his ideology was social welfare and upliftment of Indian masses. Bhai Sahib passed away on November 23,1938,but his writings are thoughtprovoking and have the power of enlightenment for hundreds of years
Dr Ravinder Kaur Ravi , Assistant professor, Department of Music, Punjabi University,Patiala ,contect- firstname.lastname@example.org Mob – 84378-22296