Bhai Santokh Singh (1787 - 1853)

Poet and Historian Bhai Santokh Singh

Bhai Santokh Singh (1787 - 1843) was a poet and historian, born on 8 October 1787 at the house of Bhai Deva Singh and Bibi Rajadi who were professionally cloth-printers of Nurudin village, also known as Sarai Nurudin, 7 KM northwest of Tarn Taran in Amritsar district of the Punjab.

Deva Singh though poor was educated and well versed in sacred texts. He sent his son, after preliminary education at home, to Amritsar where he became pupil of Giani Sant Singh (1768 - 1832), a renowned man of letters and custodian of Sri Darbar Sahib.

After having studied Sikh Scripture and history, Sanskrit language and literature, poetics, philosophy and mythology at Amritsar for about 15 years, Santok Singh moved to Buria, an oldtown on the right bank of Yamuna river in the present Yamanu Nagar district of Haryana, some time before 1813, and established himself there as a writer, poet, and preacher. His patron was Dial Singh, also from a cloth-makers' family and an old acquaintance of the poet's father, who was serving as an army officer under Sardar Hari Singh, chief of Buria. Here Santokh Singh wrote his earlier works, Nam Kosh, a versified Hindi translation of Amar Kosa, the famous Sanskrit dictionary (completed in 1821), and Sri Guru Nanak Prakash, an epic poem consisting of 9,700 verses dealing with the life and teachings of Guru Nanak (completed in 1823). He had attained such repute as a poet and Scholar that Bhai Udai Singh, chief of Kaithal, invited him in 1825 to join his court.

Santokh Singh is said to have spent some time at Patiala also as an employee of Maharaja Karam Singh before going to Kathal. During his 18-year span at Kaithal, now a district town in Haryana, he wrote Garab Ganjani Tikka (1829), an exhaustive philosophical commentary in Hindi prose on Guru Nanak's Japu, along with a critical appreciation of its poetic features (the work was meant to be a rejoinder to Anandghana's tika of the Japu); Valimiki Ramayan (1834), a versified translation of the epic in chaste and refined Braj Bhasa ; translation of Atma Purana in Sadhukari prose; and his magnum opus Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, a voluminous history of the Gurus in Braj Bhasa consisting of 51,820 verses written during 1835-43.

Bhai Santokh Singh was married during his stay at Buria to Bibi Ram Kaur of Jagadhari. Five sons and three daughters were born to them. Some of his descendants are now living at Patiala and at Kaithal. The poet died at Kaithal on 19 October 1843, soon after completion of his Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. A shrine in honour of his memory was constructed at his native place, Sarai Nurudin, during the 1950s.

Excerpts taken from:

"The Encyclopedia of Sikhism" edited by Harbans Singh.


  1. Goel, Jai Bhagwan,"Mahan Kavi Santokh Singh : Jiven te Rachna", Patiala 1992.
  2. Vir Singh, Bhai,"Prastavna Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth", Amritsar, 1927-37
  3. Padam, Piara Singh, "Mahan Kavi Santokh Singh ", Patiala, 1964
  4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur "The Sikh Religion", Oxford, 1909.