BHAṬṬ-VAHĪS, scrolls or records maintained by Bhaṭṭs, hereditary bards and genealogists. According to Nesfield as quoted in W. Crooke, The Tribes and Castes of the North Western India, 1896, Bhaṭṭs are an "offshoot from those secularised Brāhmaṇs who frequented the courts of princes and the camps of warriors, recited their praises in public, and kept records of their genealogies. " These bards constantly attended upon or visited their patron families reciting panegyrics to them and receiving customary rewards. They also collected information about births, deaths and marriages in the families and recorded it in their scrolls. These scrolls containing information going back to several past centuries formed the valued part of the bards' hereditary possessions.
A group of Bhaṭṭs was introduced to Gurū Arjan, Nānak V, by Bhaṭṭ Bhikhā who had himself become a Sikh in the time of Gurū Amar Dās. According to Bhāī Gurdās, Vārāṅ, XI. 21, and Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, Sikhāṅ dī Bhagat Mālā, he had once visited Gurū Arjan with the saṅgat of Sultānpur Lodhī. Some of the Bhaṭṭs who came into the Sikh fold composed hymns in honour of the Gurūs which were entered in the Gurū Granth Sāhib by Gurū Arjan. These Bhaṭṭs and their successors too maintained their vahīs in which they recorded information concerning the Gurūs, their families and some of the eminent Sikhs. These old vahīs are still preserved in the descendant families, now scattered mostly in Haryāṇā state. Their script is bhaṭṭāksharī, a kind of family code like laṇḍe or mahājanī. During the late 1950's, a researcher, Giānī Garjā Siṅgh, obtained Gurmukhī transcripts of some of the entries pertaining to the Gurū period, from Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708) through Bhaṭṭ Mān Siṅgh of Karsindhū village, in Jīnd district. Some of these were published as footnotes to Shāhīd Bilās Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, edited by Giānī Garjā Siṅgh and published by Punjabi Sāhitya Akādemī, Ludhiāṇā, in 1961. The rest are still in manuscript form lying in the Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, Paṭiālā. These extracts provide valuable information regarding dates, places and events of the period.
As contemporary evidence, Bhaṭṭ-Vahīs have to be used with caution however, for they are not diaries of the eye witnesses. It was customary for the Bhaṭṭs to visit their hereditary patrons usually twice a year at harvest time to sing their praises and receive rewards or customary donations as well as to collect information for record in their vahīs. These records are, therefore, based on information gathered generally after the occurrence of events and, possibly, sometimes received at second hand. This may not apply to entries regarding the Gurūs which were recorded by Bhaṭṭs who generally remained in attendance. For instance, an entry about the conferment of Gurūship upon the Gurū Granth Sāhib in 1708 is by Bhaṭṭ Narbud Siṅgh (son of Keso Siṅgh and grandson of Bhaṭṭ Kīrat whose hymns are included in the Holy Book) who had accompanied Gurū Gobind Siṅgh to Nāndeḍ. On the whole, these Bhaṭṭ-Vahīs are a mine of information of historical and sociological value.
Giānī Garjā Siṅgh