GULĀB SIṄGH, PAṆḌIT, was a Nirmalā scholar, the prefix paṇḍit denoting his preeminence in Sanskrit letters rather than his caste. He was born in a peasant family in 1789 Bk/AD 1732 in the village of Sekham, in Lahore district, now in Pakistan. He was initiated into Sanskrit studies by Paṇḍit Mān Siṅgh Nirmalā to whom he has expressed his indebtedness at many places in his writings. As a small boy, he learnt Gurmukhī from a sādhū in his own village and read with him the Gurū Granth Sāhib. But this was not the end of his ambition. Receiving from his teacher the robes of an ascetic, he secretly left home and reached Vārāṇasī to study Sanskrit. When his teacher there discovered that he was not a Brāhmaṇ, but a Jaṭṭ, he turned him out of his seminary with the rebuke that, being a śūdra, he had no right to Sanskrit and Vedic education. But his family, for whom Gulāb Siṅgh had been like a domestic servant, persuaded him to search for him and bring him back. Gulāb Siṅgh was found sitting on the bank of the Gaṅgā in a desolate state. Back in the pāṭhshālā Gulāb Siṅgh worked diligently and patiently, memorizing lengthy Sanskrit works to circumvent the injunction about caste restrictions. Thus he acquired an amazingly high degree of proficiency in Sanskrit and Braj Bhāṣā and became a reputed scholar and writer.
All of Gulāb Siṅgh's works are in Braj Bhāṣā, written in the Gurmukhī script. His Adhyātam Rāmāiṇ and Prabodhchandra Nāṭak are in fact translations of old Sanskrit texts. Bhāvarasāṅmrit and Mokhpanth are original compositions. Besides these, there are some minor works such as Svapan Adhyāi, Karam Vipāka, and Rām Ridā. The last one is a part of the Adhyātam Rāmāiṇ, but is available in manuscript form separately written by various scribes. Paṇḍits felt jealous of his success and, obtaining from Mān Siṅgh his manuscripts, sunk them into a river. The four major works that now survive were not then in his teacher's custody. Gulāb Siṅgh kept his composure when he learnt what had happened, though he wrote nothing more thereafter.
Paṇḍit Gulāb Siṅgh's works remained in manuscript form for more than a century before they were published. From among them the Bhāvarasāṅmrit contains preachings about rationalism and detachment. The text begins with the praise of Gurū Nānak and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, followed by verses in honour of the author's teacher, Mān Siṅgh. Prayer, nām, love of the Divine, good deeds, detached living, karma, good company, service, heroism and dharma are among the subjects dilated upon. Although the author is deeply rooted in Vedāntic lore, the final touchstone for him is the teaching of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. This work, in Braj verse, with abundant use of Sanskrit vocabulary in tatsama form, was completed in 1834 Bk/AD 1777 and published in 1959 Bk/AD 1902. The author records in the epilogue: "The book is completed on this day which is a Sunday. It is the night of full moon. The sky is overcast with clouds. A cool breeze is blowing. It is drizzling."
The Mokhpanth also called Mokhpanth Prakāsh is another of Paṇḍit Gulāb Siṅgh's important works. 'Mokhpanth' literally means 'the way to release', 'the way to the ultimate goal of life'. This is a philosophical work dealing with the principles of the major schools of Indian philosophy, including Yoga, Nyāya, Mīmāmsā and Vedānta. There are some autobiographical references towards the end of the book in which the poet tells us about his parents and his birthplace. Concerning his own faith, he says: "I am a follower of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh."
The book, divided into five parts, contains 1984 stanzas. It was completed at Amritsar in 1835 Bk/AD 1778, and was published in AD 1912.
The Adhyātam Rāmāiṇ, a free translation in Braj Bhāṣā of a Sanskrit work, was completed in 1839 Bk/AD 1782. The original work, in Sanskrit, bears the same title and is a part of the Brāhmaṇḍa Purāṇa. It describes the story of Rāma in a philosophical setting. The book was published in AD 1880. Paṇḍit Gulāb Siṅgh adds an epilogue paying homage to the Ten Gurūs.
The Prabodhachandrodai or Prabodhachandra Nāṭak was again a translation in Braj verse of a Sanskrit text. The original was the work of one Paṇḍit Krishna Miśra who completed it in the sixties of the eleventh century. It is believed that he wrote the Nāṭak for the instruction of his son. In this book, the vices and virtues have been personified. Kām (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment), ahaṅkār (ego) are shown at war with vivek (wisdom), sat (truth), santokh (contentment), tarak (reason), śardhā (faith) and bhakti (devotion). The latter eventually come out victorious.
Among other works attributed to Paṇḍit Gulāb Siṅgh are Svapan Adhyāi or Svapan Birtānt and Karam Vipāk. The first is a brief text dealing with the interpretation of dreams. Only two copies in manuscript form have so far come to light. It consists of ten hand-written sheets, with nine lines to a page. The writing is clear and correct but, the last pages of the manuscript being missing, the date of its composition is not ascertainable.
The Karam Vipāk is a mythological narration in verse in which sūrya (the sun) preaches the philosophy of karma (action) to Arun, his coachman. The Rāma Gītā, Rām Ridā or Rām Ridai Stotar or Ram Hridā is still another composition which contains Rāma's exhortation to Hanūmān. It is, in fact, a chapter of the Adhyātam Rāmāiṇ.