NĀNAK VIJAI, more properly known as Srī Gurū Nānak Vijai, in manuscript, is a narration in verse of the events of Gurū Nānak's life. During his journeys across the country and outside, Gurū Nānak met a variety of people whom he won over by his gentle and persuasive manner. This explains the title of the work Nānak Vijai, which literally means "Victory of Nānak." The author, Sant Reṇ, originally from Kashmīr, had settled down in the Punjab towards the end of his life. He was born in AD 1741 at Srīnagar in a Gauṛ Brāhmaṇ family. He was the only son of his parents—father, Paṇḍit Hari Vallabh, and mother, Sāvitrī Devī. From his very early years, Sant Reṇ was indifferent to worldly affairs and had a passion for travel and for the company of holy men. He left home in his youth and started upon his wandering career. During his journey through the Punjab, he came in contact with Bābā Sāhib Dās, who was much respected and revered Udāsī sādhū of his times. Sant Reṇ came in the Udāsī fold under the influence of Bābā Sāhib Dās from whom he received instruction in the Sikh faith. He visited especially the places of religious pilgrimage with a view to having an opportunity to discourse with saints, rṣīs and sannyāsīs. He visited far-off parts of the country like Mahārāshṭra and modern Madhya Pradesh, in the south, Sindh and Balūchistān in the west, Nepāl and Kedārnāth in the north. He himself established many maṭhs and monasteries. The most important of these was the ḍerā Gujrāṅwālā , which had a jāgīr assigned to it by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. The Bālāpur Piṭh, one of the schools set up by him in the distant Akolā district, in Mahārāshṭra, is still in existence. He took a leading part in the establishment of Sarab Udāsīn Paṅchāitī Akhāṛā, with the help of Sant Prītam Dās Nirabān. During his last years, Sant Reṇ settled at the village of Bhūdan, near Mālerkoṭlā, in the Punjab, where he died on Phagaṇ sudī 12, 1928 Bk/AD 1872 at the ripe old age of 130. His samādh, built by a woman devotee, stands till today. Sant Reṇ was a versatile poet. He has left five books including the voluminous Nānak Vijai. The other four are: Man Prabodh, Anbhāī Amrit Sāgar, Udāsī Bodh and Srī Gurū Nānak Bodh. Of these four, the first two have been published in a single volume by Shrī Sant Reṇ Āshram, Bhūdan.
The manuscript Nānak Vijai is a huge volume of 1860 leaves 7-3/4" X 12". Each page contains 24 lines with 18 to 20 words per line. The book is divided into 20 sections called khaṇḍs and 324 adhyāyas (chapters). The original manuscript, in Gurmukhī characters, is in the author's own hand. Later four copies were prepared from it for the four important centres of his devotees. The work is a detailed biography of Gurū Nānak. The author has made full use of the available sources, including the Janam Sākhīs and Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh's Srī Gurū Nānak Prakāsh. The events are narrated from the Point of view of a devotee, and pious legend and mythology are freely intermixed with history. On the doctrinal side, Nānak Vijai presents Gurū Nānak's teachings in the framework of Vedantic philosophy. But the author's devotion to the Gurū and his faith in his bāṇī are undisputed. The poet has used in his work various metres from the Indian poetic tradition such as kabitt kuṇḍaliā, ḍohā and chaupaī. In addition to these, he has employed some folk tunes and has invented some new metres of his own as well. He has made considerable use of the figures of speech, mainly similes and metaphors. The language of Nānak Vijai is Western Hindi, more polished and scholarly than Sādh Bhākhā of the saint poets of earlier times. Yet it is not as pure as modern literary Hindi. It is, in fact, a mixture of Brāj Bhāṣā idiom and grammar and of vocabulary from different languages, mainly Punjabi.
The exact date of the completion of Nānak Vijai is not known, though according to the author's own statement, he started writing when he had reached the age of hundred. The writing was not done at any one fixed place. The author wrote as he travelled, depositing the sheets into a maṭṭ (earthen pitcher) carried on a country-cart.
Jagjīt Siṅgh; Ropaṛ