SANTOKH SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (1787-1843), poet and historian, was born on 8 October 1787 the son of Bhāī Devā Siṅgh and Māī Rajādī, professionally cloth-printers of Nūrdīn village, also known as Sarāi Nūrdīn, 7 km northwest of Tarn Tāran in Amritsar district of the Punjab. Devā Siṅgh though poor was educated and well versed in the sacred texts. He sent his son, after preliminary education at home, to Amritsar where he became a pupil of Giānī Sant Siṅgh (1768-1832), a renowned man of letters and custodian of Srī Darbār Sāhib.
After having studied Sikh Scripture and history, Sanskrit language and literature, poetics, philosophy and mythology at Amritsar for about 15 years, Santokh Siṅgh moved to Būṛīā, an old town on the right bank of Yamunā in the present Yamunā Nagar district of Haryāṇā, some time before 1813, and established himself there as a writer, poet, and preacher. His patron was Diāl Siṅgh, also from a cloth-makers' family and an old acquaintance of the poet's father, who was serving as an army officer under Sardār Harī Siṅgh, chief of Būṛīā. Here Santokh Siṅgh wrote his earlier works, Nām Kosh, a versified Hindi translation of Amar Kośa, the famous Sanskrit dictionary, (completed in 1821), and Srī Gurū Nānak Prakāsh, an epic poem consisting of 9,700 verses dealing with the life and teachings of Gurū Nānak (completed in 1823). He had attained such repute as a poet and scholar that Bhāī Udai Siṅgh, chief of Kaithal, invited him in 1825 to join his court. Santokh Siṅgh is said to have spent some time at Paṭiālā also as an employee of Mahārājā Karam Siṅgh before going to Kaithal. During his 18-year span at Kaithal, now a district town in Haryāṇā, he wrote Garab Gañjanī Ṭīkā (1829), an exhaustive philosophical commentary in Hindi prose on Gurū Nānak’s Japu, along with a critical appreciation of its poetic features (the work was meant to be a rejoinder to Anandghana's ṭīkā of the Japu); Vālmīkī Rāmāyaṇa (1834), a versified translation of the epic in chaste and refined Braj Bhāṣā ; translation of Ātma Purāṇa in Sadhūkaṛī prose (date not known); and his mangum opus, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūryodaya, popularly known as Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, a voluminous history of the Gurūs in Braj Bhāṣā consisting of 51,820 verses written during 1835-43.
Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh was married during his stay at Būṛīā to Bībī Rām Kaur of Jagādhrī. Five sons and three daughters were born to them. Some of his descendants are now living at Paṭiālā and at Kaithal. The poet died at Kaithal on 19 October 1843, soon after the completion of his Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth. A shrine in honour of his memory was constructed at his native place, Sarāi Nūrdīn, during the 1950’s.
Jai Bhagwān Goel