SASTRA NĀM MĀLĀ PURĀṆ is a versified composition, included in the Dasam Granth. It is acknowledged to be the work of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. The poem lists weapons of war, which are praised as protectors and deliverers. It runs to 1318 verses and covers 98 pages in the Dasam Granth (24-point 1934 edition). Pātshāhī 10 is mentioned, although the usual inscription Srī Mukhvāk, i.e. from the Gurū's own lips, is absent. The Sastra Nām Mālā, was completed in mid-1687, thus making it one of the earlier compositions, possibly a prelude to the clash of arms that took place at Bhaṅgāṇī the following year.
The opening section of 27 verses is an invocation to Srī Bhagautī jī for assistance. Here the Sword (Bhagautī), is personified as God. God subdues enemies, so does the sword; therefore the sword is God, and God is the sword. In the following arsenal, the weapons of the day are presented under fanciful names, such as for the arrow, bow-roarer, skin-piercer, deer-slayer, Kṛṣṇa finisher; for the mace, skull-smasher; for the combat-lasso, death-noose ; the gun is the enemy of the army, the tiger-foe, the enemy of treachery. Many of the weapons are listed in the form of riddles so dear to the Punjabi heart. These are often abstruse, and must be resolved in devious ways :
For example :
Think hard and take the word taraṅgaṇī (stream)
They say jā char (grass-eater),
Then think of the word nāik (lord),
At the end say the word śatrū (enemy)----
Lo ! Good friend, you have thought of the word meaning tupak (gun).
The reasoning seems to be that each thing mentioned is the enemy of its predecessor; the grass-eater is the deer (jā is what is produced by the moisture of the stream; char is to graze) ; the lord and master (nāik) of the deer is the tiger; the enemy (śatrū) of the tiger is the gun (tupak).
About 25 verses deal with swords of various types, followed by verses concerning spears and quoit (chakra). There are 178 verses (75-252) on the bow and arrow; on the noose, or combat-lasso, 208 (253-460) ; on the gun or musket, 858 (461-1318), indicating, possibly, an interest in the more modern weapons.
Time and again the weapons are referred to as the instruments of God's deliverance, and they are addressed as personifications of God. This is sometimes shown in their very names, as when the dagger is called sriṣṭeś, Lord of Creation. Adoration is reserved for the weapons only when they are used by the righteous. Thus, what might have been merely a gory account of destructive weapons becomes a sharpening of the moral purpose in waging war.
The language of Sastra Nām Mālā is Braj, with much lower frequency of Perso-Arabic words than in most of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's other compositions. Sanskrit vocabulary, in tatsama form, is in abundance. The style is fanciful, and the reader is amazed by the opulence of linguistic innovation.
C. H. Loehlin