SRĪ GUR SOBHĀ, a poetical work, part eulogy and part history, is an admixture of Braj and eastern Punjabi, by Saināpati who enjoyed Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's patronage for several years. The work, which had remained unknown to scholars of the recent period, was rediscovered by Akālī Kaur Siṅgh and published through Bhāī Nānak Siṅgh, Kirpāl Siṅgh Hazūrīā, Amritsar, in December 1925. Another edition was brought out by Dr Gaṇḍā Siṅgh (Punjabi University, Paṭiālā, 1967). Two copies of the manuscript existed in the Sikh Reference Library, Amritsar, which were destroyed in the Army action in 1984. In Srī Gur Sobhā the poet uses neither his name nor pen name. It is from his two other works, Chāṇakya Nītī and Srī Saiṅ Sukh, that we get the clue to the name. Srī Gur Sobhā opens with the phrase khālsā bāch ("says the Khālsā") instead of the usual kaviovāch ("says the poet"), suggesting that Saināpati had possibly received the rites of the Khālsā and become a "Siṅgh." This led Bāvā Sumer Siṅgh to name him Sainā Siṅgh.
Saināpati, different from his namesake from the eastern provinces who wrote Kāvyakalpadrum and Kavitt Ratanākar, was the son of Bāl Chand, a Mān Jaṭṭ of Lahore, who was himself a literate man and writer. Saināpati's original name was Chandra Sain. Saināpati and Sain Kavi were his pen-names. Chandra Sain joined Gurū Gobind Siṅgh at Anandpur as one of the poets in his retinue. There he translated Chaṇākya Nītī, an ancient treatise on politics and diplomacy, into old Hindi verse. Sometime around the close of the seventeenth century or possibly after the evacuation of Anandpur in 1705, Chandra Sain went to stay at Wazīrābād in present-day Gujrāṅwālā district of Pakistan. There at the instance of his friend Vaid Jagat Rāi, he translated into Bhākhā an old treatise on medicine, Rām Chand's Rām Binod, under the title Srī Sain Sukh.
The Srī Gur Sobhā was written, according to the author's testimony, in 1701 (completed on Bhādoṅ sudī 15,1758 Bk/6 September 1701), but the fact that it includes accounts of events occuring as late as October 1708 has led scholars to surmise that 1701 may be the date of the first draft, and that the poet may have enlarged it later and completed it probably in 1711. The main theme of the hook, as indicated in the invocatory passages, is the praise of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. At least six of the twenty cantos, besides several passages in others, are devoted to directly panegyrizing the Gurū and the Khālsā. In the events the work sets forth to highlight their heroic exploits lies its real historical value. Among the events described with much poetic flourish are battles fought by the Sikhs under Gurū Gobind Siṅgh the war of succession among the sons of Emperor Auraṅgzīb, the Gurū's meeting with Emperor Bahādur Shāh and the Gurū's assassination at Nāndeḍ. A fairly well-defined outline of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's life emerges from the work as a whole. Besides its historical significance and poetic excellence, Srī Gur Sobhā helps elucidate contemporary terminology in at least two instances; Saināpati uses the term misl as a military sub-unit (ii, 12,52 ; xviii. 6, 771); and Khālsā is defined as the Sikh community in direct relation with the Gurū subsequent to the elimination by him of the intermediary masands or local community leaders ministering their dioceses in different parts.
To enumerate the twenty different adhyāyas or chapters, the first entitled "Panth Pragās Barnan" contains, besides introductory stanzas, names of the ten Gurūs and describes, on the lines of the fifth canto of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's Bachitra Nāṭak, that the tenth Gurū created Khālsā Panth in response to a divine command. The chapters that follow are (2) "Teg Pragās" depicting the battle of Bhaṅgāṇī (3) "Rājan Het Saṅgrām," the battle of Nadauṇ (4) battles with Khānzādā and Husain Khān; (5) "Bachan Pragās" describing cessation of masand system and the creation of the Khālsā (6) "Bachan Bichār" delineating ideals of the Khālsā (7) "Rahit Pragās" announcing the way of life of the Khālsā ; (8) the first battle of Anandpur ; (9) the battle of Nirmohgaṛh; (10) battles of Basālī and Kalmoṭ (11) the second battle of Anandpur ; (12) the battle of Chamkaur; (13) "Kalā Pragās" describing the Gurū's journey from Chamkaur to Mālvā, battle of Muktsar and Epistle of Victory; (14) "Kīchak Mār" giving details of journey towards the South and the battle of Baghaur; (15) "Zikr Bādshāhī" regarding the war of succession between two sons of Aurarigzīb; (16) "Mūlāqat Badshāh Kī," i.e. meeting with Emperor Bahādur Shāh ; (17) "Sāhibzādā kā Judh ar Zikr Rāh Kā" describing journey through Rājasthān and skirmish at Chittoṛgaṛh ; (18) "Jotī Jot Samāvaṇā", i.e. the passing away of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh ; (19) "Agam Pragās," an expression of the poet's view about the future of the Khālsā ; and (20) "Sarb Upamā" is the poet's salutation to the Omnipresent God.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)