SRĪ GURŪ PANTH PRAKĀSH, popularly Panth Prakāsh, by Giānī Giān Siṅgh (1822-1921), is a history of the Sikhs in verse. As the title suggests, it is an account of the rise and development of the Gurū Panth, i.e. the Khālsā or the Sikh community. The author, a theologian and preacher of Sikh religion belonging to the Nirmalā sect, made his debut in the field of historiography in 1880 with the publication of this book which he wrote at the suggestion of his teacher, Paṇḍit Tārā Siṅgh Narotam (1822-91). Its first (1880) edition was lithographed at Delhi with only 65 bisrāms (chapters or sections), and 715 pages. It covered the period of the Gurūs, Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur and of the Sikh misls, that is the same as covered in an earlier (Prāchīn) Panth Prakāsh by Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū. A revised and much enlarged second version, in two parts, (pages 1,418), was lithographed by Dīwān Būṭā Siṅgh at his Matba ' Āftāb at Lahore in 1889. Owing to the differences he had had with the publisher, Giānī Giān Siṅgh had a fresh edition lithographed in 1889 through Bhāī Kākā Siṅgh Sādhū at Matba' Chashm-i-Nūr, Amritsar. This edition comprised 73 sections and a total of 960 pages, the first 533 being a copy, with minor alterations, of the Delhi edition. The fourth edition of Srī Gurū Panth Prakāsh, 115 sections and 1085 pages, was again published by Bhāī Kākā Siṅgh Sādhū in 1898, but this time type--set at Wazīr-i-Hind Press, Amritsar. Two reprints of the fourth edition were published by the Khālsā Tract Society. The Punjab Languages Department, Paṭiālā, brought out a reprint in 1970. In the same year appeared a revised and richly annotated edition in five volumes prepared by Siṅgh Sāhib Giānī Kirpāl Siṅgh, Head Granthī of Srī Darbār Sāhib (later Jathedār Srī Akāl Takht), Amritsar.
Scattered throughout the Panth Prakāsh are references atleast to 23 different sources which the author consulted or made use of. He especially mentions Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū's (Prāchīn) Panth Prakāsh, Būṭe Shāh's Twārīkh-i-Punjab and Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh's Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth. Other sources referred to include Gurbilās Dāsviṅ Pātshāhī, Baṅsavālīnāmā, Dabistān-i-Mazāhib, and Sīyar ul-Mutākharīṅ. Srī Gurū Panth Prakāsh covers a vast span of Sikh history from Gurū Nānak (1469-1539), the founder of the faith, to the annexation of the Punjab by the British and death of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh. The last three chapters contain an account of some Sikh sects and cults-- Udāsīs, Nirmalās, Nihaṅgs, Kūkās or Nāmdhārīs, Gulābdāsīās, Satkartārīās, Nirañjaṇīās, Hīrādāsīās and Gaṅgūshāhīs and the author's reflections on contemporary social situation, with some autobiographical details.
Giānī Giān Siṅgh was a devoutly religious scholar; but not a critical historian. His approach to history was traditional, and the impulse behind his historical writing (besides the Panth Prakāsh, he also wrote a voluminous history of the Sikhs in prose entitled Twārīkh Gurū Khālsā in five parts) was the projection of the glory of the Sikhs' past. Some of the facts, dates and sequences of events in the Panth Prakāsh do not bear scientific scrutiny, yet the work enjoys much popularity and prestige. It is expounded formally in Sikh gurdwārās and has served to shape the historical imagination of Sikhs over the generations.
Sant Siṅgh Sekhoṅ