BAINTĀṄ SHER SIṄGH KĪĀṄ, by Nihāl Siṅgh, is a poem dealing with some gruesome events from the history of the Sikhs - murders in 1843 of the Sikh monarch Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh, his young son Partāp Siṅgh, and minister Dhiān Siṅgh Ḍogrā at the hands of Sandhāṅvālīā collaterals Ajīt Siṅgh and Lahiṇā Siṅgh, and of the latter at the hands of Dhiān Siṅgh's son, Hīrā Siṅgh, and his supporters. No biographical details about the poet are known, except that he was a witness to these tragic events. As he himself says in the text, he composed the poem, in the baint poetic measure, "at the time of the happenings" (34). These murders occurred on 15-16 September 1843, followed by Duleep Siṅgh's installation on the throne referred to in the poem (24). The poem does not mention any other event, not even the sequential murders of Hīrā Siṅgh and his confidant Paṇḍit Jallā which took place on 21 December 1844, leading to the presumption that it was composed immediately after Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh's assassination. According to the poet, the poem comprises thirty-four stanzas (but in fact it contains thirty-three), with a couplet each at the beginning and at the end: the poet seems to have counted the opening couplet among the stanzas : the concluding couplet barely records the date of the event (1 Assū, 1900 Bk/ 15 September 1843). All stanzas comprise eight lines each, except two (2 and 24) which have six lines apiece.

        The poet traces Sher Siṅgh's unpopularity among the army to dismissal by him of some old soldiers a few among whom had been serving since the days of his grandfather. He gives the instance of a Nihaṅg, also recorded in Sohan Lāl Sūrī, 'Umdāt-ut-Twārīkh (Daftar IV, Part III), who as a mark of protest gifted away his horse and spent the remaining years of his life like a recluse at the samādh of Haqīqat Rāi. Ajīt Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā treacherously kills Sher Siṅgh (8); Lahiṇā Siṅgh slays prince Partāp Siṅgh despite his pitiful pleadings (10). Both kill Ḍogrā Dhiān Siṅgh (13). Hīrā Siṅgh, the son of Dhiān Siṅgh, avenges the murder of his father by killing, with the support of the army, Ajīt Siṅgh (30) and Lahiṇā Siṅgh (31). The poet does not conceal his hatred of the Sandhāṅvālīās, but also gives them credit for their soldierly feats (26) when fighting against Hīrā Siṅgh Ḍogrā.

        The poem does not possess many literary merits, but is significant being a contemporary account of these bloody events at the Lahore court.

Dharam Siṅgh