GURBILĀS CHHEVĪṄ PĀTSHĀHĪ, lit. the (life)-play of the Sixth Gurū, is a versified biography of Gurū Hargobind in language more akin to Braj, written in the Gurmukhī script. The author is anonymous, though the colophon mentions 1775 Bk/AD 1718 as the year of the completion of the work. The task, says the poet, took him fifteen months to accomplish. Certain anachronistic references to events of post-1718 period make this date suspect. Another date suggested by a modern scholar is AD 1843. Two versions of the work are available in print, one edited by Giānī Indar Siṅgh Gill and published in 1968 by Jīvan Mandar Pustakāliā, Amritsar, and the other published in 1970 by the Languages Department, Punjab. Both editions comprise twenty-one cantos of unequal length, the former edition containing 8, 131 stanzas and the latter 7,793.

         Written mostly in the poetic metres of Chaupaī and Dohirā, the narrative begins with the poet invoking Bhagautī and adoring the Ten Gurūs of the Sikh faith to seek their blessings in the task he is launching upon. The circumstances which led to the composition of the epic are also explained. The poet claims to have versified the biographical details of Gurū Hargobind's life as narrated to him by his literary mentor, Dharam Siṅgh who happened to be present at Nānaksar, present-day Nankāṇā Sāhib, where Bhāī Manī Siṅgh, scholar and martyr, on the request of a devout Sikh named Bhagat Siṅgh, recounted in successive sittings the memorable events relating to Gurū Hargobind's life. To lend authenticity to his account, he says that Manī Siṅgh's information was based on what he heard from Bhāī Dayā Siṅgh, one of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's Pañj Piāre, who, in turn, had these details from the Gurū himself.

         The Gurbilās covers events such as the birth, childhood and early education of Gurū Hargobind (cantos 1-3) ; his marriage (canto 5) ; compilation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib by Gurū Arjan (canto 4) and his martyrdom (canto 7) ; construction of Akāl Takht (canto 8) and the digging of Babeksar (canto 9) ; battle of Amritsar (canto 10) ; marriage of Bībī Vīro (canto 11) and of Sūraj Mall (canto 17) ; liberation of Kaulāṅ (canto 12) ; the passing away of Bhāī Buḍḍhā (canto 16) ; of Bhāī Gurdās (canto 18) and Mātā Damodarī (canto 19) ; defeat and death of Paindā Khān (canto 20).

         The author describes at some length Prithī Chand's acts of hostility towards his brother, Gurū Arjan. Prithī Chand laid his claim to the spiritual throne of Gurū Nānak after Gurū Rām Dās on the basis of his being the eldest son of the latter. He resented Gurū Arjan's installation as successor to Gurū Rām Dās, and became openly inimical after a son was born to him (Gurū Arjan). The birth of (Gurū) Hargobind is attributed to the blessings of Bhāī Buḍḍhā, a Sikh of Gurū Nānak's own time, widely reputed for his piety. As Gurū Arjan's wife, Mātā Gaṅgā one day brought out food for him, Bhāī Buḍḍhā started eating it, simultaneously showering blessings on her, saying that a warrior son would be born to her who would crush the tyrants.

         There is a detailed account given of the founding and construction of the Akāl Takht. Gurū Hargobind, it is stated, laid the foundation of the Akāl Takht on Hāṛ 5, 1663 Bk/ 3 June 1606, allowing only Bhāī Buḍḍhā and Bhāī Gurdās to lend the labour of their hands in raising the structure. Bhāī Gurdās was named custodian of the Akāl Takht as Bhāī Buḍḍhā had been of the Harimandar.

         The poet attributes to Gurū Hargobind the assignment of dhunīs, i.e. tunes, to nine of the vārs in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Abdul and Natthā, two contemporary bards, recited at Sikh gatherings at Akāl Takht the vārs according to the tunes set by Gurū Hargobind. Later on, with the permission of Bhāī Buḍḍhā, Gurū Hargobind is said to have these dhunīs added in the hand of Bhāī Gurdās in the text of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. This is contrary to the accepted belief that this was done by Gurū Arjan himself at the time of the compilation of the Holy Book. The Gurbilās comes to an end with the death of Gurū Hargobind which, according to it, took place in 1695 Bk/AD 1638. This date has been proved to be incorrect as also several others given in the text.

Jīt Siṅgh Sītal