PRĀCHĪN PANTH PRAKĀSH, by Ratan Siṅgh Bhaṅgū, a chronicle in homely Punjabi verse relating to the history of the Sikhs from the time of the founder, Gurū Nānak (AD 1469-1539), to the establishment in the eighteenth century of principalities in the Puṅjab under Misl sardārs. The work, which was completed in 1998 Bk/AD 1841 in the buṅgā of Shām Siṅgh near the Golden Temple at Amritsar, is owed to the Britishers' curiosity about the Sikhs and about their emergence as a political power. Captain Murray, then stationed on the Anglo-Sikh frontier at Ludhiāṇā, had been charged with preparing a history of the Sikhs. He sought the help of a Persian scholar, Maulawī Būṭe Shāh. Ratan Siṅgh volunteered his own services as well to undo, as he says, the bias that might crop up in the narration of a Muslim. He verbally traced for Murray the origin of the faith of the Sikhs and their rise to sovereignty in the Punjab. What he narrated to Captain Murray during the day, Ratan Siṅgh reduced to writing by night. For this recital and for the account that he finally composed in Amritsar, Ratan Siṅgh drew upon available Sikh sources such as Janam Sākhīs and Gurbilāses and on the oral tradition that had come down to him from his parents and grandparents: the famous Sikh martyr, Matāb Siṅgh of Mīraṅkoṭ, was his paternal grandfather, and Shām Siṅgh of Karoṛasiṅghīā misl, his maternal grandfather. The latter material he utilized in his account of the career of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur and of the troubled times following his execution. This in fact is the most significant part of the work. The details and sequence of events here provided have been generally accepted in later Sikh historiography. The earlier period has been dealt with sketchily. The descripton of Gurū Nānak's life is relatively more detailed, but with the miraculous element predominating as in the Janam Sākhīs. The succeeding seven Gurūs have been barely mentioned, except Gurū Hargobind whose battles against the Mughal forces are briefly touched upon : In his account of Gurū Tegh Bahādur's martyrdom, Ratan Siṅgh follows Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's Bachitra Nāṭak. He attributes the fall of the Mughal empire to the Emperor's sinful act of beheading the Gurū. From among the events from Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's life, the manifestation of the Khālsā on the Baisākhī day of AD 1699, abolishing the masand system, the intrigues of the hill chiefs, and the siege of the Anandpur Fort, Gurū Gobind Singh's escape from the mud fort of Chamkaur, his south ward journey and meeting at Nāndeḍ with Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur whom he charged to come to the Punjab to ransom righteousness are described in considerable detail.

         Then follows the account of Bandā Siṅgh's entry into the Punjab with a few of the Sikhs who were in the Gurū's train at Nāndeḍ (among names mentioned are those of Binod Siṅgh and Kāhn Siṅgh,Dayā Siṅgh and Auṇin Siṅgh and Bāj Siṅgh Bal of Mīrpur), the rallying of Sikhs from Mālvā and Mājhā to his standard (the poet makes no secret of his partiality towards the latter), the occupation of Samāṇā and Sirhind, and inroads into the Jalandhar Doāb. The Sikhs had established their power right up to Paṭṭī, near Lahore. Sovereignty, sang the poet, had been promised the Sikhs by the Gurū himself. Bandā Siṅgh's own victories were ascribed by Ratan Siṅgh to the occult powers Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had bestowed upon him. His final defeat was attributed to his resiling from the teachings of the Gurū. The split of the Panth into two rival camps — Tatt Sār Khālsā (both tatt and sār meaning the essence) and Bandaī Khālsā is described in dramatic detail. The account of the fierce persecution which overtakes Sikhs after the death of Bandā Siṅgh reaches its climax in the martyrdom of Bhāī Māni Siṅgh which, according to Ratan Siṅgh, takes place in 1738. The narrative henceforward loses its continuity and becomes more episodic in character. Among the events described are the chastisement of Masse Khān Raṅghaṛ who had desecrated the Harimandar, the martyrdoms of Botā Siṅgh, Subeg Siṅgh, Tārū Siṅgh and Mahitāb Siṅgh, Chhotā Ghallūghārā (the minor carnage), Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā (the major carnage), the third assault of the Sikhs on Sirhind in which Zain Khān, the governor, was killed , and the Sikhs' foray into the country around Delhi. In simple verse, the poet captures the spirit of the Sikhs in those difficult times : "Sikhs had a fondness for death. To court death they had now found an opportunity. Their lives they held not dear. They did not feel the pain if their bodies were slashed. They took to arms vowed to death."

         The Prachīn Panth Prakāsh was for the first time purblished in1914. Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh, famed scholar and poet, came across an old manuscript which he edited and had printed at the Wazīr-i-Hind Press at Amritsar in that year. Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh added the word "Prāchīn" (old or older) to the title of the book to distinguish it from the more recent Panth Prakāsh by Giānī Giān Siṅgh. Another edition of the work, as annotated by Jīt Siṅgh Sītal, was published by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in 1984.

Sant Siṅgh Sekhoṅ