SARDAR KAHAN SINGH
GURSHABAD- RATNAKAR MAHAN KOSH
(Teja Singh M.A.)*
Sardar Kahan Singh is one of the few learned Sikhs still left to us. His knowledge of the Sikh Scriptures and History is most profound and unrivalled. Beside being trained in the old school of Sikh scholarship wherein depth of knowledge and mastery of detail was more emphasised, he has also cultivated the variety and vastness of view which is characteristic of western learning. He not only possesses an intimate knowledge of the most obvious and the most distant facts, but he also knows how to marshall them and use them to some purpose, which is so rare in old scholars, who in their fondness for the wealth of detail often lose hold of the essential bearings, so that the reader cannot see the wood on account of the trees.
Sardar Kahan Singh is exceptionally well-fitted to interpret Sikhism. Belonging to the earliest batch of the Singh Sabha reformers, he has had a great share in the formation of the modern opinion about Sikhism. Even the inevitable Mr. M.A. Macauliffe, the author of the Sikh Religion, found in him a guide, philosopher and friend. If Bhai Dit Singh and others were responsible for the social and religious reform, Bhais Gurmukh Singh and Jawahir Singh for organizing higher education, Bhai Kahan Singh has worked for the whole movement as a writer, articulating its principles in works which will stand as permanent monuments to his genuis. His books, Gurmat Prabhakar and Gurmat Sudhakar are the standard guide-books and sometimes the only stock-in-trade of the modern preacher.
Gurshabad Ratnakar is his Magnum Opus. It is a Dictionary and Encyclopaedia combined of SIkh Literature, a magnificent fruit of the author's fifteen years hard and incessant labour. It contains 64263 words occurring in the original Sikh Scriptures as well as in other allied books, i.e. the Holy Granth, Dasam Granth, works of Bhais Gurdas, Mani Singh and Nand Lal, Rahatnamas, Sarabloh Prakash, Gur-Sobha, Gurbilas, Nanak Prakash, Suraj Prakash, Panth Prakash, Gurpad Prem Prakash, Bhai Bala’s Sakhi, Gosht Mecca and Medina, etc.
To facilitate reference all the words have been arranged strictly in accordance with the order of letters and vowel signs of the Punjabi alphabet. Each word is dealt with most comprehensively, all the available and up-to-date information bearing on the different meanings being supplied with rare correctness and precision. The book is written on most approved lines, containing quotations and illustrations drawn from all the needful sources of religion, history, geography, science, medicine, language, prosody, rhetoric, etc., showing an immense store of knowledge drawn from innumerable books, eastern and western, ancient and modern. When we look at the volume of the work undertaken and carried out single-handed by the author, it appears nothing short of a marvel.
The prominent features of the work to be noted are:-
(1) All references to the Vedas and Shastras, the Bible, the Quran and other religious books are fully traced. The different religious and their respective terms and symbols are adequately dealt with, comments being made in a very liberal spirit without showing any trace of sectarianism.
(2) The historical references are explained concisely but exhaustively, advantage being taken of the most recent researches. The Author does not hesitate to point out different errors of fact occurring in the standard works.
(3) The geographical places, especially those belonging to Sikh History, are located correctly, the most helpful part being the information about Gurdwaras illustrated with maps.
(4) The names of trees and herbs are explained with corresponding botanical terms used in European Science.
(5) The names of diseases and medicines have been so fully dealt with that one could gather a complete pharmacopoeia from it.
(6) Names connected with natural philosophy have, as far as possible, been fully explained.
(7) Musical and metrical systems are discussed comprehensively, and their distinctions are supported with quotations and authorities. The information given on Prosody and Rhetoric is most complete and handy.
(8) Metrical riddles, so common in old literature but now so difficult to understand, are also explained.
(9) Each word is treated etymologically, and the different meanings, with apt illustrations, are given in Punjabi and Hindi under serial numbers.
(10) It embodies more than seven thousand Arabic and Persian words. To show their correct derivation and pronunciation, they are also given in the Persian character. In like manner the Sanskrit words are given in the Devnagri characters.
(11) The book is profusely illustrated with maps and pictures.
The book is the first of its kind in Punjabi, and supplies a long-left want. It is not only an all-inclusive work for ready reference, but contains solid articles on great and intricate topics connected with the Sikh History and Religion. It is a whole library of literature on Sikhism. Some rare works, found mostly in manuscript, are quoted here in full. One cannot overestimate the importance of such a work. It is the most valuable book on Sikhism produced in the modern days.
fordward* (Gurshabad Ratanakar)
by Teja Singh M. A.,