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Sau Sakhi translates to 100 (Sau) stories (Sakhis).
The Sau Sakhi book professes to be a conversation between Bhai Sahib Singh and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh on the sayings and doings of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It is held in high estimation by the Kukas (Namdharis) - followers of Bhai Ram Singh of Bhaini, in the Ludhiana district of the Punjab - and is relied on them as the main authority for their heresy. Bhai Santokh Singh (author of Suraj Parkash) sometimes gives Bhai Gurbaksh Singhs communications to Bhai Sahib Singh as the basis of the history of the Gurus from the time of Guru Angad, but he makes no mention of the Sau Sakhi. There appears nothing to establish its authenticity.
Many different versions of the Sau Sakhis have been circulated throughout time, plaging the Sikh Community:
- Versions were circulated (with appropriate changes) during the mutiny of 1857, prophesising a joint Anglo-Sikh victory over the Mughals;
- The Namdharias circulated versions in the 1860s supporting the claim of Ram Singh to be a reincarnation of Guru Gobind Singh and the future ruler of Hindustan;
- The supporters of Maharaja Duleep Singh impressed upon him a version in the 1880s prophesying his return to the Punjab as Maharaja with the help of the Russians
New editions of the Sau Sakhi continue to appear to boost the claims of impostors.
These are mainly a collection of anecdotes taken from the lives of Sikh Gurus in particular Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh. Amongst these stories are dispersed a number of tales depicting future events such as establishment of Khalsa Raj.
These ‘prediction’ Sau Sakhis first appeared during the years of life and death struggle of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa in the 18th century. According to the martial tradition held within the Akali Nihang Baba Darbara Singh Akhara, these predictions were only a means of propaganda to keep the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa morale alive in these desperate times when the Khalsa was facing extinction while facing a constant state of war. In time as Khalsa Raj lost out to the British, new prediction Sakhis surfaced forecasting the end of British Raj and establishment of Maharaj Duleep Singh’s Raj.
In same manner the Akali Nihangs and Nirmala Khalsa created new Sakhis in order to prop their anti-British Raj cause. The Namdharis also created their own tales to boost their cause and no doubt there surfaced a new series of prediction Sakhis. It has to be appreciated the British also propagated their own ‘Sau Sakhi’ predictions to counter Nihang and Namdhari anti-British propaganda. If all the predictions in Sau Sakhis are to be accepted literally (as some Namdharis suggest), then logic would imply that all predictions in the Sau Sakhis should have now come to pass. However, this is not the case. The significance of Sau Sakhi predictions can only be appreciated as a tool for propaganda, serving a particular purpose at a particular juncture in Sikh history - and not as literal truth. Therefore, one can conclude that the Sau Sakhis which speak of Ram Singh as an incarnation of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh, have no credibility.
Ironically, the Sau Sakhis also contain tales that praise ‘Neela Baana’ (blue Nihang uniform) and recommend the consuming of meat by Sikhs, yet these are rejected by present-day Namdhari Sikhs. Even the Namdharis must concede that the credibility of the Sau Sakhis is not irrefutable as they claim
SAU SAKHI (lit. a book of one hundred anecdotes) is the popular name of Gur Ratan Mal (lit. a string of the GURU`s gems), a work esoteric and prophetic in nature : also problematic as regards the authenticity of its text. Its writer, one Sahib SINGH, describes himself only as a scribe who wrote to the dictation of Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh, better known as Bhai Ram Kunvar (1672-1761) and a knowledgeable and honoured member of the retinue of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). The book is meant to be a narrative pertaining to the life of Guru Gobind Singh, supposedly based on the personal knowledge of Bhai Ram Kunvar, although later interpolations and corruption of the text are clearly decipherable. The extant manuscripts of the work have textual variations. Not all of them liave (lie number of anecdotes matching its popular title. Allegedly written in 1724 or 1734 (the two dates found in the text), 5au Sakhi remained unknown until it was discovered in 1815 in a Brahman family of Thancsar, who presented the manuscript to SARDAR Amar Singh Singhpuria. The latter got copies prepared by a scribe, Nattha Singh of Buria. The book contained several allusions, in the form of prophetic utterances of Guru Gobind Singh, to contemporary personages such as Maharaja RANJIT Singh, Rani Sada Kaur, and Ranjit Singh`s Muslim wife, Moran. It became a much sought after work, though only rarely obtainable. Further changes and interpolations, evidently made after the annexation of the Punjab to British dominions, prophesied the reestablishment of SIKH sovereignty under Maharaja Duleep Singh. This roused the apprehension of the British government and, at their instance, Sir Attar Singh of Bhadaur, translated the book into English in 1873 and got it published at Varanasi. Several PUNJABI editions appeared in print from 1890 onwards, the various versions continuing to differ in content and details, especially in respect of prophesies. The book is still popular with NIHANGS, who hopefully look forward to the revival of KHALSA rule, and with the Namdharis who interpret some of the allusions in the text as referring to their own movement which was clearly antiBritish under its leader, Baba Ram Singh (1816-85). Prophecies bearing on the political aspirations of the Khalsa or the Namdhari SIKHS are not, however, the only or even the principal theme of the Sau Sakhi. Only 15 to 20 anecdotes contain such forecast. Many of the stories are didactic in aim, and follow the pattern of Bhai Mani Singh`s Bhagat Mal, better known as Sikhah dl Bhagat Mala. Guru Gobind Singh is shown as explaining and illustrating philosophical and ethical principles of the Khalsa in answer to questions or doubts raised by the Sikhs. Occasionally, the Guru himself creates situations to elicit pertinent questions. Resort is had to fables and mythology. Some of the stories descibe the battles fought by the Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh`s leadership, while other give an account of learned discussions among poets and scholars he had engaged. Two chapters in verse lay down the Sikh code of conduct in the style of the Rahitnamas. Another is a discourse on worldly wisdom and diplomacy. The book has some historical value too, but has to be used with great care because of several anachronisms, misstatements, interpolations and motivated turns given to the text by different scribes. From the literary point of view, Sau Sakhi is a mixed fare. It is partly prose and partly verse. Punjabi is generally used for prose and Hindi for verse. Its anecdotal style and frequent use of narration in the first person, coupled with its euphoric, picturization of the future, make it interesting, but the idiom at places is too terse and obscure. On the other hand, this very obscurity lending itself to varying interpretations, heightens its appeal. It seems 5au Sakhi was a part of a larger volume, Panj Sail Sakhi or five hundred anecdotes, no longer extant, which formed the basis of some of the episodes in Bhai Santokh Singh, Gur Pratap Suraj GRANTH. 1. Nayyar, G.S., ed., Gur Ratan Mal : Sau Sakhi, PATIALA, 1985