Grantha or Guru Granth Sahib is one
of the earliest texts in Punjabi. It was written not strictly in
Punjabi but in the Gurumukhi
Fariduddin Shakarganj (1173-1266 AD), a Sufi saint of the
pre-Nanak period was an eminent Punjabi poet, whose four hymns and
112 slokas are included
in the Adi Grantha.
Another specimen of Punjabi prose of the pre-Nanak period is Ekadasi
golden period of Punjabi literature begins with the first Sikh
Guru Nanak Sahib (1469-1538 AD) and continued until the last Sikh
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708 AD).
The prose of this period is mostly religious in nature and
revolves around the personality, teachings and anecdotes from the
life of Guru Nanak. Janam-sakhis
(biographies of Gurus),
bachans (sayings), sakhis,
goshts, paramarathas (commentaries on scriptures),
parchis and uthankas are the various forms of prose of this
period. During this period a kind of verse called Vars,
praising the Almighty or the Great Warriors or kings were composed
in large number. Guru
Gobind Singh authored Candi-di-var
depicting the battles of Goddess Durga with the demons.
In the 17th
century Punjabi split up into three scripts – Perso-Arabic,
Nagari and Gurmukhi. During this age many Muslim Sufi poets came
to the forefront, whose compositions formed an integral part of
Punjabi literature. Abdullah’s (1616-1666 AD)
Anva' or 'the Twelve Topics', a thesis on Islam, Bulhe
Shah's (1680-1758 AD) Kafis or short poems of about six stanzas, Ali Haidar's (1689-1776
AD), Si-harfis or poems
of 30 stanzas, each stanza beginning with a letter of the Persian
alphabet and Waris Shah's qissa
poetry, especially the tragic love story of Heer and Ranjha are
regarded as the masterpieces of the Punjabi literature before the
start of the modern age. Mohammed
Bakhsh, Fazal Shah, Ghulam Rasul, Kishan Singh Arif, Mansingh
Kalidas and Muhammad Buta were among the well-known poets of the
early 19th century.
The Christian missionaries gave a new outlook to the Punjabi
literature in the middle of the 19th century.
They brought out a Punjabi translation of the Bible in 1952
and a Punjabi dictionary in 1854. Modern Punjabi literature begins
with the works of Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957), who is described as
the 'Father of modern Punjabi literature'. He composed several
short poems (Lehran de Har, Matak Hutare and Bijlian
de Har), biographies, novels (Sundari,
Vijay Singh and Baba
Naudh Singh) and dramas. One of his extraordinary works is Rana Surat Singh (1905), a long narrative poem in a blank verse form
called srikhandi chanda.
Puran Singh (1882-1932), another great poet of this century who
has been given the title Tagore of Punjab’, introduced free
verse into Punjabi and rendered into English a number of Punjabi
poems by Bhai Vir Singh. Khule Lekh (1929) is the best specimen of his essays.
Puran Singh’s contemporaries -- Kirpa Singh (1875-1939)
and Dhani Ram Chatrik (1876-1954) were the other leading Punjabi
poets who concentrated on the secular poetry.
Kirpa Singh composed an epic Lakshmi
Devi (1920) on the model of Scott's The
Lady of the Lake. Dhani
Ram Chatrik, whose works include Candan
Vari, Himala, Ganga and
Raa.Chatrik, was the
pioneer of romantic poetry in Punjabi. Mohan Singh (1905-1978) is
one of the most popular modern Punjabi poets. He brought in a
modern outlook to Punjabi literature. His most renowned works are Sawe
Pattar (1936) and Kasumbra
(1937). Amrita Pritam (b. 1917) is also one of the most celebrated
poets of Punjabi literature. She produced several intense works on
the tragedy of the Partition like the poem Ajj
Akhan Waris Shah Noo and her second novel Pinjar
(1970). The period immediately after Independence is described as
the 'Amrita Pritam-Mohan Singh Era' of Punjabi poetry. Other
noteworthy poets in Punjabi include Pritam Singh Safir, Bawa
Balwant, Santosh Singh Dhir, Takht Singh, Harbhajan Singh and
noted modern fiction writers in Punjabi include Amrita Pritam,
Nanak Singh, Jaswant Singh Kanwal, Narindarpal Singh, Kartar Singh
Duggal, Surindar Singh Narula, Balwant Gargi, Jagjit Singh Anand,
Ishwar Chitarkar, Suba Singh and others.
Nanak Singh was the most famous novelist and short story
writer while Gurbakhsh Singh and I.C.Nanda were eminent
dramatists. Gurbaksh Singh promoted Punjabi prose through his
magazine Preet Ladhi.
The other leading Punjabi journals are Panja Darya, Panjabi Dunia, Arsi, Alocna and Sahitya Samachara.