Authored by ‘Kavi Churamani’ Bhai Santokh Singh ji, Doyen of Nirmala Sect, ‘Sri Gur Partap Suraj Granth’ popularly known as ‘Suraj Parkash’ is a voluminous classical medieval source of Sikh History and Philosophy. Its ‘Katha’ (Religious Discourse) in almost all prominent Gurdwaras is the gauge of its authenticity and popularity among the Sikh masses.
Bhai Santokh Singh's monumental work in Braj verse portraying in comprehensive detail the lives of the Ten Gurus of the Sikh faith and the career of Banda Singh Bahadur. Besides being an historical narrative of great significance, it is an outstanding creation in the style epic, and is the most voluminous of all poetic compositions in Hindi/Punjabi literature. Its language is Braj Bhasa which was the literary Hindi of that time though its script is Gurmukhi. Notwithstanding certain drawbacks which scholars with training in modern historiography may point out, it remains the most valuable source book on Sikh history of the period of the Gurus and, indeed, on the very roots of the entire Sikh tradition. For the massive flow of its poetry, the vast range of its figures and images and for the abundance of detail, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, Suraj Prakash in shorter, popular form, is worthy to rank with the classics in this genre.
The title of the main work carries a symbolic meaning summed up in the cosmic metaphor of suraj, i.e. the sun. The poet himself explains, "As the sun rises, the darkness of the night vanishes, thieves and thugs hide themselves, owls and bats go to slumber and the stars disappear, so with the advent of the Gurus, the rays of their spiritual light spread all around dispelling the darkness of ignorance."
The work is divided into two parts. The first, Sri Gur Nanak Prakash in two sections, is the story of the life of Guru Nank. The second, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj proper, is divided into portions, rut (season), according to the twelve signs of the zodiac, sub-divided into chapters called arisu (rays). In the Sri Gur Nanak Parkash portion, the style of the narrative tends to be more elaborate, with many a stanza given to homage to the Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and to the patron deities of learning. The latter part, which deals with the lives of succeeding nine Gurus and Banda Singh Bahadur, contains 51,829 verse pieces in 22 cantos. The expression here is less rhetoric. Both the parts are further sub-divided into numerous sections according to the episodes narrated, each named after the sun's course, viz. the twelve zodaical signs, the six seasons and the two solstices (winter and summer solstices) which in turn comprise 1151 sunbeams, each one comprising a chapter. The phrase and imagery in both the parts of the book generally require expert explanation. This has been provided, painstakingly and exhaustively, by Bhai Vir Singh in a 14-volume annotated edition brought out in 1927-35. Bhai Vir Singh has also added notes where necessary.
It is usual for gianis (learned scholars) to hold serial discourses on the text of Suraj Prakash in gurdwaras, normally in the afternoons or evenings.