The Sau Sakhees originate as stories told by Gurbaksh Singh (1672-1761) about the day-to-day events in the court of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The story goes that Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was a close attendant of Guru Gobind Singh. In fact, it was Bhai Gurbaksh Singh who held the amazing blessing of attended the great Guru when he chose to leave this earth. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh started his life as Bhai Ram Kanwar, a direct descendant of Baba Buddha Ji, and was the blessed-one who put the tilak on the forehead of Guru Gobind Rai in 1675. When he received Khande di Pahul from Guru Gobind Singh himself, he took the name Bhai Gurbaksh Singh and remained for the rest of his life in the service of the 10th Guru.
Bhai Gurbaksh Singh lived for many years after the passing of the 10th Master, and used to tell stories about Guru Gobind Singh after the evening Rehras to a sangat still in mourning and hungry for his words. Bhai Sahib Singh sat in the sangat and listened to him with rapt attention and devotion. He wrote these stories down between 1724 and 1734 and they became known as the Sau Sakhees.
The Sau Sakhees tell the story of the daily events of the court of Guru Gobind Singh ji – both the amazing and the mundane. Bhai Santokh Singh, the author of the Siri Guru Pratap Suraj Prakash, seems to draw on these stories for his epic volumes of Sikh History. Originally there were 5 books of 100 stories each – can you imagine! Of these only one book survives today. It was translated in English by Sardar Attar Singh 1873 and is now available in print and electronic versions and this blog is about that book - known as the Sakhee Book. But seriously, this book has two big problems.
Over time, groups with ulterior motives used the Sau Sakhees to promote their cause, changing and polluting the text. One version that was circulated during the mutiny of 1857 gives prophecies of a Sikh victory over the Mughals; one version from the 1880s gives prophecies of Maharaja Duleep Singh coming back as victor in the Punjab; and this surviving text - The Sakhee Book - from 1860 supports the claim of the Namdari's that Ram Singh Kuka was a reincarnation of Guru Gobind Singh and was to be the future ruler of India. So if you read this book (and I think you should), understand that this text is likely a subversion of the original Sau Sakhee.
The other problem this book has is the translator. Sardar Attar Singh, Chief of Bhadaur, was a shameless anglophile with a low opinion of the Sikh sangat. No doubt a learned man proficient in Urdu, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, and English, he translated this and other books for the benefit of the English government in their attempt to contain the Sikhs. For his loyalty and effort, he was given a knighthood in 1888. Ok then - it is good to know who he is as you read the translation.
But really, only 15 or so Sakhees seem suspect, and if you just dismiss those as polluted you can lose yourself in the rest of the book. It is like being a tiny fly on the blessed wall of the Guru's court, seeing the comings and goings and all the amazing things that happened. Polluted and diluted, this books still amazes and inspires me and the Light of the Guru still shines through the tinted text. As a lone survivor, it is a treasure.
If you don't want to own the book (I too am not enamored with print-on-demand books) you can read it on the WAYBACKMACHINE for free:
Don’t miss it. It will uplift your life!