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Nanak Singh
Nanak Singh 1998 stamp of India.jpg
Born (1897-07-04)4 July 1897
Chak Hamid in Jhelum district (now in Pakistan)
Died 28 December 1971(1971-12-28) (aged 74)
Occupation Playwright, poet, Novelist
Nationality India
Spouse Raj Kaur
Children Kulwant Singh Suri (son)
Kulbir Singh Suri (son)
Kanwaljit Singh Suri (son)
Kartar Singh Suri (son)
Kuldeep Singh Suri (son)
Pushpinder Kaur (daughter)

Nanak Singh, (b. July 4, 1897 as Hans Raj - December 28, 1971), was an Indian poet, songwriter, and novelist of the Punjabi language. His literary works in support of India's independence movement led the British to arrest him. He published novels that won him literary acclaim.

Early life

Nanak Singh was born to a poor Punjabi Hindu family in the Jhelum district of Pakistan as 'Hans Raj'. He later changed his name to Nanak Singh after adopting Sikhism. Although he did not receive a formal education, he started writing at an early age by writing verses on historical events. Later, Singh started to write devotional songs, encouraging Sikhs to join the Gurdwara Reform Movement. In 1918, he published his first book Satguru Mehma, which contained hymns in praise of the Sikh Gurus. It is considered his first commercially successful literary work.

Indian Independence movement

On April 13, 1919 British troops shot and killed 379 peaceful rally participants in what became known as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre on Baisakhi (Punjabi New Year) day in Amritsar. Singh was present with two friends who were killed in the massacre. This incident impelled Singh to write Khomeini VisayansBloody Baisakhi (Punjabi New Year), an epic poem that mocked colonial rule. The British Government became concerned about his provocative publication and banned the book.

Singh participated in India’s independence struggle by joining the Akali movement. He became the editor of Akali papers. This was noticed by the British Government. Singh was charged with participation in unlawful political activities and was sent to Borstal Jail, Lahore. He described the savagery and oppression of the British on peaceful Sikhs during the Guru ka Bagh Mocha demonstration in his second poetry collection, Zakhmi Dil. It was published in January 1923, and was banned within two weeks of publication.

Singh wrote several novels during his time in jail, including over 40,000 pages in longhand Gurmukhi (Punjabi) script.

He was publicly recognized with many awards, including Punjab's highest literary award in 1960. His great historical novel, Ik Mian Do Talwaran (One Sheath and Two Swords, 1959), won him India’s highest literary honor, the Sahitya Akademi Award, in 1962.

Prolific writer

In 1945 he wrote his popular novel , which won him acclaim. It was translated into Hindi and other Indian languages, and into English by his grandson Navdeep Singh Suri. In 1968 the book was adapted into the successful motion picture, (Pavitra Paapi), by his admirer Balraj Sahani an Nanak Singh wrote dialogue and screenplay for Dara Singh he’s punjabi movie Nanak Dukhiya Sub Sansar.

Quoting the Tribune, "Nanak Singh was the best selling novelist in India for thirty to forty years. He wrote over 50 books including novels and collection of short stories. He made significant contributions to various literary genres. For him character was the determination of incident and incident the illustration of character. His greatest contribution to Punjabi fiction is its secularization. He depicted excerpts from contemporary life, cloaked with a veil of romantic idealism."

In his novel Chitta Lahu (White Blood), Singh writes, "It seems to imply that in the lifeblood of our society, red corpuscles have disappeared." In 2011, Singh's grandson, Dilraj Singh Suri, translated Chitta Lahu into English (titled White Blood). Natasha Tolstoy, the granddaughter of novelist Leo Tolstoy, translated Singh's novel Chitta Lahu into Russian. She visited Nanak Singh in Amritsar to present to him the first copy of the translated novel.

Adaptations of his works

Pavitra Paapi, a 1970 Indian Hindi-language drama film was based on his novel of the same name. His short story Sunehri Jild was adapted into a television short of the same name that aired on DD Punjabi.


His centenary was celebrated in 1997. In honor of Singh, India’s Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral released a postal stamp with his image in 1998.

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