Nanak Singh


Nanak Singh (4 July 1897 – 28 December 1971), born Hans Raj, was a poet, songwriter and novelist in the Punjabi language. His writing in support of India’s independence movement led the British to arrest him. He published several novels which won him literary acclaim.

Nanak Singh
Born 4 July 1897
Chak Hamid in Jhelum district (now in Pakistan)
Died 28 December 1971
Occupation Playwright, poet, Novelist
Nationality India
Spouse Raj Kaur
Children Kulwant Singh Suri (son)
Kulbir Singh Suri (son)

Early life

He was born as Hans Raj to a poor Punjabi Hindu family in the Jhelum district (now in Pakistan) and changed his name to Nanak Singh after adopting Sikhism. Due to poverty, he did not receive a formal education. He started his writing career at an early age, writing verses on historical events. Later, Nanak Singh started to write devotional songs, encouraging Sikhs to join the Gurdwara Reform Movement. In 1918, he published his first book Satguru Mehma containing hymns in praise of the Sikh Gurus, which is considered his first commercial success.

Role in freedom struggle

On 13 April 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. Nanak Singh was present at the rally in which two of his friends were killed. This incident impelled Nanak Singh to write Khooni VisakhiBloody Baisakhi (Punjabi New Year), an epic poem that mocked and targeted colonial rule. The British Government became extremely concerned about his provocative writing and banned the book.

Nanak Singh also participated in India’s independence struggle by joining the Akali movement. He began editing Akali papers. This also 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 Morcha demonstration in his second book of poetry, Zakhmi Dil. It was published in January 1923 and was banned within two weeks.

Nanak Singh wrote novels while in jail. He wrote over 40,000 pages in long hand Gurmukhi (Punjabi) script. He was 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 honour, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1962.

Prolific writer

He wrote the novel Pavitar Paapi in 1942. The novel became immensely popular and won him literary acclaim. It was translated into Hindi and several other Indian languages and was adapted into a successful motion picture (Pavitra Paapi) in 1968 by his ardent admirer, Balraj Sahani. Currently, the novel is in its 28th reprint in Punjabi. His grandson, Navdeep Singh Suri, translated the book into English (Saintly Sinner).

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 secularisation. He depicted excerpts from contemporary life, cloaked with a veil of romantic idealism.”

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


Books By Nanak Singh ( Novel, Stories, Play, Translated Novel)

  1. Aastak Nastak
  2. Adam Khor
  3. Adh-khiria Phul
  4. Agg Di Khed
  5. An-site Zakham
  6. B.A. Pass
  7. Banjar
  8. Bhooa
  9. Charhdi Kala
  10. Chhalawa
  11. Chitrakar
  12. Chitta Lahu
  13. Chod Chanan
  14. Dhundle Parchhaven
  15. Dur Kinara
  16. Fauladi Phull
  17. France Da Daku
  18. Gagan Damama Bajia
  19. Gangajali Vich Sharab
  20. Gharib Di Duniya
  21. Hanjuan De Har
  22. Ik Mian Do Talwaran
  23. Jivan Sangram
  24. Kagtan Di Beri
  25. Kal Chakkar
  26. Kati Hoyee Patang
  27. Kallo
  28. Khoon De Sohile
  29. Koi Haria Boot Rahio Ri
  30. Lamma Painda
  31. Love Marriage
  32. Manjhdhar
  33. Matreyee Maan
  34. Meri Duniya
  35. Merian Sadivi Yadan
  36. Middhe Hoe Phull
  37. Mittha Mauhra
  38. Nasoor
  39. Paap Di Khatti
  40. Paraschit
  41. Pathar De Khamb
  42. Pathar Kamba
  43. Patjhar De Panchhi
  44. Pavitar Papi
  45. Piar Da Devta
  46. Piar Di Duniya
  47. Prem Sangeet
  48. Pujari
  49. Rabb Apne Asli Rup Vich
  50. Rajni
  51. Saarh Sati
  52. Sangam
  53. Sarapian Roohan
  54. Soolan Di Sej
  55. Suman Kanta
  56. Sunehri Jild
  57. Supnian Di Kabar
  58. Swarg Te Usde Varis
  59. Taash Di Aadat
  60. Tasvir De Doven Pase
  61. Thandian Chhavan
  62. Tutte Khambh
  63. Tutti Veena
  64. Vadda Doctor Te Hor Kahanian
  65. Var Nahin Sarap
  66. Vishwas Ghaat


His centenary was celebrated in 1997. In Singh’s honour, India’s Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral released a postal stamp in 1998.