Gurinder Singh Mann


Punjabi culture as rich as any other in world, says expert
Roopinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 31
“We will soon have an important resource to study Punjabi through the Internet,” says the kurta-pyjama-clad professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who is on a trip to Punjab, once again to serve his mother tongue.

“I was invited to attend the inauguration of the World Punjabi Centre, Punjabi University, Patiala,” says Prof Gurinder Singh Mann, Founder-Director of the Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies at the UCSB.

Professor Mann has devoted the past 15 years to the field of Sikh and Punjab studies. “While teaching Punjabi, I felt the need to create a sound resource on the teaching of Punjabi as a foreign language. Working with Gurdit Singh, Gibb Schreffler, and Ami P. Shah, I recently completed a book, An Introduction to Punjabi: Grammar, Readings, Conversation, and Literature. We are also turning this book into an offering on the Internet, where people studying anywhere in the world can register with the UCSB and learn Punjabi,” says Professor Mann.

Professor Mann edits and oversees the publication of the Journal of Punjab Studies, which has now shifted to the UCSB. The latest issue is impressive in its selection, depth and presentation. It focuses on 20th century Punjabi poetry, and has 53 poems in Gurmukhi, along with their English translations. Eminent poets, from both East and West Punjab, have contributed articles.

Professor Mann is usually in Chandigarh every June when he brings in participants of the summer programme in Punjab Studies. Since its inception in 1997, it has attracted 138 students from 55 universities in nine countries.

Mann says that the language and culture of the region is in a state of radical transition. Punjab is are under the sway of the forces of urbanisation and globalisation. “I have no doubt that Punjabi culture is as rich as any other culture in the world and some of the Punjabi poets are simply great. No one can beat Shiv Kumar in the creation of verbal tapestries,” maintains Professor Mann.

He hopes that local scholars will work towards understanding and interpreting the Punjabi culture in Punjabi terms and not in categories created in Europe and North America. Coming from a scholar trained at the University of Canterbury, England; Columbia University and Harvard University in North America, all this sounds rather intriguing. For Professor Mann, however, there is no contradiction. “I learnt the methodologies there but have been working primarily with Punjabi source during the past decade or so,” he says.

Professor Mann’s scholarly works include The Goindval Pothi, The Making of Sikh Scripture, and Sikhism. He is now working on An Introduction to Sikhism, which is being published by Cambridge University Press, UK

Professor Mann has also been associated with Pluralism Project at Harvard University and the Sikh Heritage Project at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. He has been recently nominated to the prestigious American Society of the Study of Religion.

Born and brought up in Punjab, teaching in the US, committed to his roots and sharing his Punjabi heritage, Professor Mann has with his commitment and integrity, carved out a unique role for himself.

Published in The Tribune, January 1, 2007.