Giani Gurdit Singh’s greatness recalled

Book released on the famous author


February 24, 2008

“‘Every time you meet a person, you are born a little or you die a little….’ If what my college teacher, told us is true, I have been born several times because I have met some very good and great people, and among those I regard Giani Gurdit Singh the person who left a very deep impact on my mind,” said Prof B. N. Goswamy.

Addressing a gathering at the release of the book Giani Gurdit Singh: 1923-2007(2007) at Punjab Kala Bhavan in Chandigarh on Sunday, the famous art historian said:

“I am sure that many of you have heard the name of the great European abstract painter, Piet Mondrian, who is considered to be among the finest painters that the 20th century has produced. Someone who went to meet him, a man who had a great reputation and a great aura, said: ‘I felt that I had gone to visit a hermit in his cave, so simple was he, so extraordinarily grand was his personality, and so extraordinary was the impression that he left on my mind that I felt that I was in the presence of greatness.’ That was the impression that I got when I met Giani Gurdit Singh for the first time at his home in Sector 4, Chandigarh.”

Prof Goswamy said Gianiji “wore his intellect with dignity and not with conceit,” and quoting William Watson’s poem in honour of Lord Tyenson, he said, “Far beyond our vision and our hail is he, but he left words that will live for ever and his vision will not be ours any more.”

Sardar Tarlochan Singh, Member, Rajya Sabha, and former Chairman of the Minorities Commission, after releasing the book in front of a large audience of Giani ji’s friends, admirers and fans, at Punjab Kala Bhavan, here, recalled his long association with Giani ji and asked rhetorically: “Giani Gurdit Singh’s life was a book. Which chapter should I open?”

Sardar Tarlochan Singh dwelled on the importance of the Parkash newspaper (1947-1978) and Singh Sabha Patrika 1973-1988), which Giani ji edited. He said while Mera Pind was a classic, Giani ji’s work in researching on religious issues and his books on Bhagat Bani and Mundavani were milestones. “He worked like an institution and spent over 50 years researching on Guru Granth Sahib. We know the cost of research, but there was no institution that supported him. He did it on his own, and the community did not recognise his contribution as much as it should have,” he added.

Earlier, Prof Rajpal Singh, Secretary General, Punjab Arts Council, and Mrs Poonam Singh, Editor, Preetlari, read excerpts from the much-acclaimed Mera Pind. Prof Rajpal Singh said Giani ji, through Mera Pind, used the language of the common man in such a wonderful literary way that it henceforth occupied an important place in Punjabi literature.

Among the prominent people who attended the book release were Justice S. S. Sodhi, Gen Himmat Singh Gill, theatre personality Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary, A. J. Philip, Senior Associate Editor, The Tribune; P. P. S. Gill, Information Commissioner, Punjab, and many contributors to the book, including Prof H. S. Gill, Prof Emeritus JNU, Delhi; Niranjan Singh Sathi, senior journalist, the Ajit daily, Jalandhar; Prof Bhupinder Singh Khera, Department of Correspondence Courses, Punjabi University Patiala; Dr Man Singh Nirankari, an eminent eye surgeon and Sikh scholar.

The 230-page book has articles by 40+ scholars, largely in Punjabi. The four sections cover his personality, the literature that he produced, his religious scholarship and memories called Sakshiat, Sahit, Dharam and Yaadan. The English section has 54-pages. It has been edited by Giani ji’s wife Mrs Inderjit Kaur, former Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala and former Chairperson, Staff Selection Commission New Delhi, and their son, journalist-author Roopinder Singh. The cover and illustrations in the book are by the artist R M Singh and it has many photographs that trace Gianiji’s journey in life.

Scholars and people who knew Giani Gurdit Singh have contributed to the volume from all over the world and prominent writers include Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, prominent academicians like Prof Pritam Singh, Prof Haribhajan Singh and Prof Gurinder Singh Mann., Dr Karnail Singh Thind, Dr Nahar Singh and Dr Bhupinder Singh Khera.

Messages by Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Tamil Nadu; Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab; Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala, and Dr Jai Rup Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar have been printed in the volume.

Journalists, including Mohinder Singh, A. J. Philip and Nirupama Dutt and prominent people from the Punjab diaspora, including Bhai Harbans Lal, Dr I. J. Singh and Rajwant Singh have also contributed articles on Giani Gurdit Singh and his work.