Build Internet’s Vishavkosh

In 1930, the first definitive encyclopaedia in Punjabi, Gurshabad Ratnakar Mahankosh, was published. Written by Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha, it was one of the earliest works of its kind, and is still the standard reference book consulted by all serious researchers, who wish to know more about Sikh religion, customs, heritage and ethos. Today we can access this encyclopaedia online and a PDF version of the volume can be downloaded at downloads.htm.

We all know that the most accessed online encyclopaedia is Wikipedia, and on January 15 it celebrated its 10 years. Wikipedia is accessed by millions of users; the site has grown from nothing to around 1.7 crore articles. Out of this, 35 lakh are in English.

Wikipedia is making a major push to add more Indian content and it has you know, there are only 67,171 articles in Hindi. Though Punjabi was an early entrant (since 2003) it is yet to make a significant presence. As of now, there are 2,803 users and 1,949 articles, but only 27 contributors to the Punjabi wiki. By the way, there are close to 1,500 articles in Sanskrit.

Why? We really can’t say, but let’s make the effort to make a difference this time by writing for Wikipedia in Punjabi and Hindi. We must generate more content that people can use and be enlightened about. The procedure for adding content is rather simple, and you will have the ‘early-bird’ advantage. Please log on at to see the Punjabi and at for the Hindi home page.

<p >While the quality of the Wikipedia articles is not consistent, there is no doubt that the encyclopaedia is consistently the top resource for those who are looking for information. In fact, this is where you can help, you contribute to sharing your knowledge with others, and for this you get their gratitude and the pride of a job well done. <p >I would also appeal to various educational institutions, schools, colleges and universities, to get the students and the faculty involved in contributing to Wikipedia, in English as well as in the other languages.

Punjabi University, Patiala, is one of the few universities in the world to be named after a language. It has an excellent Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi. The department has done significant work in taking Punjabi to the world of computers.

Now, we have competence in Punjabi computing. Along with it there is a commitment to the Punjabi language, which is the core of the charter of Punjabi University, Patiala. It is thus only fitting that the intellectual resources of this university should now be harnessed to publish more informative articles, in Punjabi for the online world. The university has been working on a project to translate Gurshabad Ratnakar Mahankosh, and thus from a Mahankosh to an online Vishavkosh is a natural progression.

The Mahankosh and the Wikipedia models are very different, but represent significant attempts to share knowledge with the world and enlighten readers. If we want to to be recognized by the world, we must share what we have, so that they can appreciate it.

No doubt there will be problems adjusting to a democratic resource where anyone can challenge and change what you write, but then, this particular Wikipedia attribute has stood the test of time, and has proved again and again how even if someone mischievously changes some information, others correct it and eventually the collaborative effort brings forth objectivity and transparency.

By the way, even as far as revision is concerned, even Bhai Kahan Singh revised Gurshabad Ratnakar Mahankosh, himself, before publishing the next edition.

By contributing to Wikipedia, we will learn much ourselves and also put online knowledge about ourselves to the rest of the world. Will it make the world a better place? Let’s wait and watch!

This Bits about Bytes column by Roopinder Singh was published in the Lifestyle section of The Tribune on Januar 17, 2010

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.