British historian and a philosopher professor Arnold Toynbee has aptly remarked, “Mankind’s religious future may be obscure yet one thing can be foreseen — the living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before in the days of increasing communication between all parts of the world and all branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, The Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world.”
Thus to conduct in-depth research on various aspects of Guru Granth Sahib, the Centre on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib came into being in April 2011 at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here.
The six thrust areas of the centre are — Division for Studies on Interfaith Understanding, Division for Scriptural Studies, Division for Studies on Musicology, Division for Hermeneutic and Linguistic Studies, Division for Social and Cultural Studies and Division for Scriptural Translations.
This academic session, however, the centre is planning to introduce two inter-disciplinary (ID) courses with an aim to reach out to the university students.
Various teams of research scientists are also geared up to chalk out a plans for making courses more interesting, seminars, film screenings and interactive workshops, aiming to make the centre an epitome of the Sikh academic research.
This center is not a shrine, but a majestic research center where scholars aim to promote research, rich philosophy and Sikh literature among students.
Only UGC-funded centre
The Centre on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the only institution on Sri Guru Granth Sahib studies, which is funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC). It functions under the jurisdiction of Balwant Singh Dhillon.
“We have received a grant of Rs 47.05 crore from the UGC for the next five years. A decade-long planning for the center has already been chalked out and there is only a need that the scholars here keep engaging youths in various interactive activities,” said AS Brar, GNDU vice-chancellor.
On September 1, 2004 former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated, ‘The government of India will establish a centre at Guru Nanak Dev University for studies on Sri Guru Granth Sahib,” said Dhillon, the centre in-charge, “following which the UGC asked the university to submit a proposal in this regard and the university followed the suit. The Union HRD ministry and the UGC granted the approval for the setting up of the centre in Feb 2011 and sanctioned a grant till 2016.”
The proposed research projects can be completed only if the services of mature and seasoned scholars are available. Brar said, “We are unable to find qualified and competent scholars on the Sikh studies, and therefore, the posts of director, music teacher, JRF/project fellow and two professors are vacant. There is a dearth of competent scholars in this discipline.”
Apart from faculty issue, a library with a collection of 7,000 rare books of Dr Gurmukh Singh of Patiala has few vacant racks and no back up data.
When asked why the center doesn’t award PhD degree to the research scholars, the V-C replied: “The center follows no degree system. We do not want individual research trend (PhD) to spoil selfless research atmosphere prevailing at the centre.”
Research projects, activities in pipeline
As many as 17 research projects are in the pipeline at the centre — including ‘Exposition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib’, a project initiated by Dr Gulzar Singh Kang; Up-gradation of bibliography on Sikh studies; Descriptive catalogue of devotional literature in Gurumukhi; Writing Sikh philosophy in its own terms, a work handled by N Muthu Mohan; Documentation of relics of the Sikh Guru’s; Dictionary of Gurbani by late Manmohan Singh, which is yet to be published.
Most of the manuscripts, artefacts, relics and documents related to the Sikh scripture and literature are lying scattered all over the world and to carry out research projects, the centre scholars are engaged in extensive field work.
The centre is planning to invite filmmakers for screening of informative films on the Sikh history and culture.
Documentaries screening sessions are chalked out
In July, the centre will host a four-week course on ‘Exploring Punjabi/Sikh Culture and Language’, in which a group of 20 foreign teachers from New York will also be participating.