do not grow on trees," I had read somewhere as I was browsing among
materials in the library. My object was to delve deeper into the mystique of
the genre preparatory to drawing up my own plan of work on an Encyclopaedia of
Sikhism I had been assigned to by the Syndicate of the
Sikh Encyclopaedia was the brainchild of Professor Kirpāl
Singh Nāraṅg who was then the
vice-chancellor of the
How simplistic were the notions I had been nurturing in my mind began soon to dawn upon me. Also readily began to show up the shortcomings in the scheme I had devised. I had planned that, since it would not be practicable to collect under one roof specialists in different fields, most of the articles of the Encyclopaedia would be written by "outside" experts and that we would have a small editorial unit at the University to shepherd the manuscripts, fact-check them, and revise them to ensure some kind of a literary discipline and symmetry. It seems I was not above exaggerating my own editorial experience and capacities. Three or four of the scholars whose names were on the top of my list were too busy and were chary of putting anything additional on their plate. They declined our invitations. This in fact turned out to be the principal pitfall. The number of contributors we could call upon fell dismally short of our needs. Scholars with experience of research in Sikh studies and of specialized writing were few and far between. Our choice was thus severely limited. In some cases our invitations for articles got accumulated in a few pairs of hands and our files were soon bursting at the seams with copies of reminders we had had to send out chasing after our contributors. We had to wait for long periods of time before securing manuscripts from them.
Still we had no choice except to adhere to the plan we had originally prepared.
Then we had no precedents to go by. On Sikh doctrine no concisely argued work existed. Even historical fact was far from well sifted. To this may be added the paucity of reliable and firm documentation. Authorities of whatever vintage hopelessly contradicted one another. This, despite the fact that most of the Sikh enterprise had occurred within the full view of history! It seems the focus has been woefully warped at some point. Efforts at rectification have remained tentative. It is not easy to restate and repack the entire range of information and knowledge of a people. An attempt has been made here precisely to define the ideas and terms of Sikhism. The writing is intended to be simple and tight, shunning the purple and the loose alike. The aim throughout has been clarity and precision.
chief minister of the
The next meeting of the Foundation took place in the chandeliered hall of the palace of the Maharaja of Paṭiālā, with a large portrait of Mahārājā Ālā Singh, 18th century Sikh hero and founder of the Paṭiālā dynasty, overlooking the assembly from one side and the Hungarian painter August Schoeftt's famous canvas depicting Mahārājā Raṇjīt Singh's court with a replica in gold of the Amritsar Golden Temple underneath it, from the other. Past and present thus converged at the time of that small Sikh assembly on 30 November 1965, refracting history into the current moment. Chaṇḍīgaṛh, the State capital, was named the headquarters of the Foundation with Giānī Zail Siṅgh as the general secretary. One of the several committees appointed was charged with planning and bringing out literature appropriate to the occasion. From the offices of the Foundation soon began to flow a steady stream of literature comprising a commemoration volume, illustrated books for young readers, annotated editions of Gurū Gobind Singh 's works, and a biography of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in English which was simultaneously translated into all major Indian languages such as Saṅskrit, Hindī, Punjabi, Beṅgālī, Assamese, Marāṭhī, Gujarātī, Oṛiyā, Sindhī, Tamil, Telugū, Malayālam, Kannaḍa, Kashmīrī and Maithīlī.
In this spontaneous enthusiasm for anniversary celebration is reflected the Sikhs' response to the historical memory of the Gurūs and to the important events of their history. Visible here is also their deep commitment to their faith, their joyous and urgent participation in their historical tradition, their cohesion and their love of the spectacular.
The burgeoning of interest in the study of Sikhism brought to light the grave paucity of materials on Sikhism, highlighting at the same time the need for serious academic research and study. The present publication aims at supplying the gap. The purpose of the undertaking was to prepare in English and Punjabi a general reference work about Sikh religion. The work was to be comprehensive in scope and was to cover topics such as Sikh theology, philosophy, history, ethics, literature, art, ceremonies, customs, personalities, shrines, sects, etc. The details of the scheme were worked out under the aegis of an advisory committee consisting of leading scholars of the day — Dr Bhāī Jodh Siṅgh, Dr Gaṇḍā Siṅgh, Professor Gurbachan Siṅgh Tālib, Dr Faujā Siṅgh, Dr Tāran Siṅgh and Professor Gulwant Siṅgh. The staff originally provided consisted of the Editor (Professor Harbaṅs Siṅgh), two Assistant Editors (Dr Harkīrat Siṅgh and Professor Harminder Siṅgh Kohlī; the former was on his retirement replaced by Dr Jodh Siṅgh), two Senior Research Fellows (Sardār Siṅgh Bhāṭīā and G.S. Nayyar), one Research Associate (Dharam Siṅgh), two Research Assistants (Gurnek Siṅgh and Major Gurmukh Siṅgh), and Research Scholar (Giānī Gurcharan Siṅgh). Some initial exploration was made by Himat Siṅgh.
The first task was to compile a list of subject-titles to be included in the Encyclopaedia. To this end, the staff, in the first instance, rummaged through libraries — on the campus, the University Library, Bhāī Mohan Siṅgh Vaid collection and Bhāī Kāhn Siṅgh collection, and off the campus, the Motībāgh Palace library, and the State Archives, and compiled a list of likely topics. A list of nearly 4,000 titles thus emerged. At the same time a roster of likely authors was prepared. This comprised lists in Punjabi and in English. Those who did not write in English were free to write in Punjabi. We had their work translated into English.
to work on a long-term project has its own hazards. I passed through several
health crises. At one point, I was incapacitated following an eye-surgery, but
was, thanks to the skill and devoted care of the surgeon, Dr Robert M.
must record here my gratitude to the
12 December 1992