It was in the late 1960s that University Grants Commission, New Delhi, approved Religion as a subject of curriculum at the College and University levels, and the Punjabi University was the premier academic institution to set up a full-fledged department for the study of Religion. At a time when the euphoria of celebrations of 300th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master of the Sikh faith, in 1966 and of the quincentenary of Guru Nanak's birth in 1969 was still in air, the University decided to name the department after the Tenth Master as Guru Gobind Singh Department of Religious Studies. To begin with, the Department attended to the task of preparing textbooks for students to enable them to study Religion at the undergraduate level. Initially conceived as a research outfit, it was turned into a teaching Department to impart teaching to M.Phil/M.Litt. classes. However, the Department dedicated itself for developing authentic research and references books on the history, philosophy and theology of some of the religions, especially Sikhism.

The anniversary celebrations no doubt eulogized interest in the study of Sikhism and culminated in the publication of literature on different aspects of it. Foundations were formed and Chairs were set up in various Indian Universities to initiate and carry out research work on different aspects of Sikh history, philosophy and theology. However, the outcome of these efforts fell short of producing good literature and the paucity of such serious academic and research work left behind a vacuum. The need for a comprehensive reference work was badly felt to meet the needs of scholars and students in the now-widening field of Sikh studies. In fact, after Bhai Kahn Singh's Gurushabad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh (1930), no other such work had come out. However, this Mahan Kosh being in Punjabi was inaccessible to those not conversant with Punjabi language and Gurmukhi script and its entries also happened to be quite brief. Moreover, with the passage of time and the inflow of fresh knowledge, many concepts and doctrines needed to be re-stated and re-interpreted so as to establish their contemporary praxis. Of course, the Mahan Kosh was - and still is - relevant but a gap was being seriously felt.

     To fill this gap, the Punjabi University, as an endeavour to fulfil its statutory obligation of promoting Punjabi literature and culture, decided to prepare, in English as well as in Punjabi, a comprehensive reference work and assigned the responsibility to Professor Harbans Singh, a Sikh scholar known for his diligence, thoroughness and meticulousness in matters of research as well as for his mastery over English diction. Professor Harbans Singh prepared an outline for the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, and gave up all other responsibilities to dedicate himself single-mindedly to this project. It was an arduous and long-drawn project, and it took him and a small team of scholars that worked with him a little more than two decades to complete the project.

     It was in 1992 that the first volume of the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism came out, and it was released by the President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma. A complete set of the 4-volume Encyclopaedia was released by Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 1998. The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, the first of its kind in the field of Sikh studies, is comprehensive in its scope and includes entries to cover topics such as Sikh history, theology, philosophy, literature, art and architecture, customs and ceremonies, sects, personalities, shrines, etc. The fact that the work has undergone several reprints since its first publication testifies to the authenticity and catholicity of its contents, its terse and precise style and impeccable and flawless English idiom. It has contributed a lot in fertilizing Sikh learning apart from helping scholars and students working in the field of Sikh studies.

     When I took up as Vice-Chancellor of the University, I felt that such an important work needed to be shared with a wider readership at the international level, and the best way to do so in the modern age of information technology is to put it on the website of the University. Since the press-copy of the Encyclopaedia was first prepared on manual typewriters, we had to put in extra effort to re-compose the entire Encyclopaedia on the computer. The text of the Encyclopaedia contains many non-English words with diacritical signs on them so as to facilitate their proper pronunciation, and the scanner, with all the modern technology at its command, failed to correctly read all such words and signs. It necessitated re-reading of the text more than once at various levels. No doubt, this was a difficult task but we have put in our best endeavour to come up to the accuracy level of an Encyclopaedia.

    I am happy that the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism is ready to be placed on the University's website and hope that it will immensely benefit scholars and students working in the field of Sikh studies.



Kirti Chakra, Padma Shri awardee


Punjabi University


28th August 2006






Encyclopaedias are not easy to make. They are generally a long time in preparation. This is a fact commonly known. That they vanish into thin air as quickly as did this first volume of the Sikh Encyclopaedia was nowhere within our calculations. Maybe, we had erred when putting down our initial arithmetic on paper. This was the first publication of its kind under Sikh auspices. So it may not be allowed to lapse. It must be kept alive. Hence, this hurried reprint. The volume presents Sikh life and letters on a wide spectrum. All entries, over 800 of them, have been very carefully chosen, covering major aspects of Sikh life and culture. There are detailed, well-researched essays in it on Sikh philosophy, history and scriptural texts. Also, on important Sikh shrines and locales. And, on important names. Professor Harbans Singh has laboured hard and created a work of high literary excellence. The writing aims at clarity, shunning all artifice and rhetoric. Easy intelligibility has been the principal focus. The work will be as useful to the lay reader as to the specialist. Its direct style of writing, its precision of language, and its well-attuned and orchestrated phrase are notable inputs of this composition. The venture seems to have been under the protection of some good angel. Five years ago, the Editor-in-Chief was felled by a stroke. He has been able to carry on despite the severe disability.





Punjabi University,


January 13, 1995



The Punjabi University rejoices today that it has been able to keep its tryst with the scholarly community. Some years ago it promised to produce a major reference work ------ an Encyclopaedia of Sikh faith. Happily, the first volume in a four-part series is being released today. "Talent alone can not make a writer. There must be a man behind the book". To this affirmation of R.L. Emerson may be added the words that creating a work like an Encyclopaedia is more a matter of faith, of sustained labour and indefatigable search for accuracy. I personally felt very happy when Professor Harbans Singh opted to put himself behind the task, for I have had great confidence in his moral strength and intellectual abilities. By his lifelong devotion to Sikh learning, by his analytical acumen, and by his unmatched powers of concentration, he has been able to accomplish the task with outstanding success. Professor Harbans Singh has been known as a most distinguished scholar writing in English. The present work is a tribute to his spirit of dedication, immaculate scholarship and mastery of the English idiom.


Encyclopaedias encapsulate accurate information in a given area of knowledge and have become indispensable in an age in which the volume and rapidity of social change are making inaccessible much that lies outside one's immediate domain of concentration. At a time when Sikhism is attracting world-wide notice, a reference work embracing all essential facets of this vibrant faith is a singular contribution to the world of knowledge.


In the recent decades, Sikhism has experienced a very vital impulse to education and culture. The efflorescence of schools, colleges and universities is witness to this phenomenon. And then the mass of seminar deposits, learned works and other literature pouring forth from them. The latest is this Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, which I have pleasure in issuing on behalf of the Punjabi University, Patiala. Sikhism already possesses that monumental work. Gurushabad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh, the creation of an individual, the celebrated Bhai Kahn Singh, of Nabha. I have often wondered at the spaciousness of the Bhai Sahib's genius. How he conceived the enterprise and how he accomplished the task, which more aptly belonged to learned bodies and universities. That work is happily in Punjabi. This publication, an offering from the Punjabi University, especially focusing on Sikh religion, will appear in a Punjabi version as well.


One of my predecessors in the line of vice-chancellors, in whose time the work was initiated, entrusted it to Professor Harbans Singh. Professor Harbans Singh took it over willingly and has worked on it with a rare single-mindedness. I have had chances of seeing as part of official routine his files heavily worked over by him. I have also read some of the entries beyond the requirements of official duty. I can testify to the fact that each entry has been rethought and rewritten, partly or wholly, and has in the process gained a new clarity and authenticity. Overall, the entries read very lucidly and definitively explaining themselves as they go along. The emphasis is on information rather than on erudition. I admire Professor Harbans Singh's industry and diligence and his search for the exactness of idea and expression. His economy of phrase and a finely attuned verbal sense lend the text readability.


On behalf of the Punjabi University I am releasing this publication in the hope that it will prove useful to the cognoscente and the layman alike, and help elucidate several of the issues in Sikh theology and doctrine. I must also take this opportunity to thank scholars from within the University as well as from the outside who have contributed to the Encyclopaedia. To this, I add my personal gratitude and tribute to Professor Harbans Singh.





Punjabi University,


31, December 1992