Kids Corner

Above: The author, with his parents. Below, first from bottom: the author and Giani ji. Second from bottom - Friends: Giani ji and actor Balraj Sahni. Thumbnail - Giani ji.

Our Heroes

Gurdit Singh:
Doyen of Sikh & Punjabi Literature



Gurmat Acharya is the title that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee conferred upon him on February 24, 1991, to recognise his contribution to the Sikh religion, especially his work on ancient religious manuscripts.

Sahit Shiromani is the marquee that became his when the Languages Department, Punjab, recognised his contribution on November 1, 2007.

Long before he won these laurels and many others that he gathered over the years, I had my own title for Giani Gurdit Singh - "Papa".

Mithewal, the village he immortalised through his writing, was where his bhog was held on February 4, 2007.

It marked the end of a journey that had begun over eight decades ago, when Mithewal was surrounded by sand dunes, crops were sparse, irrigation facilities practically non-existent. The land did not produce anything of substance.

His pind and bachpan (childhood)

People then were hardy. One, a Hira Singh, had gone out to seek his fortune by working on the canals that were then being built. He went to the Dulha region, of what is now West Punjab in Pakistan.

Hira Singh found work here. He spent nearly twelve years working as a contractor, building bridges across canals and laying rail tracks. He did well, as is still evident when we look at the "outer" house, which was on the outskirts of the village.

The words "Ek Onkar Sat Gur Parsad, Sat Kartar" are emblazoned on the entrance arch of the house, as is a stylised sun. The gate is big enough to accommodate a rath (chariot) that the family owned, and has a lot of space for livestock.

The real home was the "inner" home, where Nihal Kaur, Hira Singh's wife - my grandmother - lived.

Hira Singh had five daughters. A son, Gurdit Singh, was born around 1923. The father left an indelible impression of goodness and religious simplicity on the young lad, though they were not destined to live together for long. He treated him, as Papa often told us, "more as a friend than a son".

Childhood for young Gurdit was fun, games, play and a warm, loving atmosphere at home. There was no school in the village, and he learnt the basics of Gurbani and Gurmukhi at the local gurdwara. He was a sturdy lad, proud of his prowess at wielding the sickle while harvesting, of being able to lift heavy objects and even delve into a bit of wrestling.

Yet at night, he would put on a lamp and study. His mother, Nihal Kaur, was indulgent about this habit of Gurdit Singh's.

When Gurdit Singh was about 13, his childhood came to an abrupt halt when Hira Singh fell ill and had to be taken to the "vaids" (local doctors) in nearby towns for treatment. It proved quite ineffective. He passed away after ailing for a few months.

Responsibilities and quest for learning

The young Gurdit Singh now had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after the entire family. The family fortune, evident from the grandeur of the house that Hira Singh built, began to dwindle.

Gurdit tried his hand at farming, and other odd jobs, but there were few means of earning a decent livelihood. He continued to study on his own. Once a week, he would go down to the nearby town of Mandi Ahmedgarh in order to read back issues of newspapers that a kindly soul kept for him there. The insatiable urge to know more kept pulling him away from the village, cut off from the mainstream, and it was only after he sorted out affairs at home that he could leave Mithewal.

Even at that time, he wanted to study the Guru Granth. He would find out about the religious debates and listen to the speakers, or read about them in the Khalsa Akhbaar or other newspapers.

The Ragmala issue

When he was barely 23, in 1946, he attended a Sarbat Khalsa debate at the Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Amritsar, where the issue was whether the composition "Ragmala", found at the conclusion of Guru Granth, was to be considered Gurbani or not.

This has been a contentious issue and top scholars were pitted against each other. Gurdit Singh held the opinion that Ragmala was not Gurbani. At one point, he was asked by the then Jathedar of Akal Takht to speak if he had a point to make.

"I had never spoken in a public gathering till then. My knees were trembling at the prospect. I prayed to Akalpurkh, and started speaking," he told us much later.

Once he began to speak, though, his nervousness vanished. He had gone to many places and seen many manuscripts of the Adi Granth. And he was enthusiastic about sharing all this with the audience.

So impressed was the gathering by his research that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee offered him a job as a research scholar. The letter of appointment stated that his pay and other emoluments would be decided by the president of the SGPC.

An excited and happy Giani Gurdit Singh went to Bhai Randhir Singh, a freedom fighter and saint. Bhai Sahib too was delighted, but he cautioned: Naukri Nau Kari! Don't work for another! A job would be a nine-linked chain around him.

"Bhai Sahib blessed me and said that I would get jobs for many people, the Guru would give me everything without my holding a job", he would recall.  

My father served many organisations, held a variety of positions in his life, but he continued to heed that advice and made sure he remained independent and never took employment. With Bhai Randhir Singh's blessings, he moved to Patiala and was soon working with Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala, a prominent administrator of the Patiala State.

Writer, Editor and Publisher

He published his first book in 1945, titled Raag Mala di Asliat ("The Reality of the Ragmala").

In 1947, he launched and began to edit Parkash, a daily Punjabi newspaper from Patiala. He set up a printing press at the edge of the city near the Motibagh Palace, and it soon became a gathering place for such scholars as Prof. Ganda Singh and Prof. Pritam Singh.

Parkash was the premier Punjabi daily newspaper of PEPSU State (The Patiala and East Punjab States Union) - the predecessor of the later versions of post-independent, Indian Punjab.

During this period, he not only wrote extensively in the newspaper, but also published two books, Bhavan de Desh ("Emotional Missives", a collection of poems) in 1950 and Achchoh Sikhran ("Unattainable Paradigms", a collection of poems) in 1955.

Ever active in religious affairs, Gurdit Singh was appointed secretary of the Dharam Arth Board, PEPSU, in 1948. He started and edited a monthly literary magazine, Jiwan Sandesh, in 1953. He helped Prof. Teja Singh, who was then compiling the first Punjabi dictionary.

In his autobiography, Aarsi, Prof. Teja Singh mentions in laudatory terms the contribution of the young man.

Chandigarh's Call

Now that he had made a name in Patiala, it was time to move on. The new city - designed by famous French architect Le Corbusier and specially constructed to be the capital city of India's new Punjab - Chandigarh, beckoned him.

He moved there even as it was being built and with him moved the press and the paper. Parkash continued as a daily till 1961. Subsequently, it was published as a weekly till 1978.

Soon after, Giani Gurdit Singh moved to Chandigarh, he became Member of Punjab's Legislative Council, a position he held from 1956 to 1962. He also founded the Sahitya Sabha, Chandigarh, in 1956 and was its first president.

Chandigarh was all about new beginnings. He wrote Mera Pind, which was to become the most famous of all his books. Much of it he wrote in a new house that he built in Sector 4. He had fulfilled his family responsibilities. After all, his sisters, except the youngest, were married by now and settled in their lives; he felt that now it was time to start his own family.

The Lady in His Life

Inderjit Kaur Sandhu, a fiery, pretty young Lahore-educated lecturer from Patiala, had accepted his marriage proposal and together they made Chandigarh their home. She belonged to one of the prominent families of Patiala. Her grandfather had served as a "crora" or comptroller of the household of the Maharaja of Patiala, and her father had retired as a Colonel in the Patiala state army.

As secretary of the Mata Sahib Kaur Dal, of which Sardarni Manmohan Kaur Rarewala was the president, she had worked tirelessly for the disadvantaged refugees and Muslim women caught in Patiala just after Partition. This is the time when the idealistic, pretty Inderjit and the relentlessly hardworking, brilliant Giani Gurdit Singh first met.

Theirs was to be a life-long association. The two were literary partners: he wrote, she edited his works, and together they supported each other in the journey of life. Inderjit had earned an M.A. degree in philosophy from Government College, Lahore, and was in the first batch of students who were awarded an M.A. degree in Punjabi from Mahindra College, Patiala.

In Chandigarh, she became Vice-Principal of Government Basic Training College. Rewards come in various forms. Giani Gurdit Singh's love for the pastoral life of Punjab was recognised by UNESCO, which gave him the prize for Punjabi literature for the book Tith Tihar in 1960.

The couple's love brought about a bonny lad, who they decided to call Roopinder Singh.

Documenting Punjab's Folklore

A great friendship was also formed the same year between two unlikely persons, film actor and literature buff, Balraj Sahni, and the author of Mera Pind. Balraj Sahni and my father were quite close to each other all their lives. Balraj Sahni presented him a Grundig spool tape-recorder that operated on batteries, so that he could record the sounds of Punjab's villages.

Ravinder Singh, my younger brother, was born an year or so later. We grew up in the sprawling Sector 4 house. It was fun to walk down to Carmel Convent School, across the road in Sector 9, and then to St John's Public School, which was a little further away. Often, we would walk back, kicking a stone that we found on the way and "bring" it all the way back home.

For Giani Gurdit Singh, time was divided between the Punjab Legislative Council and running his newspaper, Prakash. Pratap Singh Kairon was then the Chief Minister of Punjab. He was fond of Giani Gurdit Singh, as were Giani Kartar Singh, Sardar Gian Singh Rarewala and others. At times, he would find himself as a conduit for those who were unable to communicate with each other because of political contingencies or differences.

A University and a Takht

At the height of the Punjabi Suba movement (demanding a Punjabi-speaking State within the Indian Union, along the lines of Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh, etc.) came the idea of a Punjabi University, in the establishment of which he played a significant role.

Gianiji thought of himself as a gian margi, a Sikh who derived his strength from the world of Gurbani. He was deeply attached to his roots. He worked tirelessly to preserve Punjabi culture and the identity of the Punjabi language through his political activities as well as his writing.

That he was an appointed and not an elected member gave him the strength to stand by his convictions; his mild and friendly nature allowed him to be a bridge among various groups and people, and thus get them together for a cause, when needed. All these had a bearing on what he did for the Punjabi University's establishment, and for the recognition of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib.

In the House, he also raised the issue of the administration, budget, holdings and the historicity of gurdwaras in PEPSU. The government then published a 1,200-page report on the basis of an eight-month survey it undertook. This report had an enormous impact on the administration of these gurdwaras.

Earlier, Sri Damdama Sahib was not officially recognised as the fifth Takht of the Sikhs. It was Giani Gurdit Singh who wrote the report on the basis of which official recognition was accorded to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, both by the SGPC and the Punjab Government. Much later, the Takht recognised his services and honoured him at a public function, presided over by the president of the SGPC, in 1991.

As an MLC, he was a member of various committees, where he contributed in different ways. One late evening, when I was driving him back to Chandigarh from Delhi, he told me about an incident that had happened in the 1960s. He was asked by Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon to review a list of proposed textbooks for students. There was some disquiet among prominent academics that an "unlettered" person would be reviewing textbooks.

He asked for the books and read them. At the meeting, Giani Gurdit Singh was there with his notes. He critiqued each of the books politely, then pointed out omissions and overlaps in the proposal. At the end of the meeting, Kairon took him aside and said, "Your analysis was impartial and clear. You have demonstrated today why I reposed faith in you."

Parkash, the Newspaper

Shop-cum-flat No. 1 in Sector 18, where the Parkash newspaper office and press were located, became the venue of many discussions as prominent people found their way there. Among them were the prominent scholar Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, humourist Suba Singh (who also worked for Prakash) and Giani Kartar Singh, the political leader. Parkash had by then become a major paper in Chandigarh with considerable influence in PEPSU.

Giani ji managed to convince Mum to part with all her savings, a considerable fortune she had kept "safely" in a bank, and "sink" the money in a plot of land in Sector 18, near the printing press. In time, they built a house there, which in his words, "always provided her with more rent than whatever pay the government gave her".

UNESCO Recognition

The year 1967 was a significant one for our family. Giani Gurdit Singh won the UNESCO prize for Punjabi literature for the book Mera Pind da Jiwan ("Life of My Village") that year, and we moved to Patiala, where my mother took over as Principal of the local Government College for Women. For her, it was a homecoming. She belonged to Patiala and had started her teaching career in the college that she now headed.

Giani Gurdit Singh set up a printing press in a building he bought on Rajbaha Road. As the editor-cum-owner of Parkash, which he had converted into a weekly newspaper by then, he would spend much of his time in the press.

The Rajnitak Kundalias (political limericks) that he wrote were subtle, current and often memorized by readers and widely recited. In fact, it would be safe to say that he practically created the genre in Punjabi. The bottom of Page 1 of Parkash was reserved for what was arguably the most-quoted column of its time.

The articles that the paper carried would be literary; news was not its most powerful feature. Parkash still circulated well. My brother and I contributed our mite by pasting 2-paisa postage stamps on the papers, taking the bundles to a nearby post office and cancelling the stamps with postmarks so that the overworked postal employees always busy with their tea and gossip would not have to bother with this chore of mass mailing.

The paper did not make much money. However, insolvency was never an issue, thanks to continual reprint orders of Mera Pind (first published in 1961) and its family: Mera Pind da Jiwan ("Life of My Village", 1967), and the series of books that led to Mera Pind, which were published in 1960 - Tith Tihar ("Functions & Festivals") Reetan te Rewaj ("Traditions and Customs"), Mere Pind di Rup Rekha ("Facets of my Village") and Viah Dian Rasma ("Customs of Marriage").

Family Traditions

A family tradition we had was to sit at the dining table and rhyme. Often the need to rhyme overtook the content, but it was always fun and educative. Reading and discussing issues came naturally, given the home environment.

We were lucky in that we studied at Yadavindra Public School, which was just across the road from our house, a former minor palace called Bhupindra Kothi, with an attached mango orchard.

My brother and I particularly remember a shop near Qila Mubarak where we could sign and get books. At the time, they were largely comics, but thanks to the surprising support from our mother, they were allowed. We were introduced to many a classic this way, though even I cannot find any literary merit in the endless Commando comics that we bought and had transformed into bound copies. Purists might object, but I must confess that this was barter, the bookseller was compensated with copies of Papa's books.

Awards and honours

In 1969, the quincentenary celebrations of the birth of Guru Nanak were held in Patiala. The college became a venue of Guru Nanak Mahima Kirtan Darbar, which my mother organized, and to which my father contributed wholeheartedly. It was a resounding success and left a lasting impact on participants, especially foreign scholars, who were provided with translations of Gurbani shabads in the form of beautiful booklets.

An year later, Punjabi University, Patiala, decided to give the painter Sobha Singh and Giani Gurdit Singh an honorary scholarship, for their lifetime. It entailed a stipend and the services of some office staff.

Panthic Work

Giani Gurdit Singh became the general secretary of the Singh Sabha Shatabdi Committee in Amritsar in 1973. Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra was behind this initiative, which also involved a former Lok Sabha (India's House of Commons) Speaker, Sardar Hukam Singh, who became the president of the committee.

This meant that the family had to move again. My mother sought a transfer and she became Principal, Government College for Women, Amritsar. We studied at St. Francis School and would often cycle to Darbar Sahib, where, adjacent to the office of the SGPC, our father would be, often surrounded by people, or busy writing or editing something.

He focused on making available accurate information about the Sikh religion and scriptures, on taking forward the reform movement started by the founders of the Singh Sabha movement a hundred years ago. He initiated debates and discussions to understand and thrash out various issues. Panthik Vichar sammelans (gatherings) were held and a new magazine, Singh Sabha Patrika, was introduced to disseminate information.

Singh Sabha Patrika was a great success, but it came at a cost. Parkash, which had been transplanted to Amritsar, was wound up and the printing press sold. All of Giani Gurdit Singh's energy went into the publication of the Patrika, which was a monthly that came out with special issues ever so often.

Singh Sabha Patrika

The special issues were on Guru Granth Sahib, Gurbani, Kirtan and the importance of grammar in Guru Granth Sahib. Some were devoted to celebrating the contribution of important Sikh personalities, including those who contributed to the original Singh Sabha movement - Prof Gurkukh Singh of Oriental College, Lahore, who was responsible for making Punjabi a subject of study in 1877; Bhai Dit Singh, a prolific writer; and Jawaher Singh Kapur. Special issues were also devoted to Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha and Principal Teja Singh.

Giani ji had many friends who were academics, and thus they contributed liberally to the Singh Sabha Patrika, thereby giving fresh input into the study of various issues. This in itself was a unique contribution, as were his efforts that the community should honour prominent but hitherto unrecognised religious personalities and scholars who had made a significant contribution to the study of Sikhism. The Singh Sabha Shatabdi Committee, which eventually became Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, would work in consonance with the SGPC, the Jathedars of Akal Takht, Takht Sri Anandpur Sahib and Takht Sri Damdama Sahib.

Particularly striking were ceremonies held at Anandpur Sahib on Baisakhi. Till practically the last moment, the name of who would be honoured was kept secret. Any canvassing ensured prompt disqualification; all decisions were arrived at through consensus.

Honouring Unrecognised Stalwarts

Those so honoured included Sant Giani Inder Singh, Sant Gurmukh Singh of Patiala, Babu Mal Singh of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Jathedar Achar Singh, Giani Partap Singh, Giani Harbhagat Singh Narangwal and Bibi Bhagwant Kaur. Among the scholars honoured were Sardar Nahar Singh, Dr. Ganda Singh, Capt. Bhag Singh (Editor, The Sikh Review), Dr Taran Singh of Punjabi Univeristy, researcher Shamsher Singh Ashok and Giani Kirpal Singh, who edited Panth Parkash.

It was time for us to move on from Amritsar. My mother became Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala, a position she held from 1975 to 1977. She was the first and only woman Vice-Chancellor of a university in North India. My father would, at times, wryly recollect his role in the making of the university that his wife headed.

In a Supportive Role

Giani Gurdit Singh gave up the honorary scholarship that the university had awarded him. He played a supportive role, contending that the spotlight was now on the lady who was then one of only three woman Vice-Chancellors (University Presidents) in the world. He accompanied her to Boston, U.S.A., where she attended an international conference of executive heads of universities. They also went to the U.K., where she delivered a lecture on "Guru Teg Bahadar, Nanak IX" at the University of Hull. She also spoke at the School of Oriental Studies, London, during the same trip.

Meanwhile, Giani Gurdit Singh spent most of his time interacting with the Sikh community there and gave lectures at many gurdwaras.

He continued with his work for the Singh Sabha, often leading kirtani jathas, comprising largely of volunteers from the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, who would fan out to various cities to preach. Senior officials of the Singh Sabha Shatabdi Committee would pay for their own travel and other expenses. To be in the committee was considered seva, and no remunerations were sought.

Giani ji came in contact with the academic world in Patiala. This interaction revitalised the intellectual environment in the academic circles of Patiala. Path boddh samagams were held, the first one at Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Amritsar, and subsequently in Ludhiana; Sri Guru Singh Sabha; Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo; and Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, Delhi. Path Boddh samagams were arguably the first multi-disciplinary endeavours to understand Gurbani contained in Guru Granth Sahib. Scholars of various languages and traditional granthis together read Guru Granth Sahib and each line was discussed and debated upon its meaning, grammar and pronunciation. They were all striving to achieve a greater degree of clarity in their understanding of Gurbani. These samagams were at least three-day affairs.

Guru Gobind Singh Marg

In 1973, Giani Zail Singh was the Chief Minister of Punjab. To mark the historic gurdwaras connected to the life of Guru Gobind Singh, he came up with the idea of a march/procession through the historic gurdwaras on the road linking Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo. Giani Gurdit Singh identified the gurdwaras, and provided the contextually correct quotations from Guru Granth Sahib, which were used to embellish the gates erected in front of these gurdwaras.

The procession started at Anandpur Sahib on April 10 and culminated at Damdama Sahib on April 13. Giani ji also played a pivotal role in mediating between SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh to ensure that they cooperated and kept politics out of this religious endeavour.

By this time, Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha had become national in character, with an office at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi, ably run by Sardar Pratap Singh, an associate of Sardar Hukam Singh.

In 1978, Mrs. Inderjit Kaur finally got to live in her house in Sector 18, Chandigarh, after she demitted office as Vice-Chancellor. It was a two-year sabbatical for both her and Giani Gurdit Singh - a time to take stock, to read, learn and discuss and to spend time with the family.

Guru Granth Vidya Kendras

In 1980, my parents moved to Delhi, where my mother had been appointed chairperson, Staff Selection Commission, New Delhi, for a five-year term. I was already studying at St Stephen's College, Delhi, and my brother continued to live in Chandigarh till he graduated.

Now, Sardar Hukam Singh and Giani Gurdit Singh were together again, in the same city, and they again devoted their energies to religious studies.

A Path Bodh Samagam was organised but Giani Gurdit Singh and Sardar Hukam Singh wanted to set up a more lasting institution. Fakir Singh, a businessman, donated five acres at Andheria Mor in Mehrauli and Guru Granth Vidya Kendra was set up to teach Gurbani to young Sikhs and train them in the art of recitation and performing kirtan.

It is now a flourishing institution, headed by Sardar Hukam Singh's daughter, Mrs Raminder Kaur. Another Guru Granth Vidya Kendra was set up in Sector 28, Chandigarh.

Giani Zail Singh was now the President of India. During this time, Giani Gurdit Singh travelled far and wide to the mutths of various bhagats whose compositions were enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib. He continued research, which was to eventually come out in the form of a book titled Ithas Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Bani Bhag ("History of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Bani volume") a few years later.

The Shocks of 1984

Giani Gurdit Singh felt the shock of the 1984 Army assault on Harmandir Sahib so much that he suffered a heart attack. What added to his pain was the destruction and looting of the Sikh Reference Library and many invaluable manuscripts that had been kept for safekeeping at the Golden Temple. The tragedy had an impact on many interpersonal relations too.

On November 31, 1984, he was at the All-India Institute of Medical Science when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was brought there after being shot at by her bodyguards. He got away from the hospital just as violence spread, came home and made arrangements to evacuate the students and teachers of the Guru Granth Vidya Kendra, Mehrauli, of which he was the president, to a safer place.

We all shared the helplessness, anger and terror that followed in the days after, but thanks to his foresight, and help from kind-hearted neighbours, no one from the kendra faced physical harm. The kendra - The Guru Granth Vidya Kendra! - itself was trashed and burnt down, but such was the spirit of that community that it was up and running within weeks.

Dr. Denton Cooley examined Giani Gurdit Singh at Houston, U.S.A., and performed angioplasty on him. Giani Gurdit Singh lectured at various gurdwaras in the U.S.A., even as he recouped.

Back to Chandigarh

When he returned to India, the family moved to Chandigarh, back to the house he had built in 1958. He devoted his days to the Guru Granth Vidya Kendra and also tended to his writing. It was during this period that his work on Ithas Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Bani Bhag was finally finished to his satisfaction. The book was printed in 1990.

Giani Gurdit Singh often worked on many manuscripts simultaneously. He was generous with his time to a fault with those who came to see him, but could be impatient with those who were unable to grasp what he said quickly enough.

In the last decade of his life, he devoted a lot of time to his family and to organizing and finishing the material collected during a lifetime of research. He was given the Doordarshan Panj Pani Sanman 2005 for contribution to Punjabi heritage and culture. The Doordarshan National TV Network also did a brief documentary on him.

He then published Itihas Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Mundavani. The book was initially well received. It became controversial after the Jathedar of Takht Sri Patna Sahib criticized it. The scholar in him wanted to prove his point. However, this conflicted with a lifetime of devotion and seva of the Panth that prevented him from reacting strongly. This was a painful period, which he faced with courage and dignity. In time, he got back to where he had started - his writing - and looking after the institutions he had built.

Giani Gurdit Singh went for a meeting of the Guru Granth Vidya Kendra, Delhi, on September 12, 2006, when he called me and said he felt he was having a heart attack. A short while later, doctors confirmed his diagnosis. He was shifted to Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj, where Dr. Upendra Kaur performed angioplasty, and put a stent in one of the arteries.

He was in good spirits and he told his wife: "I was at the doorway, but God wants me to do more work." I brought him back to Chandigarh on the 17th and he went back to work on the history of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Punjabi Sahit Shiromani

Further recognition came in the form of the Punjabi Sahit Shiromani Award 2006, which he received in Patiala on November 1 from Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab. It was an occasion to celebrate when family and friends gathered at Patiala, including a contingent from Mithewal.

The citation of the award read: "A relentless champion of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat, Giani Gurdit Singh has created a unique identity for himself as a scholar, author, well-known journalist, and editor and distinguished researcher in the fields of Punjabi language, Punjabi literature, Punjabi folklore and Sikh religion.

"He has painstakingly studied the old manuscripts, handwritten birs and other ancient works, and penned well-researched tomes such as Itihas Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Ragmala di asliat....

"During his tenure as a member of the Punjab Legislative Council, he was instrumental in bringing forth resolutions which eventually paved the way for setting up of the erstwhile Punjabi Mehkama (now Languages Department), Punjabi University, and Takht Sri Damdama Sahib. He has ... made a vast qualitative and quantitative contribution in the Punjabi literary spectrum."

His Home, His Final Resting Place

A few days later, the new stent in his heart got blocked and he was shifted to Fortis Hospital, Mohali, from where he was discharged after a week. This time, Giani Gurdit Singh was told that his heart had been badly damaged. He felt weak, and was told that he could not travel.

He continued his writing, though the pace was slower. He was as alert as ever, but was irritated when his physical infirmities hampered his work. Yet he retained his sense of humour and on Lohri, he joked around at home and basically brought cheer back into our lives. As my mother and I sat with him on the huge double bed, in the evening, he revisited his life through anecdotes.

"He's back in form," we thought to ourselves, as we exchanged satisfied glances.

Unfortunately, our assessment was wrong. We had breakfast together on January 17, 2007. He lay down to rest, and an hour or so later, his very bed in the house he had built for himself became his final resting place. He had passed away peacefully.

As Giani Gurdit Singh wrote in Mera Pind, his father said to him: "Now Kaka, it is for you to make sure that I get peace of mind. All my life I have striven only for an untarnished reputation. May Sahib give you the strength you need to do good. Do not ever put my fair name to the mud."

He did well what his father enjoined him to do.

And the message lives on.


[Roopinder Singh is Assistant Editor with The Tribune, Chandigarh. He is also the author of Arjan Singh, D.F.C., Marshal of the Indian Air Force and Guru Nanak, His Life and Teachings, both published by Rupa & Co, Delhi. For more information, please visit and or contact]

February 25, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Roop Dhillon (London, United Kingdom), February 07, 2010, 3:46 PM.

Very good.

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