They are out to disrupt Sikh theological space

US-based SikhRi has taken up the challenge to disrupt Sikh theological space in an effort to scale Sikh teachings for global audiences. Will the effort live up to its promise? The team has released the first part of its work.

Guru Granth Sahib – Photo: Jasleen Kaur
By Asia Samachar Team | UNITED STATES |

The modern-day seeker has been uneasy with the various English translations of the Guru Granth Sahib currently available. They have always yearned for a better set of work that would allow them to reach the essence of the Sikh Gurus’ teachings.

Now, a team has launched the initial portion of their work after labouring for three years. They promise to make the ‘Sabad-Wisdom’ accessible to seekers, scholars and techies.

Sikh Research Institute (SikhRi) yesterday (31 Aug 2020) announced the first official release of the Guru Granth Sahib Project (TGGSP) website to coincide with the First Prakash Purab (Illumination day) of then known Adi Granth in 1604.

The project, described as a ‘curative-collaborative effort’, currently consist 31 members.

In a statement, SikhRi said its research and development phase has completed eight different banis (compositions) with the technology, UX paradigm and user persona developed in the last few months.

Talking about the project, SikhRI co-founder and project lead Harinder Singh said: “We are disrupting the Sikh theological space which is currently caught between binaries created by men.”

He added that the process intentionally integrated a diverse array of schools of thought, acknowledges their strengths and biases, and builds on the collective knowledge transfer to expand them for current times.

The Guru Granth translations available today has been widely debated, partly driven by the different schools of thoughts at work.

The most widely available English translation of the Sikh scripture, produced by Dr Sant Singh Khalsa, is said to be aligned with the yogic teachings of Harbhajan Singh, popularly known as Yogi Bhajan, of the 3HO. Dr Sant’s work became the default English translation as it was widely available online.

The first complete English translations of the Guru Granth emerged in the 1960s. Dr Manmohan Singh’s 8-volume English and Punjabi translation was published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in 1962 while Dr Gopal Singh’s four volume set was published in 1978.

Unlike the wider collaboration at TGGSP, Dr Manmohan’s work was, in his own words, a ‘single-handed effort and attempt with no extraneous financial or scholarly help from any quarter’ while staying as a refugee after fleeing Lyallpur following the 1947 partition.

One of the most recent addition to Guru Granth translation was Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer’s 7-volume English and Punjabi translation published by the Sikh University Press in 2016.

Dr. Ishmeet Kaur Chaudhry, an assistant professor of English literature and the TGGSP English reviewer, said Guru Granth translations currently available in Panjabi and English limit the profound depth, cultural opulence and poetic genius so eloquently revealed in the Sikh scripture.

“In awe and reverence, we have attempted to converse and draft the verbiage that we hope is capturing the letter, message and spirit of the original language of the Guru Granth Sahib,” she said.

In the same statement, Prof. Mohanbir Singh Sawhney, an IT marketing expert who is part of the team, said he took on the challenge of intermixing content, technology and marketing.

“If we get this right, and I believe we will, this will become the most important initiative to scale Sikh teachings for global audiences,” he said.

Harinder added that the project was the first effort in history to include the female perspective in developing an understanding of the ‘Sikh canonical text enthroned to the Guru-Perfection’.

Project content lead Dr. Jaswant Singh noted that the effort was another SikhRI milestone on a 20 year journey to complete the research on each word of Guru Granth Sahib: etymology, grammar, and meaning.

“The team of subject matter experts carves a literal translation and an interpretive transcreation. Then, a commentary is composed. All is done in contemporary English and Panjabi while incorporating musical, poetical, and historical dimensions,” he said.

At part of the launch, the TGGSP website is now making available the complete work to date on Asa ki Var which consist of about 300,000 words (equivalent of 629 pages). More portions of the Guru Granth will be released in the coming weeks.

To access The Guru Granth Sahib Project, click here.


#GurmatPick | Introduction to a Gurmat Framework (Asia Samachar, 6 Aug 2020)

Taking Sikhi Back to 1468 (Asia Samachar, 11 June 2020)

Does Language Impact the Transmission of Wisdom from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Asia Samachar, 24 July 2018)

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