Giani Gurdit Singh
Giani Gurdit Singh (Feb 24, 1923 - Jan 17, 2007) was born in Mithewal village in the state of Punjab, India. He was a celebrated Punjabi writer, a pioneering journalist, the Owner-Editor of Parkash (a Punjabi newspaper) 1947-1978. He was also the Editor of Singh Sabha Patrika a monthly magazine of Sikh history and divinity, from 1973-1988.
Giani Gurdit Singh Ji graduated as "Giani" from Panjab University, Lahore in 1945 and he specialized in literature, divinity, history and folklore. He immortalised Mitthewal, an obscure Malwai village of the Malerkotla state of yore in Mera Pind, a book that enjoys the status of a classic today, and the book, in turn, immortalises its writer Giani Gurdit Singh.
He was a scholar of great repute, who made significant contributions in the areas of journalism, politics, Sikh religious studies and Punjabi culture. However, he was best loved and is best remembered today for his little epic that captured the heart and soul of Punjab’s rural life as it was in yesteryear. This is not to say that his contributions in other areas were any less. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of Punjabi University, Patiala. On the basis of his report filed to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Takht Sri Damdama Sahib was established as the fifth Takht. The Giani was the founder of the Sri Guru Granth Vidya Kendras in Delhi and Chandigarh. In fact, he was a towering figure in post-Independence Punjab, who held important posts and received many honours. But what set him apart from others was his integrity and refusal to budge from what he held true, no matter what the political climate of the time was.
A robust and earthy sense of humour and courage of conviction kept him active and alert, in spite of setbacks to his health, to a ripe age of 84. He authored scores of books on culture, folklore and religion, having started his career as the editor of Prakash, a daily Punjabi newspaper from Patiala he started in 1947. His literary circle in those days included writer Suba Singh and Prof Pritam Singh. A spontaneous essay, written in his daily in 1953 on his village paved the way for Mera Pind, published in 1961. The Encyclopaedia Britannica calls the book “one of the most outstanding novels depicting rural life in Punjab.” Well known writer Khushwant Singh had said of Mera Pind: “The book gives a lively picture of pastoral life, written in delectable prose, studded with aphorisms, anecdotes, proverbs and songs. The one thing that will give Mera Pind a long lease of life, if not immortality, is the fact that the author has used the Punjabi language as it is spoken by the common people.”
As the news of the Giani’s death spread in literary circles, short story writer Mohan Bhandari says: “I have said it before and I am saying it now that even 12 Sahitya Akademi awards for this book would have been less for in it is encased the soul of Punjab.”
The book that defied classification did not win the Sahitya Akademi award but awards never make a book, readers do. Running into its seventh edition, the book is one of the best read in Punjab and commenting on it poet Surjit Patar says: “If you haven’t read this book, you have missed much of Punjab.”
Mera Pind portrays the innocence and simplicity of the Punjabi village before the intervention of ‘development’ and materialism. Paying a tribute to the Giani, Punjabi critic Bhushan says: “Mahatma Gandhi had said that India lived in its villages, and I say that the village lived in Giani Gurdit Singh.”
Considered a virtual classic of Punjabi literature, Giani Gurdit’s “Mera Pind” was first published in 1961; it is now in its seventh edition. It is a comprehensive study of the entire spectrum of life in a Punjab village, which has since long been part of syllabus in schools, colleges and at university level.
Apart from his prose, Giani Gurdit had also received recognition for his research work on Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh scriptures. In 1991, the SGPC recognized his contribution with the honorific of Gurmat Acharya. Giani Gurdit Singh’s son Roopinder Singh is presently working with a Chandigarh based English daily.
Giani ji passed away at the age of 84 on 17.01.2007 at chandigearh, after a massive heart attack. Describing Giani Gurdit Singh as a distinguished literary figure, prolific writer and above all a good human being, the Governor of Indian state of Panjab said that his contribution to the field of Punjabi literature will always be remembered .
Literary and Research Work
- Edited 50 books, with introductory essays, for the SGPC in connection with tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa.
- 1995 Mera Pind (My Village), a substantially modified and enlarged edition with five new chapters)
- 1990 Ithas Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagat Bani Bhag (History of Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
- 1987 Punjabi Jiwan te Sabhyachar (Punjabi Life and Culture)
- 1971 Punjab Dian Lok Kahanian (Folk Tales of Punjab, in three volumes, running into 834 pages)
- 1967 Mera Pind da Jiwan (Life of my Village)
- 1965 Takhat Damdam Sahib (a research report)
- 1961 Bhat te Unhan di Rachna (Bhats and their creation)
- 1961 Mera Pind (My Village)
- 1960 Tith Tihar (Functions & Festivals)
- 1960 Reetan te Rewaj
- 1960 Mere Pind di Rup Rekha (Facets of my Village)
- 1960 Viah Dian Rasma (Customs of Marriage)
- 1955 Achchoh Sikhran (Unattainable Paradigms, a collection of poems)
- 1954 Bhavan de Desh (Emotional Missives, a collection of poems)
- 1950 Amarnama (edited)
- 1945 Raag Mala di Asliat (The reality of Raag Mala)
- 19 -- Nawan Punjab
- Anandpur Sahib di Sahit nu Dein (The Contribution of Anandpur Sahib to Literature)
- 2000 Itihaas Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Bhagat Bani (History of Guru Granth Sahib: Bhagat Bani, second edition)
- 2003 Itihaas Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Mundavani (History of Guru Granth Sahib: Mundavani)
UNESCO Recognition and Punjab Government Award
Giani Gurdit Singh was awarded Punjabi Sahit Shiromani Puraskar in 2006 by Punjab government. Presented by the Punjab Languages Department, the award carried a cash component of Rs 2.5 lakh. While even international bodies like Unesco had recognised the worth of “Mera Pind”, which awarded the author in 1967, recognition from the state government was considered long overdue in Punjabi literary circles.
- Oct 20, 2006 - Giani Gurdit Singh Ji awarded Punjabi Sahit Shiromani Puraskar
- Jan 17, 2007 - Giani Gurdit Singh passes away