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Paanga or Punga or Panja:

Sardarji jokes, along with any joke told at the expense of some other group, tribe, caste, status or sect, even religion, of the person telling the joke and are examples of blatant racism. Growing up in the southern US where I remember seeing Sikhs being portrayed in Gunga Din and one old Shirley Temple movie, I was 6 or 7 and both both movies left me admiring Sikhs. More than half a century later I was surprised and annoyed, when a Muslim friend started a joke, which I didn't find to be funny. I expressed my dislike for what I have since learned is what is called a "Sardarji 'joke', here on Sikhiwiki.

Opening a page on Dawn News today I was miffed to see a story in Dawn News that began with one. The so called 'joke' was recounted in a news article written during the "Lawyers' long march (2009) in Pakistan titled A presidential ‘punga’ . [1]

My wife had noticed the word in the margin and asked me what punga meant (I had forgotten that I had already read several stories on Panja Sahib. Maybe it was the different spelling or just the effects of an old failing memory, whatever I just didn't make the connection) so I clicked on the link.

To my surprise it started with a stupid, so called Sardarji joke. Apparently even though most Sikhs were forced to leave their ancestral homes with what little they could carry (those that weren't murdered during the pogrom, known as the Partition) it seems that such jokes, at another's expense, still linger across the border from Amritsar more than half a century later.


The story says, " ‘Punga’ is not an easy Punjabi word to translate, but it roughly means to provoke somebody without good reason."

One of the more beloved stories of Guru Nanak makes use of the word Punga, and the site where that bit of history happened, has long been one of the most revered shrines of the Sikhs and other admirers of Guru Nanak. Today when many Sikh families have been forced to seek shelter inside the walls of Gurdwara Panja Sahib, after having been driven from their homes, Guru Nanak's handprint is still to be seen smashed into a boulder rolled down a hill by a jealous faqir. The Gurdwara is still serving, as all Gurdwaras around the world are intended to serve, not just as a place of worship, used now and then, sitting empty most of the time, but as a place of safety, a place where the hungry and starving, can always find food served freely, grown or purchased by the families (the men, women and children) of the local community that still continue the tradition of Seva that Guru Nanak made a part of Sikhi so many years ago. A serai for pilgrims and travelers and a Langar for the hungry--a place for fellowship!

Category: words