Books on Punjab’s history & culture

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Book Corner: Reviewed by Dr.Rajwant Singh Chilana, Surrey   

Punjabiyat  Book Corner 1Punjabiyat: The Cultural Heritage & Ethos of the People of Punjab, by Jasbir Singh Khurana. New Delhi: Hemkunt Publishers, 2013, 248p, Hardcover.

In recent years, many books have been published on Punjabi culture and traditions. This title by Colonel Jasbir Singh Khurana’s elaborates it as the cultural heritage and the ethos the Punjabis. The book does not look for an in-depth socio-cultural study, instead brings everyday cultural items and ‘artifacts’ that go to make up what it means to be a Punjabi.

The word Punjabiyat means Punjabiness or the essence of being Punjabi. At the heart of the Punjabi ethos lays a humor-tinged, even sardonic pragmatism. And it is of the slow passing away of these small jewels of our culture that we have increasingly started to lament. At weddings, we wonder who among us is going to sing that plaintive ditty when that old, revered aunt or grandmother is no longer with us. Looking around at our siblings and cousins, we are hard-pressed to find somebody who knows something about the countless little customs and traditions that form an integral part of the ceremony.

A brief look at its chapter headings illustrates this focus on folk culture – out of eight chapters; six describe various Punjabi festivals, folk music and dance, romantic legends, proverbs, folk beliefs, superstitions and handicrafts.

There’s a foreword by Kuldip Nayar who voices misgivings at the sorry state of Punjabi in Pakistan, where Urdu has been enforced vigorously at the expense of the local language. He comes down heavily on the Indian Punjab too where people have ‘mongrelized’ the language and don’t give it its due. The chapter on the people of Punjab deals with the subdivisions in the Punjabi language and is good for an interesting reading.

For a Punjabi, what gives this book its value is its ability to pique your interest to know more about all things Punjabi — phulkari, or Waris Shah or folk music. It reminds us about how much we don’t know, or how much we’ve neglected to know about you.

Punjab Fairs and Festivals- by Harjinder Walia. Delhi: National Book Shop, 126p, Hardbound.

Book Corner 2This illustrated book deals with cultural significance of various fairs and festivals of Punjab. It also gives an account of the origin and growth of the traditions of many fairs, cultural significance of Punjab Fairs, classification of the fairs, and transformation and decline of fairs in Punjab state.  A bibliography of some useful publications in English, Punjabi and Hindi is also appended.