US university sets up chair in Sikh musicology

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New York, May 15 (UNI) A US university has announced setting up of an endowed chair in the Department of Religion for the study and teaching of Sikh musical traditions.

The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology, a gift from Dr Hakam Singh, a retired chemist with a lifelong interest in Sikh music, will concentrate on how Sikh music and scriptures are historically intertwined.

''The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology will add to Hofstra's growing expertise on the rich traditions of Sikhism,'' announced Stuart Rabinowitz, President of Hofstra University based in Hempstead, nearby Long Island in a statement.

Dr. Singh's generosity also enhances Hofstra's efforts to expand its Department of Religion into a nationally respected center for the secular study of our religious traditions.

Dr. Singh, who emigrated from India to the United States in 1968 and worked as a university chemistry professor and in the chemical and aerospace industries, defined Sikh musicology as the combination of Sikh scriptures and Indian music.

''In Sikhism, music is extremely important,'' he said.

''There are about 6,000 hymns, or shabads in the Sikh scripture and each hymn is preceded by instructions as to what raga and musical measure, or taal, it should be sung in. This shows that our founders not only had a great knowledge of Indian music, but that they knew the influence of the singing of hymns on the mind,'' he added.

Dr. Singh, who lives in California, said he became familiar with Hofstra's growing reputation as a center of Sikh study through his daughter, who lives on Long Island. ''Hofstra already had a lot of interest in Sikh studies,'' he said. ''You already had a Sikh professorship here and you started the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize,'' he remarked.

Hofstra University also is home of the Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies, which was established at Hofstra to promote the academic study of the Sikh religion, philosophy, culture and history.

In addition to a major academic programme in Sikh Studies and South Asian Religions, the Bindra Chair supports the appointment of a faculty member in Sikh Studies, helps build the university library's holdings in Sikhism, provides scholarship assistance to students interested in Sikh religion and culture, and funds annual conferences and lectures directed toward the academic community and the general public. The chair is now held by Dr Balbinder Singh Bhogal.

Earlier this year, Hofstra awarded the first Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The biennial award, named for the founder of Sikhism, was endowed by the family of Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra and recognizes efforts at interfaith dialogue.

The 50,000 dollar prize will be presented to him on November 18 in India by a delegation including Hofstra officials, the family of Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra, which established the prize at Hofstra, and former prime minister IK Gujral, a member of the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize Honorary Committee. The Dalai Lama has agreed to visit Hofstra in 2009.


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