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Punjabi: A Prized language!

harman-2By Harman S. Pandher

On Saturday, October 29th, 2016, Punjabi language and Punjabi literature were celebrated at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.  The event was the 3rd annual Dhahan Prize Awards Gala for Punjabi Literature.

This literary prize was founded by prominent Vancouver businessman Barjinder Singh Dhahan, popularly known as Barj.  The prize money is $25,000 to the first-place writer and two second-place prizes of $5,000 each (one for writing in Gurmukhi script and one for writing in Shahmukhi script).

This year’s first-place prize was awarded to Sardar Jarnail Singh of Toronto for his latest book of short stories.  The second-place prize for Gurmukhi was won by Professor Simran Singh Dhaliwal of Punjab.  And the second-place prize for Shahmukhi was won by Zahid Hassan of Lahore.

The Dhahan Prize is truly a one of a kind award for Punjabi literature.  There really are no other awards of this magnitude specifically for Punjabi literature and Punjabi writers.  The fact that this annual celebration was born in British Columbia is a testament to the growing strength and vibrancy of the Punjabi language in Canada.  In fact, at this year’s Awards Gala, the Government of British Columbia issued a Proclamation that October 30th to November 5th would annually be known as Punjabi Literature Week in the Province of BC.

Another good news, announcement made at this year’s event by Barj Dhahan was targeted at youth.  He told the audience that in 2017 there will be three youth prizes of $750 each awarded to BC students studying Punjabi in grades 11 and 12 for the best essays or stories written in Gurmukhi.  The announcement is being well-received in educational circles across BC.  And the youth prizes will provide a chance for the next generation of Punjabi writers to be recognized for their contributions to not only the preservation of Punjabi language – but also to its continued growth and evolution.

Speaking of the growth of Punjabi, as of the 2016 – 2017 school year, Punjabi language is now being taught in one more elementary school in the Lower Mainland: Green Timbers Elementary School in Surrey, BC.  Students have an opportunity to take Punjabi in grade 5 as their language option.  Punjabi was first included in the BC curriculum in 1995 by the BC Ministry of Education.  PLEA, the Punjabi Language Education Association of BC, was instrumental in achieving these milestones in our public education system and continues to promote the teaching of Punjabi language throughout the province.

Multilingual Master of Ceremonies Tarannum Thind did an excellent job hosting the program, which also included a musical interlude by some very talented, young, up and coming musicians playing the rabaab and tabla.

Congratulations to the award recipients, the organizers, and the many volunteers who helped make this year’s gala a resounding success!

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