An Eminent Sikh Historian and Profound Scholar of Religion - Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon

Sikh Philosophy Network (2021)
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Prof. (Dr.) Balwant Singh Dhillon, a much-acclaimed Sikh-historian, a dedicated researcher, a prolific writer, and a profound scholar of religion, was born in 1950, at Village Ran Singh Wala, District Faridkot, Punjab, India. With his keen interest in learning, he received a B.A. degree from SGGS College, Chandigarh, in 1972, and an M.A. (History) degree from the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur in 1974. During his younger days, he nurtured a keen interest in sports. On attaining the National Level Athlete ranking, he was enthusiastic about pursuing a career in sports. Thereby, he joined Master Course for Coaching in athletics at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, in 1974. Herein, he came in contact with Prof. Labh Singh of the Institute of Sikh Studies (IOSS, now Gurmat College), who inspired him to take up Sikh studies. This interaction brought a sea change in his life motive, and he committed himself to pursue a career in Sikh studies. After receiving M.A. (Religious Studies) degree from the IOSS in July 1976, he joined M. Lit. (Religious Studies) course at Punjabi University, Patiala. Here he had the opportunity to learn from several eminent scholars, e.g., Prof. Harbans Singh, Prof. Gurbachan Singh Talib, Prof. L.M. Joshi, and Dr. A.N. Sinha, etc., which made his resolve steadfast. In January 1977, he joined the Department of Guru Nanak Studies at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, to pursue his research activities for a Ph.D. degree. In March 1985, he was awarded a Ph. D. degree by GNDU, for his outstanding research work on "The Sikh Gurus and the Mughal State." Starting, in April 1979, as a Research Assistant at the Department of Guru Nanak Studies, he rose to the position of Professor and Head of the department. He retired in June 2010. During his tenure at the university, he had also served as Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Religious Studies, Senator and Syndic of the University. As Head of the Department of Guru Nanak Studies, he played a vital role in starting the teaching of M.A. (Religious Studies and Philosophy)at GNDU, Amritsar. Under his stewardship, the research projects on "Sikh Religion and Philosophy," "Sikh History," and "Sikh Literature" were taken up, which led to a research and development grant of Rs. 3.2 Million from U.G.C., New Delhi, during 2006-2011. Dr. Dhillon was instrumental in establishing the Centre on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at the university, in April 2011, and served as its founding Director till February 2015. He has also served as the Editor-in-Chief for reputed Sikh research journals, "Journal of Sikh Studies" and "Perspectives on Guru Granth Sahib," published by the GNDU. In his forty years long professional career, he has been credited with authoring/publishing about a dozen books and over 100 articles in various research journals, books, and encyclopedias. Besides chairing several international seminars/conferences, he played a vital role in organizing many such events at the Department of Guru Nanak Studies and Centre on Studies in Guru Granth Sahib. He has the honour of representing India at many conferences/ seminars within Canada, America, England, Germany, and Australia. With his continuous dedication to religious studies, he has established himself as an exponent of interfaith dialogue and an eminent writer in the field of Sikh history. Through his well-researched and analytic writings, he has created an indelible mark of scholarship on his readers' minds. For his outstanding contributions in the fields of Sikh history and literature, he has been honoured by several literary and social organizations. Despite his great love and commitment to Sikh History and Religion, Dr. Dhillon subscribes to the idea that Sikh Gurus' Philosophy is perennial and universal in its approach to understand cosmology, Nature, life, and human behaviour in the present era. Furthermore, He asserts that the Sikh Gurus' ideology, its beliefs and practices, social order, worldview, and devotional pattern, as propounded in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, address the basics befitting the 21st century. His views on various aspects of Sikh history and philosophy are presented here for the benefit of readers.

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Devinder Pal Singh
Center for Understanding Sikhism


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