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Date: May 01, 2008
Sikh Music Chair Endowed at Hofstra
Adds to growing Department of Religion and study of SikhismHofstra University, Hempstead, NY – President Stuart Rabinowitz today announced the creation 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 Hakam Singh, Ph.D., a retired chemist with a lifelong interest in Sikh music, will concentrate on how Sikh music and scripture are historically intertwined. Sikhism, founded in northern India, is one of the world’s largest religions.
“The Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology will add to Hofstra’s growing expertise on the rich traditions of Sikhism,” said President Rabinowitz. “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 scripture 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.”
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.”
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 program 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 Balbinder Singh Bhogal, Ph.D. Hofstra’s Department of Religion also includes the Msgr. Thomas J. Hartman Chair for Catholic Studies, currently held by Julie Byrne, Ph.D., and an endowed chair in Jewish studies.
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 prize will be presented to His Holiness on November 18, 2008 in India by a delegation including Hofstra officials, the family of Sardar Ishar Singh Bindra, which established the prize at Hofstra, and former Indian Prime Minister I.K. 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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