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Of Sacred and Secular Desire

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About the Author

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies at Colby College, Waterville, Maine. Co-Chair of the Sikh Studies Section of the American Academy of Religion, she is the author and editor of several books which include Sikhism: An Introduction (I.B.Tauris, 2011).


'In these powerful and lyrical translations, Nikky Singh penetrates the surface of interreligious violence in the Punjab and reveals to us another world where Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus share a rich treasure of vivid images of ordinary life and a brilliant vision of love, both carnal and divine. Of Sacred and Secular Desire brings into the mainstream of world poetry a great tradition that for far too long awaited an extraordinary translator like Nikky Singh to do it justice. The book is a most unusual combination of extraordinary beauty and great scholarly importance.' - Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago; 'Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh lucidly narrates five centuries of the literary and cultural history of Punjab through the voices of the region's most beloved poets. Her beautiful English renditions of the verses of eleven prominent Punjabi literary figures (ranging from the medieval Sufi poet Baba Farid and the much revered Sikh Guru Nanak to the contemporary feminist Amrita Pritam), and her insightful discussion of the significance of their poetry in the context of their times, provide refreshing frameworks through which to appreciate the complex interactions between disparate traditions in the region. Her analysis boldly challenges the rigid communalist boundaries that have been imposed on the Punjab's rich pluralistic heritage by contemporary discourses of nationalism in South Asia. Students of South Asian literatures, cultures, and religions will find this book to be a sensitively-written and accessible introduction to Punjabi literary culture in all of its diversity and complexity.' - Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University; 'We need books like this one. It will introduce Punjabi literature to new audiences, providing a sense of the broad scope of Punjabi literature over time, and its achievements. We hear from Sufi poets - Baba Farid, as well as Bulhe Shah and Waris Shah - alongside the Sikh Gurus and other saints included in the Sikh sacred scripture. We hear modern voices, who embraced new styles and genres while adhering to the particular cadence and content of the Punjabi language. I hope this is a beginning, that it will inspire due attention to Punjabi literature, which has so little written about it in English, and so little available in translation. Our understanding of South Asian literature, and indeed world literature, demands this attention.' - Anne Murphy, Chair in Punjabi Language, Literature and Sikh Studies, University of British Columbia

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