Research & Publications

Pashaura Singh’s research is located in the field of Adi Granth studies; he has authored three Oxford monographs, co-edited three conference volumes and contributed articles to academic journals, books and encyclopedias. He has a sound knowledge of traditional Sikh learning, manuscripts in archaic forms of Gurmukhi script and Indian religious traditions, with a mastery of contemporary issues in textual studies, canonicity, hermeneutics, literary theory, and history of religions. His work on the Adi Granth and early Sikh history is widely noted. His most recent monograph, Life and Work of Guru Arjan: History, Memory and Biography in the Sikh Tradition (OUP 2006), was on the “Best Sellers List” in India. Before coming to the University of California, Riverside, where he presently teaches as a Professor of Sikh studies and South Asian religions, Singh taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for thirteen years. He is currently working on a research project on Sacred Melodies: History, Theory and the Performance of Sikh Kirtan.


The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority (Oxford University Press, 2000; Paperback, 2003)

The Guru Granth Sahib explores the concept of scripture from the Sikh perspective and seeks to understand the processes of canon formation and those by which meaning and authority are vested in the Adi Granth. Taking a radically different approach from the dominant mode of textual analysis, Pashaura Singh argues for a plurality of interpretation and the inexhaustible hermeneutic potential of the Adi Granth. He offers a fresh perspective on the role of the Adi Granth as ‘Guru’ in both the personal as well as the corporate spheres of the Sikh community and discusses the scripture as a cross-cultural phenomenon. This exciting volume will be useful for specialists in religious, scriptural and Sikh studies, and of immense value for general readers interested in the roots of canonical meaning and authority in the Sikh tradition in particular, and religious in general.

‘…a delightful and scholarly book that will no doubt be consulted even after fifty years…[ It provides] an analysis of revelation and of sacred scripture as a canon…It tries to understand the process of canon formation in the Sikh tradition; because of its relevance to other scriptures as well, the interest of this study goes far beyond the Sikh scripture.’

— Winand M. Callewaert, International Journal of Panjab Studies

‘…this is an important work that promises to alter the landscape of early Sikh textual studies. Pashaura Singh is to be congratulated for publishing, under difficult circumstances, a study that will help place text critical examination of the AG [Adi Granth] on solid philological footing.’

— Michael C. Shapiro, The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib: Sikh-Self-Definition and the Bhagat Bani ( Oxford University Press, 2003)

In this insightful new study, Pashaura Singh explores the interaction between early Sikhism and other religious movements in the Punjab , focusing in particular on those saints from the devotional tradition who find a place in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Pashaura Singh examines the impact of Sufi tradition in the Punjab by studying the Sikh Gurus’ responses to the work of Shaikh Farid. He considers Kabir and the Sant tradition of Northern India and also focuses on the Vaishnava Bhakti tradition as represented by various bhagats (‘devotees’). Finally, the author discusses the status of the Bhagat Bani (‘Utterances of the Bhagats’) within the Sikh tradition and its tremendous influence on the people of Punjab .

The Bhagat Bani provides an excellent example of scriptural adaptation in a cross-cultural spirit, offering a deeper understanding of religious pluralism and new answers to the basic question of who we are and what we do as a faith community. This lucid and engaging volume will be read with great interest by scholars and students of religious, scriptural, and Sikh studies, as well as general readers interested in Sikhism.

‘…the book provides a sophisticated and compelling answer to a fundamental question, namely why Guru Arjan, as well as the redactors of other early versions of the AG [Adi Granth], saw it fit to include this material [of poet-saints] in their compilations… The AG, rather than being a monochromatic hymnal containing a set of ideologically compatible compositions, becomes something much more dynamic: a text in which Sikh Gurus not only espouse particular doctrines, but engage, as it were, in active exchange with their precursors. By demonstrating how this might be the case, Pashaura Singh has altered the way scholars are likely to view the bhagat bani in the future.’

— Michael C. Shapiro, The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Life and Work of Guru Arjan: History, Memory, and Biography in the Sikh Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2006)

A comprehensive study of the life and work of Guru Arjan (1563-1606), the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, this volume reconstructs his life based on history, memory, tradition, and mythic representation. Pashaura Singh focuses on the major influences that shaped Guru Arjan’s thought. He discusses the socio-political conditions that moulded the Guru’s life, inspiring him to become one of the greatest religious leaders of the world. Presenting a systematic analysis of Guru Arjan’s teachings, the author examines the Guru’s role as leader of the growing Sikh Panth. The book discusses major institutional developments and the formation of the Sikh canon during the Guru’s reign. It also explores the circumstances surrounding the Guru’s martyrdom and the subsequent impact on the crystallization of the Sikh Panth. This volume, lucidly written and with a multidisciplinary focus, will be of keen interest to student and scholars of religion, especially Sikh studies as also historians, sociologists, and a wide general audience.

‘This is a seminal work of profound scholarship by one of the most reputed professors of Sikh theology. It deals with the life, times, and work of Guru Arjan Dev, the chief contributor and compiler of the Sikhs’ sacred scripture which gave them a distinct religious identity of their own…It is a must for anyone interested in Sikhism’.

— Khushwant Singh, a renowned journalist and author

I have been most impressed by Pashaura Singh’s work…Guru Arjan has received scant attention from reputable scholars. Pashaura Singh….does much to fill that gap.

—W.H. McLeod, Emeritus Professor, University of Otago

…a definitive study on Guru Arjan and his times…combines careful study of documents with a balanced account of historiography and numerous issues relating to Arjan. The book…should remain the standard assessment of a pivotal phase in the emergence of Sikhism as a world religion.

—N. Gerald Barrier, Emeritus Professor, University of Missouri


Sikhism and History
edited by Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (Oxford University Press, 2004)

This collection of representative essays covers a wide range of issues that define the contours of contemporary Sikh studies and is a major contribution to the field. Each essay explores a dimension of what constitutes modern Sikhism – the central concerns of a Sikh identity as well as the realities of the Sikh diaspora. The analyses highlight central Sikh concepts, symbols and practices as they evolved over time, the enduring importance of the teachings of the Gurus and their relation to contemporary influences on Sikhism. The essays explore the conscious codification of Sikh precepts during the Singh Sabha period and the relationship between religion and ideology as embodied in modern politico-religious formations like the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. The doctrinal issues involving the authority of texts like the Dasam Granth and debates over authorship are also explored. In this context, the discipline also recognizes the need for a methodology equipped with tools that approach historical sources carefully, as in the instance of poetic writings in Persian.

This multidimensional volume highlights the contributions of the leading Sikh studies scholar W.H. McLeod and brings together both authorities in the discipline and young scholars including Pashaura Singh, N. Gerald Barrier, Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh, Louis E. Fenech, Robin Reinhart, Tony Ballantyne, Doris Jakobsh, Arthur Helweg, and Darshan S. Tatla. It will be useful to scholars, students, and the general reader interested in issues related to the history of Sikhism and questions of identity formation of communities.

Sikh Identity: Continuity and Change
edited by Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (Manohar Publication, 1999)

The collection of seventeen essays, two critical introductions, and a keynote speech, resulted from an International Conference on ‘ Sikh identity: Continuity and Change’ held at the University of Michigan in 1996. The contributions are in four sections which include introductions and keynote speech: symbols of identity and Sikh tradition; recent Sikh history and issues of identity; and politics, social issues and contemporary Sikh identity. The scholarship covers a wide range of important issues pertaining to the complex process of ‘coming to be’, a class notion of identity. Emphasized are the connections between formal, conscious and organized processes of institutional development/identity markers and the informal, unconscious and spiritual ways in which people come to know themselves. These in turn fashion responses to how others understand and accept identity. The papers address ‘Who is a Sikh?’ and provide insights from disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, political science and religion. Doctrine, code of conduct, historical interpretation, authority, and creative response to changing circumstances are issues that do not lend themselves to easy solutions. Yet an open exchange of ideas and alternatives hopefully should reduce tension and lead to a resolution of differences acceptable to Sikhs as a whole. This volume makes a positive contribution toward that process.

The Transmission of Sikh Heritage in the Diaspora
edited by Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (Manohar Publication, 1996)

The presentations cover a wide range of significant academic issues such as religious orthodoxy versus fundamentalism, nationalism, economic and social mobility, gender awareness and cultural transmission and adaptations. The papers provide insights from various disciplines like history, sociology, anthropology, political science and religion. Given the continuing conflict over the nature of traditions and between opposing views of history and practice among Sikhs for over a century, the essays focus on the transmission of Sikh/Punjabi culture as well as current dilemmas confronting the Sikh diaspora. While most of the essays deal with the content of tradition and the message as well as the means of transmission, the study of Singapore Sikhs provides the most detailed account of the relationship between the two. Ritual, historical interpretation, authority and creative responses to changing circumstances are issues that do not lend themselves to easy solutions. Yet an open exchange of ideas and alternatives should hopefully reduce tension and ultimately lead to a resolution of differences acceptable to Sikhs as a whole. This volume makes a positive contribution towards that process.

Sikhism in Global Context; Oxford University Press, 2012;
Pashaura Singh, Editor

The Sikh community has made its presence felt throughout the world. Focusing on globalization, this book presents Sikh history, politics, identity, music, ethics, material culture, the worldwide Sikh diaspora, and the history and current state of scholarship in the field of Sikh Studies. The book describes the internal differences of caste, community, and gender within Sikhism, as well as the use of modern media to disseminate and construct the frameworks of Sikhism. It also stresses the importance of internal dynamics within the Sikh community and external factors (such as local experiences in different countries) for comprehending the processes of change visible among Sikhs from the global point of view. The essays question the conventional premises of Sikh studies by breaking away from an emphasis on history and text, and look at Sikh practices from the ‘lived religion perspective.’ The place of the Guru Granth Sahib as a perennial source of human understanding, non-violent movements in Sikh history, Sikh music, and Sikh miracles are also discussed.

Re-imagining South Asian Religions
Essays in Honour of Professors Harold G. Coward and Ronald W. Neufeldt

Edited by Pashaura Singh & Michael Hawley

Re-imagining South Asian Religions is a collection of essays offering new ways of understanding aspects of Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Theosophical, and Indian Christian experiences. Moving away from canonical texts, established authorities, and received historiography, the essays in this volume draw from a range of methodological perspectives including philosophy, history, hermeneutics, migration and diaspora studies, ethnography, performance studies, lived religion approaches, and aesthetics. Reflecting a balance of theory and substantive content, the papers in this volume call into question key critical terms, challenge established frames of reference, and offer innovative and alternative interpretations of South Asian ways of knowing and being.

Encountering Sikh Texts, Practices and Performances: Essays in Honour of Professor Christopher Shackle, Sikh Formations – Religion, Culture, Theory, Volume 11, Nos. 1-2 (April-August 2015)

Edited by Pashaura Singh and Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair

“The main purpose of this volume is to explore interdisciplinary approaches, resulting from academic inquiries into Sikh texts, as well as the practices that surround them and their performance. The growing turn in Religious Studies toward ‘lived religion’, ‘everyday religion’, and other similar paradigms, in part, calls scholars to be aware that ‘religions’ are at least as much about the things that people do as about the ideas, ideals, and central narratives enshrined within their texts and scriptures. Rather than dichotomize text and practice, this volume draws attention to the intersections between Sikh sacred texts and the actual practices of the Sikh community.”

The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies (Oxford University Press, 2014), edited by Pashaura Singh and Louis E. Fenech

This is the first major comprehensive survey of the Sikh tradition which does not delimit its study to a single genre. It initiates new researchers into the growing field of Sikh Studies. It uses an innovative structure integrating various ways of expressing Sikh-ness (Sikhi) from a range of disciplines. It questions key critical terms, challenges established frames of reference, and offers alternative ‘readings’ of Sikh ways of knowing and being. It combines the scholarship of three generations of academics in the field from all over the world. The handbook is divided into eight thematic sections that explore different ‘expressions’ of Sikhism. Historical, literary, ideological, institutional, and artistic expressions are considered in turn, followed by discussion of Sikhs in the Diaspora, and of caste and gender in the Panth (‘Sikh Community’). Each section begins with an essay by a prominent scholar in the field, providing an overview of the topic. Further essays provide detail and further treat the fluid, multi-vocal nature of both the Sikh past and the present. The handbook concludes with a section considering future directions in Sikh Studies.

A recent reviewer has described it as the “landmark in the field of Sikh Studies.”