Panthic, Historic

Court complaint seeks audit of Mahan Kosh translations

By Anju Kaur | February 28, 2017
Left: Sikh scholar, Kahan Singh, of Nabha, in an undated photo. Center: Mahan Kosh published by Punjabi University, Patiala. Right: An enhanced image of Kahan Singh printed in Manah Kosh.

Left: Sikh scholar, Kahan Singh, of Nabha, in an undated photo. Center: Mahan Kosh published by Punjabi University, Patiala. Right: An enhanced image of Kahan Singh printed in Manah Kosh.

The High Court of Punjab and Haryana again reviewed a petition on Monday alleging problems with the Hindi and English translations of Kahan Singh's "Guru Shabad Ratanakar Mahan Kosh," popularly known as "Mahan Kosh."

"There has been distortion of the Maha[n] Kosh by incorrect translation," the petitioners, Rajinder Singh and others, said in their December 2016 complaint. 

The petitioners are seeking to form expert committees to audit the translations published by Punjabi University, Patiala, according to the court document. 

Kahan Singh, an eminent Sikh scholar from Nabha city in the Patiala district of Punjab, worked on Mahan Kosh from 1912 to 1927. Mahan Kosh literally means "Great Dictionary." According to kahansinghnabha.com, it contains 64,263 words that occur in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and related historical works. Entries range from brief definitions to descriptive notes, with careful treatment of terminology that had dropped out of usage or had changed in meaning. 

But Mahan Kosh is more than a dictionary. It is considered to be the "Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature." According to sikhchic.com, it traces references to the Vedas, the Bible, the Quran, and other religious texts, and gives details on different religions, their sects and their specialized terms and symbols. It gives details of historical places and gurdwaras, including their illustrations and maps. And it contains entries on trees, herbs, diseases, medicines, philosophy and music.

Mahan Kosh was first published, in the original Punjabi, in 1930 by Sudarshan Press, Amritsar. The university published three more editions by 1981. The 2006 and 2011 English translations are available online. But no examples or details of the alleged distortions are given in the court document. The next hearing is scheduled for April 19.