The University of Birmingham will host a prestigious academic Chair to promote research into the life and philosophy of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the revered first Sikh Guru.
Honourable Union Minister of India, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri announced this project during the University of Birmingham India Institute’s Annual Guest Lecture, when he spoke on ’The contemporary relevance of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message of inter-faith harmony’.
The search now begins to find an academic expert to hold the Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Chair and work closely with relevant parts of the University, including the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.
Working with the University’s India Office, in New Delhi, the Chair will engage with partners and communities in India to create fellowships in peacebuilding, inter-faith understanding and community cohesion - reflecting the three core values of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
They will also seek major funding opportunities to advance research into the Guru’s life and teaching. Minister Hardeep Singh Puri commented: “The University of Birmingham is most suitable for the Chair given the strength of its academic offering, its close connections to the vibrant Sikh community, the larger British Indian community of the UK, and its history and continuing commitment to India.
“Equally, the City of Birmingham, in the heart of the United Kingdom, with its rich and diverse religious heritage, and its diverse population, is an ideal place for the Chair to be located.”
The University’s relationship with India is a long one, beginning in 1909 with the first cohort of Indian students arriving in Birmingham to study for degrees in Mining and Commerce. Since then, the University has provided education to around 2,000 outstanding Indian students.
Birmingham was the first UK university to establish a lectureship in Sikh Studies and is the only Russell Group university to have a programme (MSc in Sikh Studies) in this field. Given its rich history and connections to India, the University launched its India Institute in 2018.
High Commissioner of India to UK, Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam, congratulated the British-Indian community for its partnership on various projects to celebrate the auspicious occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, whose life and teachings inspire Indians belonging to all faiths across the globe.
“This is a great opportunity for that eternal message of the revered first Sikh Guru to be shared with the British community, and the larger world community,” she said.
Consul General of India in Birmingham, Dr. Aman Puri commented: “I am delighted that the University of Birmingham has partnered on this prestigious academic Chair, as its India Institute is playing such an important role in improving collaboration between India and the UK.
“Future research by this Chair will help further understand the contemporary relevance of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings.”
The University of Birmingham is among the global Top 100 universities, and founder member of the elite Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Its Department of Theology was ranked second in the UK in the last Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise, in 2014.
University of Birmingham Chancellor Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea commented: “The Indian Government’s decision that the University of Birmingham should host this high-profile Chair is testament to our long-standing and ever-deepening relationship with India and its people.
“We are proud of our education and research links with India, particularly in those fields that resonate with the teachings of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. We believe this Chair will help further deepen and strengthen links between our academic community and the Indian diaspora.”
The University of Birmingham specialises particularly in the field of interreligious relations, religion and development, religion and politics, and religion and peacebuilding, and has hosted a UNESCO Chair in Interfaith Studies and a Chair in Interreligious Relations.
Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Birmingham, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Minister Hardeep Singh Puri to the University of Birmingham and honoured that the University of Birmingham has been chosen to host this prestigious Chair. I would like to extend my gratitude to the British-Indian community, who is supporting this project and helping the University in its civic mission.
“As a civic university with a global outlook, we will use this honour wisely to strengthen and deepen international understanding of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message of inter-faith harmony - teachings which remain relevant to today’s complex and fragmented world.”
- For more information, please contact: Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. Out-of-hours enquiries: +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
- The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
- The India Institute was established in January 2018 and brings Birmingham and India closer together to deliver impactful research, create innovative education initiatives and extend the University’s influence across the globe.
- The University’s relationship with India began in 1909 with the first cohort of Indian students attending the University to study for degrees in Mining and Commerce. Since then, the University has provided education to many outstanding Indian alumni.
- Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) was one of the greatest spiritual innovators of all time and he is a subject of perennial interest of many scholars who are interested in spirituality and wellbeing. His writings are understood within the paradigm of discipline, divine self-expression. He was an original spiritual thinker and expressed his thoughts in extraordinary poetry that forms the basis of Sikh scripture. He was inspired by a powerful spiritual experience that confirmed his idea that the way to spiritual growth was through mediation and through living in a way that reflected the presence of the divine within each human being. Guru Nanak set out on a set of spiritual journey and debated with the learned men he met along and started teaching a new route to spiritual fulfilment and the good life. His teachings marked a paradigm shift in historiographical revolution in spiritual study in India. The distinctiveness of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings lies in his exhortation on living a life without relinquishing one’s worldly responsibilities.
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