Keeping the Punjabi language alive by supporting excellence in Punjabi literature and authorship
In 2013, The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature (The Prize) was launched in collaboration with the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
Since 2014, The Prize has awarded three works of fiction annually. A primary winner is awarded $25,000, and two finalists are awarded $10,000 each. Books are evaluated by an independent jury.
Annual ceremonies are held to acknowledge and congratulate the winning authors.
The Prize “inspires the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale.”
The Prize recognizes that there is a need to preserve history, tradition and culture embedded in Punjabi scripts, and to continue that ever-renewing tradition. Today, Punjabi peoples span the globe, from South Asia to the United Kingdom, North America and beyond. The ‘bridge’ that keeps their communities together is the language they share. And thus, the need to promote Punjabi language and story writing are paramount.
Moreover, the Prize aims to unite Punjabis who were separated during the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. It does this by ensuring that every year, two Punjabi scripts are represented among the awards: Gurmukhi, which is used mainly in Indian Punjab, and Shahmukhi, which is used in Pakistani Punjab.
Activities taken to promote Punjabi language across the world
The Prize administration runs throughout the year. It includes reviewing criteria, receiving and organizing submissions, selecting jury members, distributing press releases, planning and executing events and promoting the prize around the world.
Events to promote Punjabi literature
Each year, the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature is held in Metro Vancouver at a different venue, usually at the University of British Columbia.
Influential thought leaders who travel from around the world to join the event have delivered inspirational messages to audiences.
Moreover, the events have featured performances originating from around the globe. These have included Bhangra dancers, Canadian Indigenous dancers and the Vancouver Police Pipe Band.
While ceremonies are held on a yearly basis, global promotional events are also held. Our founder, Barj Dhahan, attends these international events.
Involving youth in Punjabi literature
In 2017, the Dhahan Prize Youth Award was launched in partnership with L.A. Matheson Secondary of the Surrey School District (in British Columbia, Canada), and with the financial support of Coast Capital Savings. The Youth Award encourages young writers to craft a short story in the Punjabi language, and to translate that work into English, on their own.
Every year, a Youth Award jury selects eight winners. They each receive a $500 award for their story. The Prize also publishes a yearly anthology and holds an annual award ceremony for the youth.
Impact of The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature
The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature has been featured in numerous media publications around the world. It also has a social media following with an engaged online community.
Notable scholars, literary critics and artists have joined the Prize in various capacities. These have included volunteering to sit on juries or its advisory committee, speaking at events, and performing administrative tasks.
The Dhanan Prize is generously supported by Royal Bank. Alongside it, financial support regularly comes from RBC Dominion Securities (through Harj and Darshan Grewal) and RBC Foundation (through the RBC Emerging Artists Project).
Friends, family and other organizations connected to our founder, Barj Dhahan, including UBC, have also supported the initiative, and continue to do so. Barj and Rita Dhahan are the primary funders of the Prize.