The Dhahan Prize celebrates Punjabi language and literature by awarding a yearly prize for excellence in Punjabi Fiction
The Dhahan Prize was created to call greater attention to the wealth of literary works produced in Punjabi around the world. The Prize encourages new writing by awarding $25,000 CDN annually to one “best book of fiction” published in either of the two Punjabi scripts, Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi. Two finalist prizes of $10,000 CDN are also awarded, with the provision that both scripts are represented among the three winners.
The Dhahan Prize was first awarded in 2014 and since 2018 the annual award purse is $45,000 CDN.
Winners receive a custom hand-crafted, triangle-shaped trophy made of Black Canadian Walnut wood, and engraved with the baaz (i.e. hawk) feather. The Black Canadian Walnut symbolizes the Prize’s founding country, as well as the 100+ year heritage of Punjabis on the West Coast, especially in relation to the lumber industry. Each side of the triangle symbolizes the equal importance of English, Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts for the Prize. The baaz represents the official bird of Punjab, while also paying homage to Canadian First Nations people, whom Punjabi migrants have long called ‘taike.’ The word roughly translates to ‘distant family member.’
The Dhahan Prize is named (https://skyrocket.is/work/dhahan-prize) after the ancestral village of the Dhahan family of the late S. Budh Singh Dhahan. The Prize is founded by Barj (Barjinder Singh) and Rita Dhahan along with family and friends from Vancouver, Canada.
Celebrate excellence in Punjabi literature.
To inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale.
For centuries, Punjabis have thrived on the plains and foothills of Punjab in South Asia, and in diaspora communities around the world. Although the region of Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan in the 1947 partition of the subcontinent, Punjabi culture and literature live on across borders and across two scripts: Gurmukhi, which is prevalent in Indian Punjab, and Shahmukhi, used in Pakistani Punjab. The Dhahan Prize, too, crosses borders, recognizing the best in Punjabi fiction, from Amritsar to Abbotsford, and London to Lahore.
Punjabi is a language and culture that is diverse and ever-changing. Punjabi literature expresses the unique cultural ethos of this global community, describing the social, cultural, and political lives of Punjabis in South Asia and around the world. It is modern – with a commitment to social engagement and critique – but also draws on a rich, centuries-old literary reservoir that includes Sheikh Farid, Guru Nanak, Waris Shah, Damodar, Amrita Pritam, Shiv Kumar, and Ustad Damman.
This is a truly wonderful initiative to promote literature, more so because it comes from a private initiative. By telling our stories we share our lives; this fiction prize will bring Punjab to us and through that the world. I wish it every success.M. G. Vassanji, Canadian Novelist, Giller Prize and Governor-General’s Prize Recipient
It was a passion to recognize and share this wealth of Punjabi storytelling and literature that led to the eventual creation of the Dhahan Prize. Barj S. Dhahan, co-founder of Canada India Education Society, wanted to preserve the stories and history embedded in Punjabi language, while promoting new and creative ways to interact with the literature. He also wanted to honour the Dhahan family’s history of activism in India and Canada, where they have supported education initiatives, Punjabi language teaching and learning opportunities for girls. With the support of his wife, Rita, many of their close family and friends and the University of British Columbia, the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature was founded in 2013.
The Dhahan Prize is awarded by Canada India Education Society (CIES). Over the past twenty years, CIES has successfully undertaken educational, healthcare, and community development projects in Canada and India. The prize was founded with the support of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC), home to one of the longest standing and most extensive Punjabi language and literature programs in North America. The initial process, adjudication, and administration of the Prize was developed under the leadership of UBC’s Professor Anne Murphy, with advice and guidance from the Prize Advisory Committee
Each language carries its own knowledge, its own spirituality, and its own cultural and intellectual richness. I’ve seen how the loss of language can be devastating to a person, family and community. I am committed to preserving our mother tongue and the wealth of history and stories embedded in Punjabi.Barj S. Dhahan, Prize Founder