The Berkeley Punjabi Initiative

Punjabi logo

Punjabi, the language of the land of five rivers, is the official language of the state of Punjab in northwestern India and is spoken in various parts of Pakistan. The Gurmukhi was organized by Baba Nanak and Sikhs consider it to be their sacred script. It has a total of thirty-five letters.

Punjabi has been taught at Cal since the early nineties. We offer courses at two different levels, beginning and intermediate. These courses are designed not only to create a strong foundation for the beginning Punjabi student and sharpen the skills of the intermediate Punjabi student, but also to provide a basic cultural comprehension of the various Punjabi societies in India, Pakistan, and here in the U.S. Therefore, by learning Punjabi you will learn much more than a language. You will learn about the rich culture of the Punjabis and their religious beliefs. In fact, those who learn Punjabi often find themselves enamored by the poetic, universal works in Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. 

Punjabi Faculty

Our current Punjabi instructor is Jvala Singh (Sukh Sembi). Jvala Singh (Sukh Sembi) joins UC Berkeley as a lecturer for Punjabi while completing his PhD at the University of British Columbia, where he is examining pre-colonial Sikh historical narratives. This examination explores literature in Punjabi and Brajbhasha from the 18th and 19th centuries, building off his previous M.A. research completed at the University of Toronto, where he focused on Sikh Brajbhasha versions of Sanskrit epics, such as the Ramayana. In furthering accessibility of pre-colonial Sikh Brajbhasha texts, Jvala Singh runs a podcast, the Suraj Podcast, where each episode is a chapter summary in English of the voluminous Suraj Prakash [1843 CE], a historical narrative covering the lives of the ten Sikh Gurus. written by Santokh Singh [1787-1844].. 

Punjabi Language Courses Offered

  • Introductory Punjabi (PUNJABI) 1A
  • Intermediate Punjabi  (PUNJABI) 100A

The Punjabi Studies Initiative at UC Berkeley

The Institute for South Asia Studies at Berkeley is looking for your support to strengthen research and scholarship in Punjabi studies and ensure the excellence of instruction in Punjabi language. Success will allow the Institute for South Asia Studies to do the following:

  1. Enable heritage and non-heritage students to take Punjabi language classes 
  2. Train the next generation of Punjabi-focused scholars and academics  
  3. Create new and innovative pedagogical materials to encourage the global study of Punjabi 
  4. Increase Punjabi language holdings in Berkeley’s world renowned South Asia collection 
  5. Host an annual distinguished lecture and performance series featuring prominent Punjabi and Sikh scholars, artists and performers