Sep 112013


Extreme income inequality is a fundamental global socio-economic problem of today’s world, amply existent in the local Silicon Valley society, including the Sikh community. Over 500 years ago, witnessing acute socio-economic inequalities, Guru Nanak sang songs addressing the ills of and solutions to these inequalities. In this presentation I propose that Gurbani is a guide not just to an ethical individual life, but a guide to social action, to social and public policy, to political choices, and the making of an ethical society. I make the case by offering a Sikh theory of social action. I offer expanded interpretations, based on Gurbani, of the three pillars of NaamJapo-KirtKaro-VandChako. Finally, I emphasize that for this Sikh theory to be relevant globally, or even locally, for Guru Granth Sahib to “speak”, it needs to be “heard”, that is, put into practice in everyday living, as well as in social and political choices.

Video of Presentation

Slide Presentation

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Body of Paper

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Author Bio

InderjitNiluDr. Inderjit N Kaur is Research Associate in the Music Department at UC Santa Cruz, specializing in the historical, aesthetic and performative aspects of Sikh Shabad Kirtan. She has published and presented widely for the academia as well as the community. She has worked closely with 11th generation raagi, late Bhai Avtar Singh, and at his request, translated into English the text of his four-volume book on raags and historical compositions from the Sikh tradition. Her research has offered a significant new interpretation of the term “ghar” in shabad titles, as melodic variations from different locales (, and a critique of the term “Gurmat Sangit” (  Inderjit holds an MA in Ethnomusicology and a PhD in Economics, both from UC Berkeley. She has earned senior diplomas in Indian classical music and in Indian classical dance. Singing Shabad Kirtan has been an integral part of her whole life.

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