Gurbachan Singh Talib was a scholar, author and teacher, famous for his command of the English language. He was master equally of the written as well as of the spoken word. He was born in a small town, Munak, in the present Sangrur district, on 7 April 1911, tht son of Sardar Kartar Singh and Mata Jai Kaur. His father was an employee of the princely state of Sangrur. He passed his matriculation examination from the Raj High School, Sangrur, in 1927, securing a merit scholarship, and went up to the Khalsa College, Amritsar, where he received his Master's degree in English literature in 1933, topping the Panjab University. Soon after receiving his Master's degree he became a lecturer in his own college, starting a very spectacular scholastic career. His first class first in the M.A. examination was an unprecedented event in the annals of the University for never before had the distinction been claimed by a mofussil college. This halo won him the instant esteem of his colleagues and pupils. He took to the academic groove like fish to water. Much mythology accrued to his name. Soon he became a legendary figure in the college. Many stories became current about his exceptional diligence, his spontaneity in the English language and the diversity of his scholarship.
He left the Khalsa College in 1940 to join the newly started Sikh National College at Lahore where he served in the Department of English as a lecturer for several years. From 1949 to 1962 he worked as principal, successively, at Lyallpur Khalsa College,Jalandhar, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi, Khalsa College, Bombay, Guru Gobind Singh College Patna, and National College, Sirsa. He was Reader in English at Kurukshetra University from 1962 to 1969, and Professor of Sikh Studies in the Guru Nanak Chair Panjab University, Chandlgarh, from 1969 to 1973. In 1973, he translated himself to the Punjabi University, Patiala, where he began the most productive years of his career. He took over at Banaras Hindu University the Guru Nanak Chair of Sikh Studies, but had to leave soon for reasons of health. Back at Patiala, he was made a fellow of the Punjabi University in 1976 and he launched upon the stupendous project of rendering the entire Guru Granth Sahib into English. In 1985, he received the Government of India award Padma Bhushan. He resigned the Punjahi University fellowship in 1985 to take up the National fellowship offered hy the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi. He suffered a massive heart attack in July 1976 which he survived; the second one on the morning of 9 April 1986 however proved fatal.
Gurhachan Singh Talib was a prolific writer
both in English and Punjabi, though he knew Persian and Urdu
very well, too. Among his best-known books in Punjabi are:
Anapachhate Rah (1952); Adhunik Punjabi Sahit (Punjabi Kav) (1955);
Pavittar Jivan Kathavan (1971); Baba Shaikh Farid (1975),
and in English "Muslim League Attack on the Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab, 1947 (1950)";
The Impact of Guru Cobind Singh on Indian Society (1966), Guru Nanak: His Personality and Vision
(1969), Bhai Vir Singh: Life, Times and Works (1973); Baba Sheikh Farid (1974);
Guru Tegh Bahadur: Background and Supreme Sacrifice (1976) Japuji: The
immortal Prayer-chant (1977); and his classical translation in English
of the Adi Guru Granth (Four Volumes). Besides these books, he kept
an unending flow of articles and papers contributed to different journals.