History of Punjab Arts Council

Dr. MS Randhawa

Former Head

The Punjab Arts Council (pMjwb klw pirSd) is an autonomous body formed by notification by the Punjab Government in the year 1981. It is registered as a Society under the Registration of Society Act xxi of 1860 and is an independent cultural body. It has a separate entity constitution under which the Council is the supreme authority while there are three independent Akademies namely Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, Punjab Sahit Akademi and Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi. Under the constitution the Punjab Arts Council is constituted by the Punjab Government for a three year term. The process of Constitution is started by the nomination of three prominent personalities from different fields of Culture by the Government. Then further a meeting is called with 11 permanent ex-officio members including three Secretaries of the Punjab Government namely Secretary to Government, Punjab Finance Department, Secretary to Government, Punjab Higher Education Department, Secretary to Government, Punjab Cultural Affairs Department, 4 Vice- Chancellors of the Universities namely Punjab University, Chandigarh, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. With three Central Akademies, namely, Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Lalit Kala Akademi and one from Indian Council for Cultural Relations. A meeting of these fourteen members is then called to elect 6 prominent artists from three different fields (Two each) and 6 representatives of Societies affiliated with the Council in the same way which makes the total number up to 26 in the General Council. Three Presidents of Akademies are then nominated thus making the total number of 29 in the General Council.

The Akademies are similarly constituted by the respective Presidents and include a Vice President, Secretary and other members as per the constitutions of respective Akademies. The President submits the panel of its members to Punjab Arts Council for finalization.

The General Council oversees the activities of the three Akademies and holds quarterly meetings to lay down guidelines in various fields of culture.

In this way the General Council contains the cream of cultural artists as well as the administrative culture.

The first Chairman and founder of the Punjab Arts Council was the late lamented Dr. Mohinder Singh Randhawa, who was the doyen of Punjabi Culture. He continued to head the organization from the year 1979 to till his death in 1986. His contribution to the growth and achievements in all fields of art, literature and culture are of titanic proportions. He was simultaneously the author of The Green Revolution of Punjab and discoverer of the famous Miniature Kangra Paintings. He also constructed the present Council building in the prestigious one acre plot in the Rose Garden. As the first Commissioner of Chandigarh he was instrumental in planning the city which is considered as the most beautiful in the country.

In the last 33 years since 1979, the Council has with cooperation of its Akademies performed a great roll in raising the level of Punjabi Culture to its high pedestal today.

Under Dr. M. S. Randhawa's guidance Annual Art Exhibitions of Paintings, graphics, Sculptures and Photography of a high caliber were held. Subsequently the Council has been holding events of singing, dance and drama frequently. Lot of publications of prominent writers of Punjabi language had been published and distributed freely to the village libraries which were established by the Punjab Sahit Akademi over the years.  

At Punjab Kala Bhawan we can find an Art Gallery, an Auditorium with seating capacity of 300 chairs and Open Air Theatre and Committee Room. There is lounge of 125 seating capacity for literary functions. On the ground floor there is a library room equipped with more than 3000 books on art and culture reading form furnished with daily news papers. The show piece of the campus is the very spacious Art Gallery in the basement of the building for public exhibitions which is given on rental charges. The left side under the Auditorium is a permanent Art Gallery of Builders of Punjab. In its corner there is gallery of photographs of life time achievements and memories of Dr. M S Randhawa. The frontage of the building complex is so well designed to earn the title of Heritage Building. Auditorium is well equipped with modern light and sound system for dramatic and musical events. It has wooden stage flooring and has two green rooms. This Auditorium is called Randhawa Auditorium to perpetuate the memory of its founder

Dr. M S Randhawa. Now Randhawa Auditorium has provided a much needed alternative to the well known Tagore Theatre which was the solitary theatre for performances before 2006. The Auditorium has been proved to be a boom particularly for rural artistic groups for its low tariffs.

In line with the aims and objectives of the Constitution, the Council provides the initiatives for strong promotion from every aspect of Art and Culture. In recent years the Council has penetrate into the rural areas by participating in festivals, Exhibitions and cultural events organized by other cultural bodies.  This efforts have been highly appreciated by the rural population which is now regularly exposed to indigenous culture at their door steps.  In the coming years the Council plans to provide a video net work by opening its centers at various places in the Punjab State so as to germinate local arts. Since Punjab has a very rich culture from time immemorial, the Council plans to set up a cultural and heritage Museum at prominent place in the Punjab which will help to preserve our glorious past since the Harrappan civilization. For this objective Punjab Government needs to be prejudice to provide the required infrastructure and funding for realization of dream so that our past is preserved for coming generations. As there is no Cultural Policy resolution of the Punjab Government, the Council has taken up the important project of drafting a Cultural Policy. In this regard a tremendous amount of worth and effort has already been done by seeking the collaboration and written suggestions from hundreds of historian, art lovers, educationist and the working artists, linguistics and writers all over the country. This important data is being presently compiled and after study and analysis, a draft resolution will be prepared which will then be submitted to invited groups of talent for improvement and finalization. After this the Cultural resolution will be submitted to the Punjab Govt. for the consideration and approval which is expected as they are themselves very eager to lay down Cultural Policy of Punjab State.

Through this website the Council intends to provide huge source of material in the field of song, dance and drama and allied activities and literature including information on past and present writings. Their publications and present activities in the field of fine arts, information regarding eminent painters and their works together with reports on exhibitions of paintings, photography and Heritage objects will be available.

In due course it is planned to provide camera and lighting facility and allied equipments to enable 'live' performances being carried out in the  Randhawa  Auditorium and other parts of Punjab, so that by transmission of these programmes through our website users of the similar facility both in country and abroad are enabled to view such programmes and events. When this facility is available, users will be exposed to cultural events and see performance at their own beck and call on their computer screens in the coziness of their homes.

Among the major events of the past are the construction of the Randhawa Auditorium which is being currently used extensively by Theatre Groups and song, dance and music performers. Due to the low tariff our Auditorium is a great boon especially for amateur theatre groups.

In December 2000 a historic World Punjabi Conference was organized by the Council for three days. Nearly 1000 delegates from all parts of India and abroad participated. Of particular mention was the over 30 member delegation from Pakistan. This conference was held in the closing days of the twentieth Century to herald the advent of the 21st Century. Accordingly 21 eminent in the field of Administration and Professions together with outstanding luminaries in the field of Dance, Drama and Music and literature and fine arts were selected for being honoured the prestigious Millennium award for their achievements and contributions in their selective fields of operation.

A painting exhibition which was inaugurated by the former Governor of Tamilnadu, S. Surjit Singh Barnala was also held while an Indo-Pakistani Mushiara was organized at Punjab Kala Bhawan which was presided over by the late Harbhajan Halwarvi, Former Editor of Punjabi Tribune.

The conference discouraged various issues on subjects of interest to Punjabis in India and abroad and passed many resolutions among which one resolution urged the Union Government of India to declare an amnesty for those Punjabis who had fled the country after the Blue Star Operation, except those who were charged for murders or other heinous offenses.

Although the conference was primarily organized by the Punjab Arts Council the Punjab Government lent its full support. The Chief Minister Sardar Parkash Singh Badal presided over the inaugural function at which the 21 millennium awards were given to illustrious Punjabis. The Chief Minister also gave an at home to the thousand delegates and other eminent invitees. The Pakistani delegates were so impressed with the successful organization of the conference that they declared the decision to hold a similar conference in Lahore in the coming year. This Aalmi Punjabi Conference was actually held in April 2001 at Lahore and the Punjab Arts Council participated in this second world Punjabi Conference by sponsoring no less than 120 delegates. As a result of the Lahore Aalmi conference the Punjabi language which had received a step motherly treatment since Pakistan's independence came to be recognized as a national language which has since been used in the Punjab (Pakistan) assembly and the radio and TV networks, as also in the educational institutions and Universities.

About M.S. Randhawa

Mohinder Singh Randhawa (2 February 1909 – 3 March 1988), known as M. S. Randhawa, was a Punjabi civil servant. He played major roles in the Green Revolution in India, resettling Punjabis uprooted by Partition, establishing the city of Chandigarh and documenting the arts of Punjab. M. S. Randhawa was born 2 February 1909 at Zira, Ferozepur district, Punjab, India to an affluent Sikh family. Randhawa joined the Indian Civil Service in 1934.

Randhawa joined the Indian Civil Service in 1934, then served in various capacities at Saharanpur, Fyzabad, Almora, Allahabad, Agra, and Rai Barelli until 1945, when he became secretary of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for a year. He was associated with the ICAR through its initial years and made huge contributions to this pioneering organisation which was responsible for the Green Revolution in India.

In 1946, he was appointed as the Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, when India was on the eve of independence. In 1947 he was in charge of the entire function where Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his famous Tryst with destiny speech. As the Deputy Commissioner, he helped persons uprooted by the Partition of India resettle, and then in 1949 he was sent as the Additional Director-General (Rehabilitation) and subsequently made the Director-General (Rehabilitation), Punjab. Dr. Randhawa then went to Ambala Division in Punjab as the Commissioner. He was brought back to the task of rehabilitating people in 1953 as the Development Commissioner and Commissioner Rehabilitation and Custodian, Evacuee Property, Punjab. During this time he was in charge of allotting land to those who had left behind lands in Pakistan and allotting land to them in Indian Punjab.

In 1955 he was made the Vice-President of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Additional Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, New Delhi. He then served the Government of India as Advisor, Natural Resources Planning Commission from 1961–1964 and the as special Secretary, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Govt. of India. Hesubsequently became the Financial Commissioner of the Capital Project Punjab from July 1966 to October 1966, and then he was appointed the Chief Commissioner of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in November 1966 and remained so till 1968.

Randhawa was chairman of the committee to plan the city which is now Chandigarh in 1955, and was instrumental in the city's landscaping. Only because of his untiring efforts, Chandigarh Museum, Punjab Arts Council and Museum of Cultural Heritage of Punjab at Ludhiana could be built. Many beautiful trees and plants now adorning roads and open spaces in Chandigarh were brought by Dr Randhawa. The city owes a lot to this great son of Punjab. Other achievements include his roles in establishing the Rose Garden in Sector 16 in Chandigarh, the Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana, the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, and the Anglo-Sikh Wars Memorial near Ferozepur which was completed in February 1976.