Sikh heritage and art drained over years in Punjab and Delhi

I lived in India as a student between 1975 till 1983 and took special interest in Gurdwaras with historical standing. But sadly what I had seen and witnessed in those years, disappeared when I revisited those shrines in the late 1990s and early 2000s. - DR B S BAINS

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Akal Takht reconstruction work in 1992 – Photo: Hb Singh / Asia Samachar
By Dr. B.S. Bains OPINION |

This is an extension to Dr Gurnam Singh’s article that appeared in Asia Samachar.

I lived in India as a student between 1975 till 1983. I travelled extensively in Northern India especially taking special interest in all the Gurdwaras with historical standing. Every historical Gurdwara had a history to tell. But sadly what I had seen and witnessed in those years, disappeared when I revisited those shrines in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I would like to quote some lost evidence in some of the shrines visited by millions of Sikh from India and abroad every year.

Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in Delhi

The history goes that Guru Harkrishn was put to a test by the inviting Raja Jai Singh of Amer at his Palace in Delhi (Jaisinghpura Palace) where the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, near Connaught place, stands today. Guru ji was to identify his actual Maharani (Sukmati) who was disguised in maids clothing presumably working in the kitchen. The King dressed one of her aids in Maharani’s clothing to welcome Guru ji.  Guru Ji being spiritually all knower, went straight to the kitchen and identified the Actual Maharani. To this Raja Jai Singh became humiliated and ashamed. He immediately asked for forgiveness and offered Guru Ji the Palace to live. It is here Guru Ji lived his young life where he took his last breath (Joti Joth) at a young age.

Where are the original kitchen doors, window panels, and the entry door of the palace at the spot where the Raja received Guru Ji? The bedroom he lived in? All are buried under granites and marble slabs.

The “Kaar Sewa” Sewaks had no remorse to destroy those evidence for the coming generation to see and remember. Today, all we are left with is an extended infrastructure. Who destroyed these valuable evidence? We, the Sikhs.

Bhatta Sahib in Ropar District, Punjab. 

The history goes that when Guru Gobind Singh Ji who was an all knower, came looking for Chaudhary Nihang Khan, knowing that he would require future service from him, when he would return from Chamkaur Sahib  after a battle with Moguls. During the journey after the Battle of Bangani, on the way back to Anndpur sahib, Guruji halted and asked the laborers working at the bhatta (kiln) to meet the owner. He instantly pointed towards the burning `Kiln’. Guru Ji headed riding his horse towards the hot kiln.  As soon as the horse of Guru stepped on the burning kiln it became cold instantly. Guru Ji sat on the kiln (Bhatta) when the worker ran to inform Nihang Khan about the event. Nihang Khan, who became Guru Ji’s devotee later, rushed to the Bhatta and to his astonishment saw Guru Gobind singh Ji sitting on the cooled Bhatta. Chaudhary bowed to seek pardon of the laborer’s wrong doing. Guru Ji was taken to the kothi (residence) of the Chaudari.

What I saw in 1970s and then in 2000s is worlds of difference. The Kiln was bigger in size and the horses feet were well embedded in the mud very much visible to our eyes. I remember having my tears looking at that sight. In the 1990s there was a huge construction and piles of marble slabs were laid and the portion is today so small that one can hardly see the foot prints of the horses on the muddy kiln. The Kothi where Guru Ji was saved from the hunting moguls; where has it vanished? The identity to cherish by we Sikhs has been destroyed by “The so-called Kaar Sewa” People. Who destroyed it? We the Sikhs.

Fatehgarh Sahib Gurdwara, Sarhind (Punjab).

I remember vividly the bricks half way destroyed by Banda Singh Bahadur in which two of our Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s two younger sons — Baba Zorawar Singh (9 years-old) and Baba Fateh Singh (6 years-old) — were brutally bricked alive under the orders of Aurangzeb, the then Mogul Ruler. A sensational spot for generations to visit and fathom the cruel act of the moguls kings. Today the site is totally hidden under the marbles and the identity has been destroyed during my visits in 2000s.

Unfortunately all these preservation work was not professionally carried out.  We have lost great treasure to show our coming generation. These shrines will be left with only stories for our generation to come to have an abstract imagination of past events.

Anandpur Sahib, Ropar (Punjab)

Where is the spot where Guru Gobind Singh Ji actually stood to initiate his Sikh followers? Luckily the much of the fort is preserved. Who has distorted the structures that would have stood to provide us witness of the events of the yester years?

Kadoor Sahib  (Amritsar)

The residence of Guru Angad Sahib Ji? Totally converted into the house of marble. Where are the doors and window panels of his residence? Where is the spot he actually sat to create Gurmukhi alphabets? Who have destroyed the living evidence?

Akal Takht reconstruction work in 1992 – Photo: Hb Singh / Asia Samachar
Harmandir Sahib – Amritsar (Golden Temple)

The original bricks with which Guru Ramdas Ji himself built, the door panels and the interior deco’s are all under the coat of gold? The interior, the ceilings, the pillars and the domes are today covered up.

How do we visualize the original structure of the Harmandir sahib? Who are these enthusiast to have covered the original rich heritage that belonged to us all the Sikhs of this Universe?  A handful of them literally destroyed the art, the heritage and the original structures that would have been very close to the hearts of all us the Sikhs today.

We and the next coming generation are left in the bewilderment of abstract imagination only when we visit these shrines.

Dr Balwant Singh Bains is a Malaysia-based kirtan enthusiast and a practicing physiotherapist with a chain of physiotherapy clinics.

 

RELATED STORY:

Who’s really destroying Sikh heritage? (Asia Samachar, 21 April 2021)

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. I agree.
    I was in India 2011-15.
    Could not find the actual spots of heritage value in these Gurdwaras. The more remote ones with some history were a little better off. Even the Chhehearta Gurdwara nearer to border with Pakistan, which was where Guru Hargobind ji was born and stayed a while, has been marble-ised in a massive renovation in 2011 onwards.

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