Monday, June 30, 2014

Maharajah Ranjit Singh

 Today (June 30) is the 175th death anniversary of the Sher-e-Punjab.

When the Sikh sun was at peak noon, the empire was bound by Peshawar (North-West), Srinagar (North-East), Amritsar (central), and Multan (south).

When the downfall came it was at the hands of the perfidious Albion. The Sikhs did not dwell much on this humiliation and became (along with the Gurkhas) a pillar of the British Indian Army. Then came Jalian Wala Bag, the hanging of Bhagat Singh, the brutalities of Partition,...... OTOH during the dark days of 1984, it was the BBC Foreign Service (and Mark Tully) which kept the Sikhs within India and outside informed about the true extent of crimes against God and men (and women).

As we understand the (mainly expat) Sikhs still dream of restoring the lost kingdom. The only problem is a corridor to the sea. During the peak revolution days of the 1980s there was a proposal to grab Karachi unbeknownst to patron-in-chief General Zia. Another proposal was to annex Gujarat and establish a corridor via Rajasthan.
The SGPC observed his anniversary at Dewan Manji Sahib hall in the Golden Temple complex. A religious function was held and prayers were offered in the memory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, often described as the greatest Sikh ruler, whose kingdom stretched from the Sutlej river in the east to Kabul in Afghanistan.

Besides 'bhog' of the 'Akhand Path' , 'hazoori ragis' of the Golden Temple performed 'kirtan'. The religious function was well attended by devotees and SGPC officials. Giani Balwinder Singh, a 'granthi' (priest) of Harminder Sahib threw light on the mighty Sikh ruler. He recalled the Maharaja's secular vision and the respect he accorded to all religions during his reign.

He also recalled the Maharaja's contributions to the Sikh community and his role in gold plating and beautification of the Harmandir Sahib and building several others historic Sikh shrines dedicated to the Sikh gurus.
While Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) will observe death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on Sunday, monuments related to him in Amritsar - Burj Vaniake, where the ruler used to stay and even hold his durbar, and Pul Kanjari..., largely remain neglected by the government. Pul Kanjari has been preserved with private efforts, but Burj Vaniake's little fort-like structure is in dilapidated condition and could cave in any day.

Once a lively township, Pul Kanjri, about 35km from Amritsar, was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and has a "baradari", a "baoli" (bathing pool), a temple, a gurdwara and a mosque. It also houses a tomb called Shah Sikandar ka Takia.

Legend has it that Moran....from Makhanpur, would entertain Maharaja Ranjit Singh with her dances whenever the Sikh ruler would stay at the "baradari". Once on her way from Lahore, she lost her shoe in the canal, which used to provide irrigation water to the king's orchards in Shalimar Bagh, Lahore. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to know that his favourite..... was upset after losing her footwear, he ordered construction of a bridge (pul) across the canal. Since then, the place is known as Pul Kanjari.





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