Bassian Kothi – a crumbling monument

The building finds mention in history books. It was here that the last Sikh ruler, Maharaja Dalip Singh, spent a major part of his exile in the mid-19th century. Five Namdharis who participated in the famous Kuka movement against the British were also imprisoned here before being hanged in 1850.

In spite of a long historical background the building is not only lying abandoned but is also crumbling at places. Though a Supreme Court order directs declaration of all more than 100-year-old buildings having significant historic importance as Protected Monument yet recognition eludes Bassian Kothi.

The lack of preservation is dis-heartening all the more because neither the state Archaeology Department, formed to protect ancient buildings nor the Punjab Government which claims to protect Punjabi heritage, have made efforts to preserve the monument.

Bassian Kothi was basically an advance supply depot of the British military division based at Ferozepore. In March 1849, when the British annexed the state of Punjab, they also arrested 11-year- old Maharaja Dalip Singh and exiled in United Provinces  (now known as Uttar Pradesh).

However, as there were chances of revolt by the people of the state due to the possible ill-treatment of their ruler, the British thought it better to move him slowly out of the state to avoid rebellion. To retain him in the state for sometime, the advance supply depot was converted into a rest house and the Maharaja, along with his soldiers and entourage, was brought here.

The Maharaja even celebrated the New Year in 1850 at the rest house before being shifted to Fatehgarh Sahib from where he was sent to UP. After the Maharaja’s departure, the place attracted attention again when five Namdharis, who participated in the Kuka movement, were kept as prisoners here by the British. They were later hanged. The rest house also served as a sessions court for Ludhiana for several years.{pagebreak}
After Independence it was converted into a rest house of the state Irrigation Department, but some years ago the department’s rest house shifted to a new place. Since then the condition of the historic building has been steadily deteriorating. For years, the kothi lay ignored and abandoned both by the government as well as the people of the surrounding villages, until recently when a group of concerned villagers came together and demanded conservation of the historic kothi.The group of villagers, headed by former MLA, Jagdev Singh Jassowal, even managed to install a life-size portrait of Maharaja Dalip Singh in a hall of the kothi.

However, the portrait is lying forgotten in the chowkidar’s room at the rest house. Wild growth is what one witnesses in the once magnificent garden of the historic kothi. The government recently announced its plans to auction the historic building. The present auction plan could not be known but one thing is sure, the building faces an even darker future ahead.

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