Rare books missing from Khalsa College Sikh History Research Department,

 

A rare sketch of Maharaja of Patiala in Sikh History Research Department.

The rarest of the rare material was taken away covertly and was later shown ‘written off’ in the records.
The main objective of establishing the SHRD was to preserve the collection of historical material pertaining to the history of Punjab beginning from the year 1469 ‘ the birth of Guru Nanak. A large sum of money was spent in acquiring the material from various places in India and abroad. Fired with missionary zeal, its founders had left no stone unturned to build this department, the only one of its kind where source material regarding the Sikh history has been preserved. The department was enriched by strenuous and sustained efforts of its stewards like Dr Ganda Singh and Dr Kirpal Singh.

A year before the establishment of this historical department, a meeting was convened on December 22, 1929, at Akal Takht and a society was formed. Sardar Karm Singh, a historian, was nominated its first secretary. Dr K.S. Bajwa, head of the department, says that though Sardar Karm Singh died on September 30, 1930, the proposal was not given up by Khalsa College which announced instituting of the department at a meeting held at Guru Ka Bagh (Golden Temple) to mark the Shardhanjli Samaroh of the great Sikh historian (Karm Singh) the same year.

 

Dr Daljit Singh (left) and Dr K.S. Bajwa take stock of the damage done to cannon dating back to the medieval period of the Sikh history.

 

A portrait of Sardar Karam Singh, who mooted the idea of establishing Sikh History Research Department in 1920s. ‘ Photos by Rajiv Sharma

Ranjit Singh Nanda, a retired Central Bureau of Intelligence inspector, has made a startling disclosure that the rare manuscripts, hukam-namas (edicts), books, and other materials of the Sikh Reference Library were taken in gunny bags and big trunks to an unknown place after Operation Bluestar. But no such disclosure has been made about the material stolen from SHRD. The material seems to have been taken in small handbags clandestinely over the years. No one suspected the caretakers and dared check their handbags. However, Dr Bajwa, saved many invaluable books from being written off when he took over in the year 1996.

The rare material taken away stealthily (shown written off) included Sikh memorandum to the Punjab’s Boundary Commission (original document), Janamsakhi Shree Guru Amardass, Urdu book Sher-e-Punjab, Sikhism and its relation to Hinduism, Sketch of the Sikhs, Hindu superiority, Congress and Labour Movement in India, Dissertation of proper names of Punjabis, Oriental records by R.W. Harries, report on the settlement in the district of Kangra by G.C. Barnes, History of Hindustan by Dow Alexander, History of the War in Afghanistan by N. Charles, British period Gazetteers of Delhi, Hisar, Jalandhar, Lahore and Ludhiana. Another invaluable book written off is Islamic Culture. Maps of old Punjab, Bahawalpur, report on the reserve land revenue, speeches and writings of Mr Jinnah, too, are missing.

Understanding the significance of the department, the new Principal, Dr Daljit Singh, immediately posted more staff members with a view to restore its old glory. He announced that the paucity of funds would not come in the way of strengthening the department. He said it was his moral duty to take all necessary steps to preserve the heritage material, collected with great efforts in the past.

The SHRD, established in 1930, has a collection of rare paintings of Sikh rule and British era, old newspapers, journals that are dexterously arranged in the museum. The department has rare coins and weapons of the 17th and the 18th centuries (mathlock, dhaal, Katar, chakkar, bows and kirpans), says Dr Bajwa, who is also the curator of the museum.

There are many manuscripts in Persian, Gurmukhi and Hindi, which can only be found in Khalsa College’s 75-year-old library. Out of more than 6000 books, more than 500 are century-old. The repository also includes exclusive photographs of women jumping into wells to save their honour during Partition riots, the portraits of Nankana Sahib tragedy, pictures of Raagmala in bright and beautiful colours, old Birs of Guru Granth Sahib.
Shocked to see fresh paint on small cannon belonging to the period of the Sikh rule, Dr Daljit Singh said that efforts would be made to restore the original design of the weapons. He says microfilming of the brittle papers of many manuscripts may be done on priority basis.

Presently, there are 590 manuscripts in the repository in various languages. This includes manuscripts in Punjabi (287), Urdu (42), Sanskrit (9), Persian (207), English (45), newspaper files and magazines, photographs, paintings, weapons, coins and books published by the department.

In the mid-15th century, things began to change with the advent of the printing press. In 1452, Gutenberg (Germany) conceived the idea of movable type. However, the early publications of the standard printing presses could be rare feast for the eyes of a researcher. A casual visitor may be surprised to find rare printed books in the department. The Physician Guide, published in 1682, and many rare publications of the medieval period have been preserved in their original form here.

Quotable quotes
The department has evoked positive sentiments from visitors and scholars. Here’s a sample of their quotes:
Mr A. Gnanam, Chairman, NAAC, Bangalore:
‘A wonderful collection of intellectual contents of the past. Culture is intertwined with intellectualism in each of the collections.’
Mr Raghubir Singh Bains, author Encyclopedia of Sikhism:
‘Beautiful and valuable collection of heritage. It would be better if the artifacts and our heritage were preserved digitally. Wish the management would utilise the latest technique.’
Mr Pal Singh Purewal, Edmonton, Canada:
‘It was a wonderful experience to visit and see the rare manuscripts, paintings and photographs. The invaluable and impressive collection maintained in excellent way will be extremely useful research material for the present and future generations of scholars.’
Mr Ingit Kumar Mukherjee, Director General, National Council of Science Management, Kolkata:
‘An impressive collection of Sikh history. Many of the paintings helped us in conceptualising the Maharaja Ranjit Singh panorama being run in Ram Bagh.’ 

Researchers’ Mecca
The department, which is celebrating its platinum jubilee, is hardly visited by the local intellectuals though it is considered as the Mecca for the researchers of Sikh studies the world over. Incredibly, only 577 researchers (on an average seven in a year), many of them foreigners, have visited the department till today. It is learnt that many teachers of the college have failed to make use of the rich material. While as many as 274 researchers were benefited from the department till 1996, it witnessed more visitors (303) in the past one decade when Mr Bajwa became the head of the department.

During the academic session 1997-98, more than 30 scholars visited the SHRD for research purpose. Many of them belonged to various countries of the world. For instance, Louis E Fenech (USA), Colin Mitihell (Canada), J.M. Lafont (France), Igor D. Serebryancov (USSR), H.S. Dilgear (Norway), Avtar Singh and Rajinder Singh (UK) visited the department.  A rare manuscript of Mahabharata

The Sikh Gurus’ keen interest in the comparative study of the holy books of other religions may come as a surprise to many of us. But the rare manuscript of Mahabharata in Punjabi, a versified translation from Sanskrit, believed to have been scribed by one Gopal Singh at the instance of Guru Gobind Singh, has been preserved in Khalsa College’s Department of Sikh History in a locked glass case. Keshav Lal authored the manuscript.

One response to “Rare books missing from Khalsa College Sikh History Research Department,”

  1. Many thanks to the researching team. It will be very helpful if the news can be spreadout world wide via media or may be any other resources.If you need any financial help please advise.
    Very respectfully.
    Maninder Singh Walia.
    Indianpolis,IN
    U S A

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