History and Heritage

As far as this website is concerned, Punjab is the geographical area of the Punjab as it stood prior to the Independance of India and the formation of Pakistan. This isn’t a politcal statement, it’s a recognition of a region that has a common language, set of tradtions and t importantly a people who primarily identify themselves as Punjabi.

Heritage though is a more complex matter and again this site defines heritage as primarily material heritage. Here it can be paintings, art, monuments, architecture and some aspects of the cultural landscape that define Punjabis and Punjab and are worthy of preservation and study. I didn’t intend on throwing lots of history onto this site, that is better left for historians.

A few recent stories that are best described as "features" however have come up recently that are principally historical essays but are really interesting finds for the eager reader.

A few days ago in The Tribune there was a lovely feature article by Varinder Walia titled Khalsa College : A Beacon of Light. Illustrated with a photograph of the college which was built by the Sikh Architect Bhai Ram Singh, the piece explores the history of the college and some of its important alumni. Interestingly eralier was a similar piece again by Varinder Walia titled A College with a Difference about the history and eminent ex-students of Hindu College.

Some of the t fragile pieces of material heritage from the Punjab are the textiles and manuscripts. Both of these crafts were hugely influenced by the Kashmiri population of Punjab whose seasonal ebb and flow into and out of the state bought scribes and weavers in equal measures. Varinder Walia tells a story of the Kashmiris in Punjba in From the Land of Paradise to the Holy City in the Tribune, describing the impactof these master craftsmen and women on the asthetic of the state.

Anyone that has been to India will know that the romantic view of a land of palaces, tigers and maharajah’s is the stuff of Victorian fantasy. However some of the charm of a royal India is evoked in another Tirbune article: Royalty Revisited about the state of Kapurthala. There is a lovely quote in that article that sums up some of the preservation issues that conservators face:

Renovation is by no means the foisting of something that is alien to the original; it is only the upkeep and preservation of the original as unobtrusively as possible, we learn from the Brigadier’s comments.

The preservation of 75-year-old Moorish que has been high on his priority list. It was his idea to give a new look to 109-year-old statue of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh installed at the Kapurthala administrative complex. In his capacity as the Chairman of the Kapurthala Heritage Society, he has been instrumental in organising the Baba Jassa Singh Sharad Utsav since 2001. But he prefers to downplay it all.

“When we go in for the so-called style and elegance, and replace the original with the ultra-modern, what turns out may well be a disappointment. For instance, the renovation of Gurdwara Ber Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi, has not added to the elegance of the structure. Neither has it made us spiritually richer,” he says, as he shows us around the garden and the vast stretch of the land that is part of his villa.


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