Vandalisation of border heritage

A big mound containing pot shreds in Rasulpur village has been levelled and converted into green fields, leaving no archaeological traces behind.

Nobody bothered to protect it (mound) from getting obliterated. At present, the mound has been completely been levelled by the landowners.

With t of the heritage sites having vanished from Amritsar, a tourist now prefers to leave the district the same day after following the routine trail of Golden Temple, Durgiana Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and retreat ceremony at the Wagah.

The tourist would have had spent a few more days in Amritsar had the heritage sites been preserved.

The ancient buildings, once nurtured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his army commanders, were neglected by their descendants and the sucessive state governments as well.

A visit to Rasulpur village, few kilometres from the Pakistan border, revealed that frescos of the Samadh of Sardar Punjab Singh Kumedan, a commander in Ranjit Singh’s army, has been damaged beyond repair. An attempt to restore the wall paintings by cleaning ruined the frescos.

Many frescos have disappeared after the lower portion of the Samadh was white washed.

Floral designs and imitation of small domes could also be seen near the neck of the Samadh’s dome. The Samadh is built of Nanakshahi bricks. It has openings in the east, west, north and south. The mortal remains of Sardar Punjab Singh are buried underneath.

Rasulpur village, known as Bir Teja Singh in the revenue records, is situated on Attari-Jhabal road at a distance of five km on the western side of the road near Indo-Pak international border. Sardar Teja Singh, a commander in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army, owned this area. He gifted this land to Punjab Singh, a Kumedan (commander) who had built a fort-type haveli for residing in the village. The remnants of the haveli could still be seen.

However, a large portion of the majestic building of Punjab Singh Kumedan has been converted into modern dwellings by his descendants.

Sometime back, a team of the Punjab Archeological Department visited the site at behest of Dev Dard, a heritage lover.

Prem Singh Hotimardan, a famous Sikh historian in his acclaimed book, “Sikh Raj De Usraie” (The Builders of Sikh Rule) eulogised the contribution of Punjab Singh Kumedan during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He claimed that Kumedan was a close confidant of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was one of the few great Sikh Sardars who were gifted “big jagirs” during the Sikh Raj.

He fought 32 battles for Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His sons— Jawala Singh and Ala Singh— too were great Sikh warriors.

Harbagh Singh, a descendant of Punjab Singh Kumedan, has been residing in one of the portions of the old haveli by converting the heritage building into a modern house.

He took the Amritsar Plus team around the remains of the old building. He also showed the place where the gate of the haveli and big walls existed. The haveli and the gates were built with Nanakshahi bricks. Dev Dard showed some of the portions of the haveli which are still intact. He said the heritage building was once occupied by Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after Partition. The original design of the building had started changing before Partition.

The majestic haveli was destroyed in a phased manner. Outside the building, a regal serai was built, now in a dilapidated condition.

Near the Samadh, there is a well built with the Nanakshahi bricks. The well has dried up with the depleting water table.

Another old building of that era belongs to Baba Hira Das, considered the founder of Rasulpur village. The Baba commands great respect among the descendants of Sardar Punjab Singh. The gurdwara and the shrine, built in the memory of Baba Hira Das too have frescos.

According to a survey conducted by a state Archeological Department team, the Samadh of Sardar Punjab Singh Kumedan has been built on an elevated platform which is 3’-8” high and 31×31 feet in length and breadth with brick pavement. It is an octagonal Samadh surmounted by a fluted dome with an inverted lotus and kalasha on the top of the building.

Amritsar, like other parts of the Kingdom of Lahore, suffered persistent disorders during the period of anarchy, after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The decade from 1839 to 1849 was thus marked by chronic civil commotion, which had become the order of the day on the rapid deterioration of the central authority under weak and inefficient successors of the “Lion of the Punjab”. The unbridled armed forces had created a dangerous situation in respect of law and order. Hence it was difficult to preserve the rich heritage sites, in such bizarre conditions.\

  Secularism on the walls

Secularism was the hallmark of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule. His commanders and coterie also followed the same principles of secularism. This message of secularism is written inside the walls of the buildings of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s period including the Samadh of Sardar Punjab Singh Kumedan. The inner walls of the Samadh have been profusely painted with floral and other scenes in multiple colours. The upper panels depict the paintings of Guru Nanak with Bala and Mardana and other Sikh Gurus along with the Chaur bearers, Lord Rama and Sita Mata with Lord Hanumana. Kumedan Sardar Punjab Singh and Baba Hira Das have also been depicted on the wall of the Samadh. The wall paintings are based entirely on floral designs and motifs.

Another Samadh, also called the shrine of Baba Hira Das, has been converted into a gurdwara. The archeological department believes that this shrine has a square base surmounted by a fluted elongated dome. On the top of the dome, an inverted lotus can be seen. The interiors of the square temple have been abundantly painted with floral and motifs designs and scenes such as Krishna Leela along with Gopis, Siva-Parvati with the lion and the bull, Guru Gobind Singh along with Chauri bearer and flag bearer and Durga Mata on lion with different stories. The multicolor painting of Baba Hira Das is also there on the walls.

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