Punjabi heritage comes alive in exhibition

Members from Punjab made the long-forgotten book, “The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs”, part of their presentation on the Intangible Heritage of Punjab – a field of active research across Europe and the USA. Part of the presentation, which ensured Punjab heritage a place in UNESCO’s priority list, is now on display at IndusInd Gallery, Sector 8. Strangely, it has not attracted much attention despite the precious information on offer.

On display are inspiring facts about Punjab’s material and military history, including the fact that Ieper (Belgium) is the only place in Europe where Indian/ Sikh troops are remembered daily. Here at Ieper, a daily last post ceremony is held in honour of 10,000 Indian soldiers who saved Ieper from Germany’s wrath during the First World War. Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi paid tributes here on her recent visit to Belgium.

Also on display is the letter which Director of Flanders Fields Museum (Ieper) wrote to former UT Administrator Lt-Gen JFR Jacob (retd). In this letter he has offered the UT Administration support with setting up of a section dedicated to Indian soldiers who were killed at Ieper. The offer, strangely, was not taken.

Lt-Col Perminder Singh Randhawa (retd), who was part of the team that visited Italy, says, “The offer was made for setting up a commemorative section at the Government Museum, Chandigarh. Our presentation at UNESCO includes a copy of this letter. Further, it focuses on intangible and tangible heritage of Punjab. Sikh Gurus and their teachings are intangible heritage because we cannot depict them. We can only reconstruct this heritage through Janmasakhis and other records. Similarly, the Adi Granth is intangible to the extent that it can be best understood through “Gurbani”.”

`But the Golden Temple, forts of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the rare military records at the United Services Institution, New Delhi, are tangible heritage of Punjab.”

The Expo, which seeks public support to make the UNESCO project a success, will be on till November 20 and it focuses attention on interesting facts about Punjab’s history. It explains how Ranjit Singh’s force — Darbar-e-Khalsa — was truly an international force. “It had on board French, American and European officers and soldiers drawn from all existing faiths. At San Francisco, research on Ranjit Singh and his wars is still in progress,” says Randhawa.

Records show that Ranjit Singh’s Darbar-e-Khalsa was in fact the forerunner of the unique Lahore Division which fought the First World War in Europe. Many of these soldiers died saving Ieper in Belgium. No wonder every fifth name written on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ieper is of an Indian and every third such name is of a Sikh.

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