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Is the Amritsar-Nankana Bus link a threat to Sikh Heritage?


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The proposed bus services from Amritsar to Pakistan is great news but is very likely to be a Trojan Horse for Sikh Heritage in West Punjab. The by-product of the really encouraging news that was reported this morning on the BBC is that it will bring Kar Sevaks to Pakistan.

The Kar Sevaks are determined to "beautify" Sikh shrines in Pakistan that have been largely untouched since Independence. In India after 1947 the Sikhs took control of the important Sikh shrines in Punjab from the British and over a single generation have wiped out virtually all historical monuments and replaced them with modern structures (see www.karsewa.org) . In Pakistan this has not happened to the same extent but the fear amongst conservators, architects and historians is that the same will take place.

I want to illustrate this point with a couple of pictures. These are from within the samadh (funerary monument) of the great Sikh leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh. For 150 years a portion of his ashes (and those of the 11 wives and courtesans that performed Sati on his funeral pyre) were preserved in lotus-flower shaped urns embedded on a marble platform under a beautifully pietre dure canopy in an impressive monument in Lahore. In 1999 in preparation for a visit of Sikh priests from India the Sikh guardians of the shrine whipped off the offending reminders of both the maharajah and his wives. This is just one simple illustration of the devastation that we fear will happen. Please do try to take a look at www.punjabheritage.org which documents many many other cases of neglect, destruction and religious vandalism.

With regards

Amandeep Madra


A picture taken in 1992 of the Samadh of Ranjit Singh which shows the central samadhi built by his son Kharack Singh and completed by Duleep Singh where a portion of the maharajahs ashes were inturned.


A picture taken in 2005 where all the samadhis have been flattened in preparation for a visit of SGPC heads in 1999.

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Reason why they whitewashed because as you know mainstream sikhs are against smadh's.

To be honest, i also felt divided on this one. On one hand, it's issue of sikh hertiage, on other hand it's issue of sikh values, sikh ideology of having smadh at the first place.

Sri Dasam patsah had no dvaish against smadh, angetha sahib as such but at the same time he draw a very fine line in sri dasam granth not bowing down to smadh, maseet etc and guess what? more we have them, more tendency is there people bowing to them because of ignorance. This contradicts teachings of dasam patsah:

Puja Akal ki, parcha shabad ka, didar khalse ka.

I may be wrong but i feel divided on this one.

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A couple of points in response to your dilemma N30 Singh

Firstly, the "restoration" work at the Samadh wasnt whitewashing (they als did that on the upper floors) it was the destruction of the actualy samadhi itself. These were the lotus flower shaped urns that contained the ashes of the Maharajah. These were broken off and thrown away.

The second point is that whilst you (and others) may see the samadh as something that goes against sikh values, the Maharajah's family clearly didnt. They wanted to build something that was dedicated to the Maharajah and they did so. It's not the place of anyone to desecrate that place simply becusae they dont agree with it today. The most direct comparison is the Taliban blowingup the Bhumian BUddhas. The Taliban could not reconcile the fact that these "idols" were i their muslim country so they blew them up. One could argue that the Emperor Jehangir, a pious and strict Muslim, couldnt reconcile the path of Naam that Guru Arjan preached with his own belief in Islam and therefore had him killed. This act of desecration is much the same.

I'm not asking anyone to bow at a samadh, just please dont destroy them in the naem of religious cleansing.

Are you still on the fence about this?


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Waheguru ji ka khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh

I saw the karsewa.org website. I am certainly not impressed. Has there been any resolution on keeping guruji's bhag?

This is my outlook on this whole situation. The sikh community is maturing at a very fast rate and it should retain all authentic proof of its contribution to the world. With the focus on india these days, and the mature multicultural society that survived with the onslaught of continous invasions, people will be MORE interested in the social dynamics of the country's past. Society has proved over and over that it looks to the past for answers. Whether the prophecies in sau sakhi are to be fulfilled soon or not; globally, the cycles of change are in acceleration, and people will be interested in seeing 'established' traditions and how functionality was maintained.

How does this relate to our heritage? well if we had some global vision, it isn't hard to see india becoming an even GREATER tourist destination, and that being the case; our distinguished history will be an attraction to those who are looking for cultural enrichment. I TRULY believe that guruji's kirpa is on us, because in the name of uniformity and cultural degradation, our heart, sri darbar sahib, is still commended for its serenity, langar system and kirtan!

The step to include tanti saaj back into darbar sahib's maryada will hopefully encourage kirtanee to put in effort to learn the drupadh and khayal reets (tunes) as notated by bhai avtar singh& bhai gurcharan singh ji, as well as the volumes recorded by gyani dyal singh ji. Our musical history is an undiscovered treasure chest of a highly evolved cultural society. Guru nanak dev ji's blessing on bhai mardana has led to a whole culture of musicians called rababi's. We may have ousted them out of our gurdwara's, but many have branched off into classical singing and play to world audiences.

The immediate benefit of re-introducing tanti saaj is that people like me can sit at home and watch kirtan as it was done by the guru's. My friends, family who come over will start 'relating' to the kirtan. "quick story' much of my family is now into its 3rd generation, the kirtan done at my wedding was with taanti saaj and a reet of bhai avtar singh ji was used as the major introduction shabad. My cousins who barely understood punjabi felt that the "music" was more 'spiritual'.....everyone enjoyed the ambience.

Simply, the music, the instruments (invented and developed by our guru's) gives MORE people an incentive to want to learn about the richness of our history. Des pardes in canada (the tv show) has succeeded in promoting punjabi culture to such an extent that I forget that kids growing up in my age group have trouble speaking punjabi, because the youth speak so fluently. Many of us grew up being ashamed of our background and as we are getting older, people who are interested in culture get intrigued that our background is so 'rich'. We, through education, re-humanize ourselves amongst those whose impressions of sikhs and sikhi are based upon popular media.

Getting back to the topic at hand, imagine this vision........We want to show our children punjab and all we have are the new wave of punjabi singers who are now emulating the latest 'jazzy b'

20 years from now... (I know this may be far fetched, but bare with me)

1) We go to the 'new' punjab...where 'old punjabi village life' is seen in remote areas of punjab bordering the ganganagar area or more typically at HAVELI/RANGLA PUNJAB

2) We go to gurdwaray, they're all white... and there are so many that after the first 2, the kids feel restless

3) We have langar and then our kids go back home to go onto their computers and surf the net so they can be 'gamers'......

what will the kids say they learned or felt in punjab???

likely answer: the gurdwara was nice, we liked the marble...but it isn't las vegas

we liked the langar, but they didn't have kheer or soda like they do at the local gurdwara

the people remind us of our new "ref/freshie" neighbours

....and the marble slabs are either too hot/cold (depending on whether its summer or winter).....

Now here is the alternative;

1) We have a tour system(with a guide) which has 'some' uniformity for the sake of distinction, but with a well developed program where key events in the history of the guru's and prominent sikhs are preserved in their pristine form.

2) the gurdwara's have traditional kirtan; with the traditional instruments

3) You have langar, but the tour involves some sort of involvement with an aspect of seva..

your kids will come home, seeing the contrast in modern architecture and the original architecture (so they experience a museum); They hear kirtan as it was done in the time of the guru's, and they compare it to what we conventionally have nowdays...and they'll feel like they are sitting in a royal darbar (so they'll experience, the richness and nobility brought to the masses via musical and spiritual empowerment by the guru's). They will have langar, but also experience the more altruistic elements of sikhi which helped connect people to each other and god, through the guru's seva......and since something of this calibre would be promoted globally, your child will see, at a macro-level, what sikhs experienced first hand at a more micro-level at the times of the guru's because people from 'all' over will be coming to get guru's darshan (whether they realize it or not)........

With this type of program in place, Some of our issues abroad will be solved via homegrown marketing & catering to the larger world...We won't be seen as 'taking' away, but rather as contributors to a highly evolved global society...with our traditions.

Note: the only thing that is complete and true to its form, is akal purakh, everything else is created in diversity. So why not celebrate that diversity and its beauty in a dignified manner?

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