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The Sikh Heritage of Pakistan: Glimpse into Pakistan Sikh Legacy

August 17, 2023

Sikhism is the youngest of the world’s main religions at only 500 years old. Guru Nanak, its creator, was held in high esteem by people of both faiths, but when he passed away, Muslims wanted to bury him and Hindus wanted to cremate him.

In undivided Punjab, Sikhs made up about 10%-12% of the population but rose to prominence through their diligence and remain so now. Therefore, their value to society outweighs their relative small population.

Many Sikhism holy places are located in our region of the Punjab because the religion was founded in what is now Pakistan. Thousands of Sikhs of all ages and both sexes make the journey each year to worship at these holy sites. They travel here from all corners of the globe. Visitors also flock to the majestic monument housing the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, unquestionably the most illustrious of all Punjabi kings. The Mughal Fort was his home.

The Sikh Heritage of Pakistan is a beautiful coffee table book that highlights all of these locations. The book is the result of a collaborative effort between Syed Javed A. Kazi, a photographer, and historian Dr. Safdar Ali Shah. Mansur Rashid, the publisher, rounds up the team as the third committed member. They had already created the popular Churches of Pakistan. The Sikh Heritage of Pakistan’s printing quality matches that of its predecessor, which was already exceptional.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board of the Government of Pakistan is largely responsible for the excellent condition of all the gurdwaras described in this book. The lone exception is the gurdwara constructed by Sher Shah Suri and located next to the abandoned Rohtas Fort. The Gurdwara Bhai Biba Singh in Peshawar is another temple undergoing renovations. Sikh merchants who relocated from the tribal regions to the provincial capital of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have adopted it.

Many buildings in India are works of art, but the Gurdwara Janamasthan, where Guru Nanak spent the last 35 years of his life, stands out as the crown jewel. In later years, Maharaja Ranjit Singh added to it and made it more aesthetically pleasing. It’s in a town that was renamed Nankana Sahib after Guru Nanak because it was there that he was born.

The Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Abbottabad is another stunning example of architecture; it is said that Guru Nanak imprinted his palmprint on a big rock located on the grounds. Large numbers of Sikhs from all around the world attend the annual Baisakhi Fair in April.

Guru Nanak spent the final 18 years of his life in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, making it a sacred site for Sikhs. The Guru’s mazaar and Samadhi are kept there. A piece of the Guru’s sheet and the ashes of the other half are carried by each disciple. It is thought that his body, like that of Bhagat Kabeer, vanished when Muslims and Hindus fought bitterly over how to dispose of the Guru’s remains.

The Haveli Naunihal Singh in Lahore is the most beautiful of the Sikh havelis included in the book. The book also features sculptures and paintings by some of Europe’s most renowned artists. These, along other Sikh era weapons, can be seen in the Lahore Fort Museum.

It is clear that late Mughal architecture served as an inspiration for Sikh architectural examples. Many Mughal architectural elements, including ornate ceilings, paintings, filigrees, and arches, were adapted by the Europeans.

The Sikh Heritage of Pakistan also includes a poem by Allama Iqbal in honor of Guru Nanak. It’s puzzling that this poetry isn’t taught in high schools and universities.

Safdar and Javaid’s publications are accomplishing a double goal: they demonstrate that Islam recognizes the freedom of its adherents to practice their faith of choice, and they demonstrate that Pakistan is about more than just terrorism. These two books should be distributed widely throughout the world’s main libraries by being supplied in big quantities to Pakistan’s diplomatic offices.

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Read More: Sikhism in the Shadow of Mughal Rule

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