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BOOKS: How Sikh legacy is slowly fading in Pakistan

“The Pakistan government maintains 24 heritage gurudwaras, but there are so many more that are part of the rich legacy....

he last empire in India was that of Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), says author Amardeep Singh. It is no exaggerated statement. By the 1700s, post the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire had weakened. Maharaja Ranjit Singh (popularly known as Sher-i-Punjab) emerged an unchallenged leader among the Sikhs, uniting the warring confederacies and building an empire that—in his sunset years—would extend from Punjab to Afghanistan.

When it came to military strength, the Sarkar Khalsaji was second to none. By 1799, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had brough Lahore under his control. By 1813, Sikh forces wrested the highly strategic Attock from the Afghan forces. The defeat of Yusufzai tribesmen (1823), in what is now Pakistan, further weakened the Afghan forces. By 1819, he had annexed the Kashmir valley.

Sikh culture flourished during his reign. Going by numerous historic accounts, he was much more secular than his contemporaries, with people from all castes and religions serving in his army. Forced conversions were not the norm, as he patronised places of worship of different communities. The Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) was rebuilt and restored to its present-day glory. He also built Takht Sri Patna Sahib gurudwara in Patna (where Guru Gobind Singh was born) and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Maharashtra (where Guru Gobind was assassinated). 

Seven decades after Partition, the erosion of the rich Sikh legacy in Pakistan is the topic that the author wants to highlight. “Eighty per cent of that mighty empire is now in Pakistan. Memories of that legacy are being wiped out.'' Amardeep Singh, a Kashmiri Sikh who spent his early years in Gorakhpur and later joined the corporate world, grew up to his father's misty-eyed memories of their home town, Muzaffarabad, now in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). He developed a taste for history, especially the Sikh legacy, early in life. On Wednesday, his lifelong interest culminated in the publication of his second book that captured the fast-disappearing heritage. The book, The Quest Continues: Lost Heritage—The Sikh legacy in Pakistan, was released in New Delhi. It is a sequel to The Lost Heritage—the Sikh legacy in Pakistan, which was published last February.