By Muhammad Naeem Niazi
LAHORE, Jun 26 (APP): A young Sikh girl reciting the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scriptures) in rapt attention with consciousness stable and focused on the creator at the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh – she was performing ‘Akhand Path’ with religious solemnity to commemorate the 183rd death anniversary of the founder of Sikh empire Maharaja Ranjit Sikh at the Samadhi here on June 27.
The Samadhi of Maharja Ranjit Singh stands in celestial peace and tranquility and the site wears truthful depiction of the word ‘Samadhi’ – connoting ‘fixing one’s mind and soul on God’ in the Sikh etymology.
Samadhi provides a meditational space for the followers of Sikh religion at the very site where Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s cremation was performed. Four Hindu wives and seven concubines of the Maharjaja performed Sati (A Hindu tradition in which a wife immolates herself in the funeral pyre of her husband) in pursuance of Hindu religion.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s funerary ashes were partly immersed in a body of water while the remaining were preserved in a lotus urn and placed at the very site where Maharaja breathed his last. The urn, surrounded by smaller urns of four queens and seven concubines, is placed in a marble pavilion inlaid with pieta dura and the pavilion presents an image of a monarch sitting his court.
The Samadhi is erected 18 feet above the ground and carries the Nishan Sahib – a symbol of functionality of a gurdwara in Sikh traditions. The construction was started by his son and successor Kharak Singh and completed by his younger son Duleep Singh in the year1848.
Ranjit Sikh provided the Sikhs identity as they ruled the 19th most populous (3.5 million population) country in the world as per the records of 1831. The Sikh empire’s frontiers spread over Khyber Pass in the West to Tibet in the East, and Mithankot in the South to Kashmir in the North.
The rise of Sikh empire (also known as Punjab empire) started with the capture of Lahore by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799 and culminated with the defeat of the Sikhs at the hands of the British forces in the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849.
The Samadhi, with its front wall encroaching upon the Roshnai Gate, one of the entrances to the Lahore Fort and meandering along the Northern wall of the majestic Badshahi mosque, overlooks the Hazoori Bagh which was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1818 to mark the capture of Kohi e Noor. The Hindu dieties Brahma, Shiva and Ganesh are etched on the stair-case entrance to the Samadhi while the architecture is a synthesis of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh motifs.
The Samadhi presents a look of a palace of a living king with its twelve doors symbolizing the twelve gates of Lahore and giving it an omnipresent view of a King’s court where the subjects come for supplication. The Jharokas on the upper storey of the Samadhi make one believe the queens may come any moment to sit and watch the proceedings outside.
Najam us Saqib, Director Conservation and Planning, WCLA, believes that the Sikh architecture is an extension of the Mughal architecture and the additions in the Shish Mehal of the Lahore Fort have been replicated in the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. He believes the Samadhi has a grandiose look about it as can be seen in the burial places of the great emperors of the sub-continent from Akbar, Babur and others.
The renowned architect said a large number of arches leading towards the burial place, like the twelve arches with three on each side at the Samadhi, is the same like that of the Mughal architecture.
The Samadhi has a royal look from the inside with the fresco work embellishing the ceilings while the interior of the cupolas is covered with gold-water and, according to some traditions, 10 kilogram gold was used to adorn the art-work which is still visible today. In a way, the inside of the Samadhi complements the outer gilded domes of the holy building. The upper storey of the Samadhi has ornamental patterns with ornate balustrade and the artisans, most probably Hindus, have depicted various historical pageants in their works.
Saif ur Rehman, a renowned archaeologist, said the stained glass work on the ceilings and the floral designs on the walls contribute to the enchantment of the holy site, adding that precious stones adorn the walls of the Samadhi.
Member Punjab Assembly (MPA) Ramesh Singh Arora said Maharja Ranjit Singh’s created a special identity for the Sikh nation through his military services, adding that he embodies pride of Punjab. He said he restored the pride of the soil by defeating the invaders who had plundered the precious resources of the land. “Had the resources of the land not been plundered by the invaders, this land would have been prosperous”, he remarked.
Arora said Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s services to the land need to be revered beyond religious bias, adding that Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government had adopted a unanimous resolution in the Punjab Assembly during its 2013-18 tenure pay homage to Ranjit Singh for his brilliant rule in Punjab. He proposed Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s era should be taught in the curriculum.
Habib ur Rehman Gilani, Chairman Evacuee Trist Property Board (ETPB) said Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is a revered site and has been preserved as per the Sikh traditions. He said some pillars at the Samadhi were damaged in 1962 and preserved on the intervention of the then President Ayub Khan. He said the 183rd death anniversary is being observed with religious fervor and all arrangements have been made to facilitate the Sikh yatrees and commemorate the services of a great son of soil.