Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The real life 'war horse'called THE SIKH

The Sikh - whose history as a real life war-horse has been unveiled for the first time.

The incredible story of a real-life 'War Horse' that rode back and forth between the trenches a hundreds years ago has been uncovered for the first time.

The horse - named The Sikh - dodged shellfire and grenades as it delivered supplies to bloodied and battered troops during the First World War

She rode back and forth between France and Flander's trenches and during Balkan battles with her devoted master Lieutenant A.C. Vicary of the Gloucestershire Regiment.

Her extraordinary journey from Britain to the front line and her survival and trip home - in which she WALKED back from Russia - has now been unearthed by a war museum.

It echoes the plot of War Horse, the Michael Morpurgo novel adapted into an award-winning West End play and Steven Spielberg film.

Curators discovered she was a rare equine survivor of the Great War - and spent the rest of her life in Devon just like the hero of Morpurgo's book.

The Sikh - who became a good luck Omen with British troops - arrived at the front line with Vicary and the regiment's Second Battalion in Ypres.

But when the war ended in 1918, she was all the way in Southern Russia - and had to walk all the way back to England.

Chris Chatterton, curator of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, unearthed the incredible story last week and is calling for a statue to honour the horse.

He said: "I was reading a book about The Glosters and I came across a mention of The Sikh.

"I did some more digging and it really is a remarkable story. She was viewed by many men in the Battalion as an Omen of good luck.

"A statue to honour The Sikh would be great. We will certainly be doing something at the museum to commemorate her."

The Sikh was one of the million horses sent to the Western Front during the First World War.

She was lucky to survive the conflict - only 67,000 returned home, after 933,000 tragically died.

The brave horse was bred in Australia and sold to India. She arrived in North China with the 36th Sikh Regiment where passed into the ownership of Lt Vicary in 1913.

When the battalion was given orders to return to Europe for war in November 1914, Vicary obtained special permission to take The Sikh with him.

She was the only horse to accompany the Battalion from China, braving a treacherous eight-week boat journey from China to Europe.

The Sikh spent the voyage in a makeshift open box on the deck - exposed to baking heat and typhoons as the ship travelled to the UK, dodging German battle ships in the Mediterranean, according to the ship's log.

While the soldiers were banned from sleeping on deck because of atrocious weather, the poor old horse was left out in the elements and only allowed to stretch her legs when officers went ashore at Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Said and Gibraltar.

The Sikh was a loyal companion to Vicary throughout the entire the First World War, supporting Vicary in the reserve lines and support trenches.

The courageous pair led the 16th Gloucestershire Regiment in their victorious march through Serbia and Bulgaria.

She managed to survive despite the desperate conditions for war horses.

On average the British Army lost 15 per cent of its horses every year of the conflict, though just a quarter of horse deaths were caused by enemy action, according to the War Office's Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914-1920.

She proceeded with the Regiment to South Russia, before following them home through Turkey, Greece, Italy and France once the war ended in 1918.

Vicary ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel, having one a Military Cross and two Distinguished Service Orders medals for his gallantry.

After her illustrious and adventurous life as a war horse, The Sikh died in peaceful retirement at Vicary's home in Devon.

Western Daily Press,January 21, 2015

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sikh warriors’ relics stolen from Amritsar museum

A policeman takes fingerprints of a security guard.

Seven daggers of the 18th century Sikh warriors have reportedly been stolen from Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, located in the historic Ram Bagh garden in Amritsar.

The ancient weapons were on display in a room, which was usually locked and only opened for VIPs, on the first floor of the panorama. The stolen daggers were in the custody of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums which has also been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of various other artefacts and relics brought from Maharaja Ranjit Singh museum during the restoration work of Maharaja’s summer palace.

Security guard Sukhwinder Singh said the incident, which occurred yesterday evening, came to light when he was checking the room before closing it. After being informed by the local staff, officials of the cultural affairs department in Chandigarh approached the Amritsar police.

Raman Kumar, curator, Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums, who looks after these historic articles, said the thieves decamped with seven of the nine daggers on display in a glass box placed towards the end of the room. “The articles were brought from Archaeological Museum in Patiala. We have summoned the records and photographs of these ancient weapons from there. The stolen daggers belonged to the Sikh warriors of the 18th century,” he said. He said it was first such incident since the artefacts were shifted to the panorama around seven years ago.

Besides the Archaeological and Museum Department staff, local Municipal Corporation employees guard the panorama. Kumar said the room was locked with a chain and the door’s handle was broken to open it.

Though seven daggers were stolen, all other historic weaponry was intact. Deputy Commissioner of Police Bikram Pal Singh Bhatti said a case had been registered.

PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, January 12

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Exhibition launch:Canadian Sikhs in World War 1 The forgotten story

WHEN: SUNDAY, January 18th
PLACE: Sikh Heritage Museum, National Historic Site of Canada, 33094 South Fraser Way, Abbotsford, BC, Cananda

We are pleased to invite you to the seventh exhibition launch at the Sikh Heritage Museum located in the National Historic Site, Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford, BC.

This exhibition features the very important stories of the only ten known Canadian Sikh soldiers to have served in WWI. The launch date, Sunday, January 18th from 1-3PM will feature ORIGINAL artifacts and materials for viewing as we work in partnership with the Indus Media Foundation of Canada and the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada in Toronto.

The launch will also feature Q & A with documentary filmmaker David Gray and a talk by Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan of the British Columbia Regiment.

The exhibition will be available for viewing year long until December 2015.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Drawing the line: Lecture on maps and prints of the Punjab.

KARACHI: Very seldom does one get to hear such an absorbing account of an important period in the history of the subcontinent and the development of the art of cartography. Eminent art historian and author F. S. Aijazuddin delivered an engaging lecture on the exhibition ‘Drawing the Line (rare maps and prints)’ under way at the Mohatta Palace Museum and on his book ‘The Resourceful Faqirs’ at the museum on Friday evening.

Mr Aijazuddin, using a series of inspiring images of rare maps, paintings and sketches, talked about the history of map making starting with the earliest map of Iraq (2400BC). He said one of the initial Arab maps was from 1154 and quipped that the Arabs saw the world upside down (north-south, south-north). Ptolemy was the first one to use the grid system on a map to measure latitude and longitude. At the time, map makers depended on maps drawn by maritime captains. There were three techniques of map making: woodcut, line engravings and lithography (the last one came in use in the 19th century).

Mr Aijazuddin said the earliest map that he had was from 1846; it was done using Ptolemy’s method. One of the later maps, when the art of map making was further developed, depicted the area inhabited by the Makranis who were referred to as the fish-eating ‘hairy race’. Maps of the Mughal Empire and Africa followed, with the famous Jonathan Swift lines: “So geographers in Africa maps/ With savage pictures fill their gaps/ And o’er uninhabitable downs/ Place elephants for want of towns.”

When Shah Shuja of Afghanistan sought refuge from the British, he stayed in Lahore for some time and gave the Koh-i-noor to the maharaja.

The second part of Mr Aijazuddin’s lecture was on the Punjab ruled by Ranjit Singh. He said it was in the beginning of the 18th century that Punjab became accessible. It was the time when there was a Sikh kingdom in Lahore reigned over by the diminutive, pockmarked, illiterate but highly intelligent Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In 1799 he became the master of Lahore. The maharaja had three assistants — brothers Faqir Azizuddin, Faqir Imamuddin and Faqir Nuruddin (the family that author is a direct descendant of). The brothers had earned unusual powers considering the fact that they were Muslims. The family had practising hakims and earned the trust of the maharaja when he went to a hakim after having an eye infection. It was a risk that paid off, he said.

Mr Aijazuddin shed light on the qualities and duties of each brother. Azizuddin was a masterful negotiator, Imamuddin was the keeper of Govindgarh Fort and Nuruddin was an important member of the court and after the passing away of the maharaja was a member of the Regency Council. When Ranjit Singh gave the run-around to East India Company’s Charles Metcalfe, the latter got upset. The maharaja asked Azizuddin to negotiate with him on his behalf. The successful conclusion of the negations led the British to draw a line fixing the frontiers of lands under Ranjit Singh along the Sutlej River, demarcating Punjab from British India. This was for the first time that Punjab became a nation-state, and Ranjit Singh was acknowledged as a maharaja.

Mr Aijazuddin pointed out that in order to expand his business Ranjit Singh needed money. So when Shah Shuja of Afghanistan sought refuge from the British, he stayed in Lahore for some time and gave the Koh-i-noor to the maharaja.

Expanding on the politics at the time, Mr Aijazuddin said Alexander Burnes desired to visit Ranjit Singh to hand over King William’s gift of five dray horses to the maharaja. Ranjit Singh resisted because Burnes wanted to do reach him by the Indus, which had a military purpose. But when the Mirs conceded, Burnes embarked on the journey up the Indus via Multan to Lahore. Ranjit Singh asked Azizuddin to draft a letter to return the gift to the king in a way that didn’t offend him. Azizuddin’s skills were tested, but he wrote a cleverly worded letter. Similarly, when the British saw the Russian threat in Afghanistan, Azizuddin there too was involved in successful negotiations.

Mr Aijazuddin said December 1838 was the twilight in Ranjit Singh’s reign. Six months after the killing of one of his important generals in Peshawar, he died. He was cremated in Lahore. He was succeeded by his son Kharak Singh, who was addicted to opium, so his son Naunehal Singh controlled the kingdom, who was very anti-British. Ironically, the haveli built for him in Lahore housed a school called Queen Victoria’s Girls School. After Naunehal Singh’s death Sher Singh assumed power. All of Ranjit Singh’s successors continued relying on the Faqir brothers. When Sher Singh was murdered in 1843 the eight-year-old Dulip Singh came to power, but the kingdom was controlled by his mother, Rani Jinda. Subsequently, the British defeated the Sikhs and the Treaty of Lahore was signed.

“Once Sikhs made history, now they are relegated to it,” commented Mr Aijazuddin and added that of the three Faqir brothers, Azizuddin was the first to die in the late 1840s. Two years later Imamuddin passed away followed by Nuruddin.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Punjabi scholars recall the importance of the Jangnama by Shah Mohammad.

 The writings of 18th-century Punjabi poet Shah Mohammad were recalled by various Punjabi scholars and experts during a seminar 'Shah Mohammad Da Jangnama: Jang Hind-Punjab Da' at the Khalsa College here on Thursday.

Shah Mohammad (1782-1862), who lived at Vadala Viram near Amritsar, recalled with pride the glorious days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's empire in his long poem 'Vaar Shah Mohammad', also known as 'Jangnama Shah Mohammad' or 'Hind Panjab da Jang.

The experts at the seminar emphasised that the writings of Shah Mohammad, who is the primary source of accounts on Ranjit Singh's rule, are relevant even today as he reflected upon the socio-cultural aspects of Punjab and many of those challenges are still staring into the face of Punjabi society.
Khalsa College principal, Dr Mehal Singh, said, "Ranjit Singh's rule was exemplary and writings of Shah Mohammad were the primary source of the history of that period and the way Shah Mohammad lyrically evoked the memory of the bygone days when the Sikh warriors had subdued Khaibar, Kangra, Jammu and numerous other places. He describes with admiration the deeds of heroism and sacrifice of eminent Sikh leaders such as Sham Singh Attariwala and Ranjodh Singh. The historical framework the poet has laid out for the events that took place has not so far been superseded."

Noted Punjabi novelist Jaswant Singh Kanwal, known for his famous novels `Lahoo Dee Lo' and `Jungle De Sher', delved deep into how Punjab had been facing various societal problems which needed to be addressed immediately. "Punjab was in trouble when Shah Mohammad wrote about its challenges and its society is still divided and facing challenges today,'' he said. The seminar was organised by Shah Mohammad Memorial Trust in collaboration with the department of Punjabi studies of the College.

Dr HS Bhatia, head of department of Punjabi studies, GNDU, said that though Shah Mohammad was basically a writer and not a historian, but his writings reflect upon the political, social and economic conditions of Punjab in the late 18th  and early 19th centuries.

Senior journalist Varinder Singh Walia stated that Maharaja Ranjit Singh established a great rule, bringing unity of Punjab and giving the rule a secular outlook. His empire could not be sustained due to his failure to choose a successor, he added.

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times   Amritsar, November 13, 2014

Friday, 24 October 2014

Faith preserved, Guru Hargobind's sacred robe restored

Chola Sahib, the 400-year-old sacred robe that sixth Sikh Guru wore on the first Bandi Chhor Diwas in October 1619, has been restored close to another Diwali.

Guru Hargobind wore the 52-tailed cloak on the day when he liberated 52 Hindu kings along with self from the Gwalior prison of Mughal emperor Jahangir and returned to Amritsar on Diwali, which Sikhs celebrate since as Bandi Chhor Diwas (day of liberation). Preserved at Ghudani Kalan, a village near Amritsar, the relic was restored by the team of conservators headed by Namita Jaspal.

“This fabric of faith dates back to the early 17th century and the villagers are attached to it emotionally. It is a gift from the Guru for their hospitality once. It was a tradition with the Sikh Gurus to leave their belongings to their hosts, and the cloak is a symbol of that,” said Namita, professional conservator since 1995.

About the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) view on the authenticity of the robe as Guru’s relic, she said: “I’m sure they know, since they once took it, but the villagers fought for it and got it back. Since then, they want to keep the SGPC away from it.”

In 2011, the villagers approached Namita because the fabric had aged, weakened, and lost flexibility. They requested her to visit the village for saving it. “Historians don’t know if it is authentic but going by the old references and people’s strong belief, it should be the same chola,” said BS Dhillon, head of the department of Guru Granth Sahib studies at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

“History does state that the chola that the sixth Guru wore on the day of the release from the Mughal prison had 52 corners, and the one on display at the village has this characteristic,” said Sikh historian Simarjeet Singh, adding: “People who believe in history do recognise it as Guru’s relic.”

Conservator’s challenges
Conservator Namita Jaspal working on the Chola.
There are always more than the usual challenges involved working on historical objects that have religious sentiments attached. “All I knew was that the faith of the community had to be preserved,” said conservator Namita, who has also guided the restoration of the wall paintings at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

Fungus had eaten the robe, and it had lost fabric at many places, because of not only ageing but also vandalism. Over the years, in different times, the torn areas had been sewn, which had helped limit the damage. Namita had to wear gloves to touch the revered Chola Sahib.

 “I told the villagers I couldn’t do my work without touching it. Even then, the frowning sewadars would watch over me. Within a month, I restored their faith,” she said.

Usmeet Kaur, Hindustan Times  Amritsar, October 21, 2014


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