Monday, 9 February 2015

Call for papers: 2nd International Sikh Research Conference (ISRC)

The annual International Sikh Research Conference (ISRC) has been established because there has been a serious neglect of Sikh Studies in the UK. Whilst there are many Sikh scholars studying and researching Sikh Studies, the subject is not highly recognised or represented at a national level in the UK.

We are pleased to announce the call for papers (CFP) and registrations for the second International Sikh Research Conference (ISRC). The conference will take place at the prestigious University of Warwick on the 28th June 2015.

The second conference draws on the unprecedented success of the first ISRC, 2014 by bringing together academics, scholars and researchers and to encourage a spirit of collaboration within international Sikh studies academia.

 Scholars, researchers and academics are encouraged to submit a paper which highlights research on any of the following themes: Musicology, History, Philosophy, Scripture, Diaspora, Identity, and Politics.

This promises to be an exciting and enlightening experience for presenters and delegates alike.

For more information, including the submissions of papers and registrations visit:

Facebook page:

Download the call for papers

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Fort and Legacy of Hari Singh Nalwa

The Fort of Hari Singh Nalwa: Harkishan Garh( Rangila)

Written by Rizwan Mahboob

Somewhere in the upper reaches of the thickly forested mountains of Dunga Gali, starts Daur, one of the fastest flowing rivers of Hazara region. After leaving the towering heights of Gali’s hills, the river meanders for some forty miles through the valleys in District Abbotabad and Haripur, before joining the Siran River to eventually drain in Tarbela Dam.

Almost 180 years ago, an intrepid General of Raja Ranjit Singh, namely Hari Singh Nalwa, came upon this brilliant idea of benefiting from the abundant waters of this fast flowing natural gift. A little above the modern day city of Haripur, Hari Singh got dug a huge water pond and diverted a part of the fast flowing Daur waters towards this pond. From this pond, he developed five meticulously aligned mini-canals (Or Katthas as these are locally known), each irrigating huge chunks of adjoining village lands, helping farmers to grow some of the fines oranges in the area.

The place where this ingenious idea was executed was given the rather unusual name of Rangila.I came across this quaint piece of information while rummaging through the rusty record of 1872 settlement in the tehsil office record room of Haripur. These records are written in a difficult script, containing a heavy dose of Persian but, with a mix of extra effort and audacity, one can decipher the information contained in these records.

I had gone to the Haripur Tehsil office for digging information about the Sikh era legendary fort of Harkishan Garh, which was built by Governor Hari Singh Nalwa as a headquarters to wage unending wars all through his reign, before dying in action in the Jamrud War. Contrasting accounts about the existence of remnants of this fort were shared with me by many locals. However, I was confident that a definitive account about the quadrates of this fort should be available from the old settlement record.

I got my first bout of success going through the settlement record of Haripur Mouza, pertaining to year 1872. The writer of this settlement record (in the typical tongue-in-cheek manner of old Brits) frankly admitted that the fort of Harkishan Garh had been converted into a tehsil office and police station by the British after Sikhs were ultimately dethroned from this area. The record also corroborated the old Gazetteer by informing that this fort was surrounded by a wide and deep trench (khandaq). This piece of information was absolutely correct as, even today, entry to the tehsil office is made after crossing a small bridge, covering a deep and wide depression.Having succeeded in finding the relics of old trench, our next mission was to find out if anything from the old fort of Harkishan Garh existed to this date.

The other important piece of information pertaining to Hari Singh mentioned the existence of a small garden, set by Hari Singh, close to his fort. So there had to be some remnants of this deep and wide trench, the exquisite Hari Singh Garden and, on the basis of information contained in an earlier Gazetteer, graves of two white Salt officers in this garden who were slain by the Hassanzai tribesmen in 1851 during the first Kala Dhaka campaign.I was lucky in having the services of a retired Patwari, who had been very thoughtfully assigned to me by the kind DC Haripur. So, accompanied by the Patwari, we set about on our mission to find all three relics from a nostalgic past.

It did not take us long to find the remnants of the deep, wide trench excavated by Hari Singh as a protection for the fort. Although many portions of this trench have been filled for construction, a large part does exist towards the eastern side of the trench. I walked in awe through this imposing remnant of Sikh Raj, unfortunately being used as a garbage dumping ground in these days. Having succeeded in finding the relics of old trench, our next mission was to find out if anything from the old fort of Harkishan Garh existed to this date. We started with the police station and, notwithstanding the sincere help of the SHO, met with a big disappointment. The sprawling police station had all engulfed any possible relic of the old fort as nothing matching the description of the old fort and its fortified wall was visible in the enormous compound over which the police station stood.
However, our disappointment was short-lived as, soon after entering the tehsil office, we knew that we could find some traces of the old structures in this locality. The structure of the tehsil office appeared much older than a police station and at least some of its rooms seemed to have been constructed using some old, dilapidated wall structures. But masonry work made it difficult to be sure about the existence of the old fort structures.

Here, I asked the accompanying Patwari if we could find some structure resembling an old wall. “Yes”, came the reply, “a crumbling wall exists towards the eastern side of tehsil office; but I did not know you were actually interested in that wall”.As we walked towards that wall, the old Patwari gave the disturbing news that a major chunk of that “useless” mammoth structure has been recently demolished for giving space to the new Treasury Office building that is being constructed there.

 Fort wall.

With heart in my mouth, I went with the Patwari who led me through a maze of thorny bushes and some more garbage before we reached our destination — relics of old fort of Harkishan Garh. The wall ran for some thirty metres and must be at least ten feet thick. Inside of the wall was mud plaster while the exterior portion was made up of rounded boulders.

I walked along the gigantic structure, touching it with reverence, much to the astonishment of the accompanying Patwari. How many times, Hari Singh Nalwa, Governor of Kashmir and Hazara, Commander of Sikh Army in this region, must have crossed and re-crossed this dilapidated wall during his twenty years of power in Hazara? And here, in 2015, we had demolished a major part of this historic relic without the slightest compunction for erecting a Treasury office, which could easily have been constructed by preserving this historic wall of Harkishan Garh fort.

There was no use lamenting. So after feasting my eyes on this grandiose structure for over an hour, I embarked upon the next part of my sojourn — unearthing the “small garden” of Hari Singh Nalwa, inside which the graves of British Salt Officers also existed. The Revenue record and Gazetteer indicated that this garden existed in an easterly direction from the fort. So we set forth in that direction to find the garden. Passing through modern day Sikandarpura, we came across several gardens but none of these appeared to be 150 years old.Once again, I was on the point of giving up when the old Patwari suddenly remembered that a government-run garden (being managed by the Agriculture Department) also existed in this area which we must also check. Although I was less excited about the possibility of a government-run garden to be my coveted Hari Singh garden, the revelation by the Patwari about the existence of some old Chir Pine trees made me change my mind. Towards the garden we moved.

I saw the inscription “established 1904” at the entrance of the garden. If any garden in the whole Haripur could be one pertaining to Hari Singh Nalwa, it had to be this. It was a sprawling orange garden, having thick groves of many other fruit trees alongside oranges. The spectacle of neatly-laid orange groves, with ripe fruit touching the ground, was a heavenly sight. But what really made me dance with joy was a grove of five, towering pine trees. These pine trees stood in the midst of the orange garden and, as I reached these trees in a run, I was speechless on finding a British cemetery underneath these trees. Being a forester, I always carry a Pressler Borer — an instrument which gives precise age of conifers — and having used my borer to extract a cone, giving trees’ annual rings, I set about counting the age of these trees.

Soon, I was jumping with excitement as all these trees turned out to be around 125-140 years old. After all, this was the small garden established by Hari Singh to the east of Harkishan Garh fort and, sure enough, the seven odd graves included the graves of British Salt Officers, Carn and Tape. Most of the plaques had become disfigured but some did carry the details about the dear departed.

Graves of British officers killed in 1851.
My Patwari friend — being an old wise man that he was —did not lose more time in taking me to the last of our destinations. It was nothing other than “Rangila”, the starting point of five water channels — Kathas — to which many of the beautiful fruit orchards of today’s Haripur owe their existence. I stood at the point where the speedy torrents of Daur were arrested by Hari Singh Nalwa centuries ago and which continue to spread their magnanimous waters todate under the names of Darwesh Katha, Tanokal Katha, Chor Katha, Gagal Katha and Khalabat Katha.

Patwari sahib also told me that the waters of these Kathas run every morning through Haripur city in what is termed as Nazul in local parlance — to clean the disposal from the city. An act of great foresight and generosity by a Sikh ruler which benefits the city and villages of Haripur almost 150 years after he lost his life in Jamrud, fighting to save the Lahore Darbar from Afghans. If only we had a matching compassion to preserve last of the relics from his Khandaq, Harkishan Gargh Fort and Chota Bagh. 1st Feb 2015

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.


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