Sunday, July 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

150-yr-old book on fall of Sikh Raj missing
Varinder Walia and Gurbax Puri

Tarn Taran, July 27
The invaluable 150-year-old hand-written book, “Bir Mrigesh”, authored by unsung, historian pandit Sher Singh, primary source of information of the rise and fall of “Sikh Raj” is missing from Bir Singh gurdwara at Naurangabad village. This is the largest book volume (runs into more than 2000 pages), ever written in ‘Gurmukhi’ script. The book has been replaced with a printed version (it runs into 1916 pages), brought out by Sant Jagjit Singh Harkhowalwale.

The annotated book, which has not been quoted by any historian, so, far, still remains the great primary source of Sikh history. The book unfolds vividly the working and the interplay of the forces which led to the fall of the ‘Sikh Raj’. It also helps in determining the extent of the mischief of the forces which played false after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Those forces undermined the Sikh Raj which had come into being after much efforts. The book also contains the first-hand record of intrigues, conspiracies, plots stabbings and murders that followed the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It also deals with birth of Sikh Raj in Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the book also deals with conflict with the British and the downfall of the “Sikh Raj”.

Dr Sheharyar a noted Punjabi writer said that the ‘disappearance’ of the hand-written book ever written in ‘gurmukhi’ script and ‘Brij language was a matter of great concern. When he learnt that the hand-written book ‘Bir Mrigesh’ is missing from the Gurdwara which is under the SGPC he visited a number of villages to trace it but in vain.

Mr Kulwant Singh, a former manager of the gurdwara told The Tribune that the book had been borrowed by Mr Ajit Singh sarpanch of the village. However, when the Tribune team visited the house of the sarpanch he said the book was taken up by Giani Gurchet Singh, a former granthi, who now resides in Shingarpur village. However, when approached, Giani Gurchet Singh said that he did not know who had taken the book. He, however, admits that once he had seen the book in the shrine. ‘Baba Jagjit Singh Harkhowal, who had the book printed, said that he had collected the information contained in the book in parts from various sources, he, however, is also unaware of about the hand-written volume of the book.

Shockingly, the ‘Khras’ (the indigenous floor mill) and biggest containers for the food too are missing from the gurdwara built in the memory of Baba Bir Singh a ‘saint sepoy’ and contemporary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Though the historians have made a passing reference about Baba Bir Singh but hardly anybody has mentioned the name of Pandit Sher Singh — the author of ‘Bir Mrigesh’. However, the book ‘Panjab on the eve of First Sikh war’, mensions about Baba Bir Singh that, “Baba Bir Singh was a Sikh saint, spiritual guide and holy man who was practising Sikhism in its purityand sublimity. Being disgusted at the events that followed the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs talked of making Baba Bir Singh their ruler King or Prime Minister.”

Baba Bir Singh is considered the most non-violent person of the 19th century. During the battle between the platoons of “Lahore Darbar (after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) and the followers of Baba Bir Singh at Harike the latter (Baba Bir Singh) directed his men not to open fire. Baba Bir Singh and thousands of his followers preferred to lay down their lives instead of taking up arms.

Earlier, Attar Singh Sandhawalia whose activities in British India led to many protests crossed the Sutlej to enter Darbar territory and joined Baba Bir Singh at Naurangabad, Baba Bir Singh’s camp became the Centre of the Sikh revolt against the Dogra dominance in Punjab.

Mr Brij Bedi, a social activist said that it was a matter of great concern that the SGPC had not made any effort to preserve glorious heritage of the Sikhs.


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