Sunday, November 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

The Maharaja’s birthplace
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 17
While the year-long bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will conclude after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addresses a public rally at New Amritsar on Sunday, debate on certain issues , including exact place of birth of the Maharaja, may continue for the time to come.

“Maharaja Ranjit Singh was born at Gujranwala on November 13, 1780,” says Dr Mohinder Singh, Director , National Institute of Panjab Studies, in an illustrated book on “Maharaja Ranjit Singh” brought out by UBS Publishers Distributors Limited in association with the Institute. The book carries a picture of the “haveli” where the Maharaja was born.

“The haveli still carries a signboard describing it to be the birth place of the Maharaja,” he says refuting the claim of some other historians that the exact birth place was Badhrukhan and not Gujranwala.

In this book, which is likely to be formally presented to the President of India on November 30 in New Delhi, Dr Mohinder Singh and co-author Rishi Singh, have tried to piece together the life and times of the Maharaja based on some of the hitherto inaccessible and unpublished material collected from various repositories in India, Pakistan and United Kingdom.

In connection with the tercentenary of the Khalsa in 1999, writes Dr Manmohan Singh, President of the Institute, in the foreword of this book, that the Institute took up a major project of locating and cataloguing relics which are popularly associated with Sikh gurus.

“During their field work, our research team located some precious relics such as the chola of Guru Nanak, chola of Guru Hargobind, chola, dastar and other relics of Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Kaur, sword-belt, godri and flag of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” writes Dr Manmohan Singh maintaining that the Institute decided to bring out a series of pictorial books under the “Punjab Heritage series”. The other pictorial books in the series are “The Golden Temple”, “Anandpur” and “Pilgrimage to Hemkunt”.

“We got some rare relics from Faqir Syed Saif-ud-Din of Fakir Khana Museum in Lahore,” says Dr Mohinder Singh. One of the most precious relics has been the “flag” or “Nishan Sahib” of Maharaja Ranjit Singh which has been in the possession of the descendants of Lord Dalhousie in Scotland.

A picture of this “flag” and other Coat of Arms has been reproduced in the book. Besides, it carries pictures of some rare holy scriptures, including scriptures of Sikh gurus.

Dr Mohinder Singh also sets at rest the controversy whether there was any coronation or not. “According to the account of the court historian Sohan Lal Suri, a grand durbar was organised on Baisakhi Day, April 12, 1801, in the Lahore fort when Baba Sahib Singh Bedi, a direct descendant of Guru Nanak, daubed Ranjit Singh’s forehead with tilak and proclaimed him the Maharaja of Punjab. Then he took up a sword and tied it round the Maharaja’s waist declaring him to be the sole leader of the Sikh community,” he adds.

Dr Mohinder Singh has also reproduced a picture of the golden plaque above the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum, which commemorates the service rendered to the temple by the Maharaja. It mentions: “The Guru was kind enough to allow the privilege of service to his humble servant Maharaja Singh Sahib Ranjit Singh.” Back

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