Gujranwala (Pakistan): In Gujranwala of Pakistan’s Punjab province lying tucked under decades of ignorance and neglect are the heritage treasures related to the roots of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Hari Singh Nalwa, the commander-in-chief of Sikh Khalsa Fauj - the warrior king’s army.
While Lahore, where he lived and has his samadhi (tomb) went on to become synonymous to Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab), as he is known, it is Gujranwala where lies Ranjit Singh’s roots - his ancestral haveli (also his birthplace), his father Maha Singh’s tomb, Sherewalan Bagh Baradari and the ancestral haveli of Nalwa.
After decades of unwillingness to protect the Sikh heritage, the Gujranwala district administration has planned restoration and preservation of Maha Singh’s tomb, located in the premises of Sherenwala Bagh but is now a crumbling structure with encroachments. Sohail Ashraf, deputy commissioner, Gujranwala has written to the Chief Secretary, Punjab asking for funds for site’s restoration and opening it for tourism.
Maha Singh (alias Mahan Singh), the ruler of Sukherchakia in Punjab, was too a mighty Sikh warrior and credited for conquering the sprawling Rohtas Fort. After years of neglect, Pak plans restoration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s father’s samadhi. "The Baradari still has beautiful intricate peacocks etc carved in its interiors. A madrasa functions from the ancestral haveli of Nalwa,” said Haider Khan, who traces his lineage to royal family of Bahadurgarh, now in Jhajjar of Haryana.
Haider Khan, assistant commissioner of Nowshera Virkan said, “We recently got all encroachments removed from the tomb of Maha Singh. Now a proposal has been sent for site’s restoration and conservation. The tomb was illegally occupied and some people had converted it into a godown for storing paint drums, chemicals etc which have been removed now.”
“Along with Maha Singh’s tomb, there is a beautiful Baradari (a structure having twelve gates) also from Ranjit Singh’s period and it was all a part of Sherenwalla Bagh. A preliminary observation note prepared by DC Gujranwala and assistant commissioner Nowshera Vikran, reads: “The Sheranwala Bagh has a ‘Barra Darri’ (12 sides open structure) in the middle of the garden. The garden was linked to the Samadhi of Maha Singh, which has been illegally encroached upon by land grabbing mafia. A government school has also been built on the land of already deteriorating samadhi thus posing threat to the structure and to the pupils of the school. To add insult to the injury, some land grabbers have been using this place as a godown for stocking oil barrels and chemicals related to paints. Inside of samadhi there are beautiful paintings engraved on the walls. Due to misuse by the land grabbers, those have been damaged and now require restoration. The Deputy Commissioner Gujranwala stressed that all these sites have an immense potential for religious tourism and can yield a lot of revenue for government.