Lahore, Pakistan: The condition of Lahore’s heritage sites seem to be growing from bad to worse. In a recent discovery Pakistan Today learnt that the baara-dari of Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh, the third son of Ranjit Singh, has become an ‘official’ garbage dump, and what once used to be a symbol of grandeur is now home to drug addicts.
Maharaja Sher Singh was the third son of Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire. He ruled from 1841 till his death. His Baara-dari or ‘twelve doored’ mansion is situated on the outskirts of Kot Khwaja Saeed locality in Lahore, a few kilometers ahead of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort. It seems to have been neglected for decades.
Apparently, the Lahore Solid Waste Management department has constructed a waste enclosure inside the premises of the historical building and it is suspected that this has been done after demolishing one side of the building.
It is already in a precarious state after the attacks in 1992 in reaction to the Babri Mosque demolition in India. In a recent visit to India, Sayed Asif Hashmi, the Pakistan Evacuee Trust Property Board (PETPB) chairman had stated that Pakistan was making an all out efforts for the protection and maintenance of Sikh heritage.
However the baara-dari or samaadh as it is known is now entirely surrounded by the Solid Waste Management Company’s office, with an ugly yellow urban structure greeting visitors and a repulsive rubbish dump which extends to the foot of the baara-dari.
The façade of the building has also collapsed after the 1992 attacks. Stray dogs now haunt the area rummaging through the garbage, as do garbage collectors who try to find something to sell. Historians say that Maharaja Sher Singh was shot dead at this site, by his rivaling relative Ajit Singh. The tombs of the maharaja and his crown prince are known to be situated within the vicinity of this mansion known to locals as baradari of Sufi saint Shah Bilawal, however many mistake it to be a Hindu complex.
Maharaja Sher Singh and Kanvar Partap Singh were cremated at the same site of the baara dari, where later their tombs were erected. Meanwhile Afzal Khan, deputy director of the Punjab Archeology Department told Pakistan Today that they were “definitely doing something about the matter”, adding “Hamza Shahbaz is trying his best to work the issue out”.
“Our project PC 1 is starting soon,” he said. “Work is being done and we have given the park to the PHA. There is a lot of conservation and repair work to be done especially for the base of the building, the design and the repairing.”
He said the work had begun about two months ago, and that they had written many letters to the SWM in order to remove their structure and clean the place so that work could start.
“We expect them to leave soon. It’s a lack of awareness and departments just look for empty spaces to prop up their structures wherever they want even if it is a historical site,” he complained. In his research work, Iqbal Qaisar, author of “Historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan” has said that the samaadh was built by Rani Randhawi, wife of Sher Singh. He explains that the samaadhs of Rani Randhawi herself, Dharam Kaur and Rani Partap Kaur are also located at the same site. The samadh of the Rani was on the eastern side of Maharaja Sher Singh’s samaadh, whereas the one on the western side housed the ashes of the others. These samaadhs had domes where the cremated ashes were kept.
Source: Pakistan Today