Sikh Heritage Ethos & Relics Delhi Launch

Celebrating a heritage hitherto unseen

“The evolution of human society is the process of passing on of the heritage over generations, said Mrs Gursharan Kaur. “Sikhism as a religion has a very rich heritage and we are very lucky to be able to witness some of the relics that bring alive the Gurus to us. We can relate to much of what we heard and read when we see them, and it is indeed to the credit of Bhayee Sikandar Singh and Roopinder Singh that they have been able to bring into this book the relics that few had seen till now.”

She was speaking at the launch of the book Sikh Heritage: Ethos and Relics at the India International Centre in Delhi, on December 24, 2012. The event had drawn in a large number of distinguished Delhi residents, as well as non-resident Indians. The 204-page treasure-trove of relics includes the hukamnamas of the Gurus and objects of personal use of the gurus, including the comb of Guru Gobind Singh, his armour, the rabab of Guru Hargobind Sahib, contemporary portraits and many other relics.

While presenting the ethos of the Sikhs, the book focuses on some families in the Malwa region of Punjab which have the privilege of receiving the Gurus’ blessings, which they have cherished and preserved with reverence and care.

“We all felt that there was a need for the book,” said Kapish Mehra, Publisher Rupa & Co, who narrated how he became involved with the project, when it was discussed with him by the authors at a book launch in Chandigarh many years ago.

Prof Gurinder Singh Mann, Professor of Sikh Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, contextualised the book, focusing on the very first four pages of Sikh Heritage: Ethos and Relics. Commenting on the portrait of Guru Hargobind prominently presented in the beginning of the volume, he said that it necessitates a revisit to the received wisdom that there are no contemporary paintings of the Sikh Gurus.

Citing various sources, he said that the painting was contemporary and that the set of such paintings that appear in the new book need to be incorporated in our discussion of this particular period. Calling the book “an extremely important work,” he said it is the continuation of the tradition started by Tara Singh Nirotam’s Guru Tirath Sanghrah published in 1884. The very opening gathering of the book reflects the fact that Sikh heritage is found across the globe, he pointed out.

The eminent art critic, Prof B N Goswamy, said that it was a matter of pride that the thoroughly researched book, a great production is now a part of our lives. Such a book invites us to look inwards, toward the messages that the work contains. “To me, the messages are many, the messages are valuable and to the world at large, the messages are eternal.” These objects which are gathered together with enormous effort are beyond time and beyond space,” he said. These relics have a place in our mind, in our thoughts and deserve to be held in the greatest esteem.

In her address, Mrs Gursharan Kaur called the two authors well-known personalities. Bhayee Sikandar Singh comes from a family that has served four Gurus. She recognised the contribution of the family of Bhai Sahibs of Bagrian which provided leadership to the community on matters of piety. “Roopinder,” she said, “has made a name for himself as a journalist and an author of eminence. He comes from a family of scholars. His father, the late Giani Gurdit Singh, was a well-known Sikh scholar, and is mother, was the first woman Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala.” Mr Gursharan Kaur added that she had the privilege of being her student for some time, till “I discovered that Philosophy is not my cup of tea.”

In the recent years, the Sikh diaspora has been helpful in creating more awareness about the religion and its followers. Sikh Heritage Foundation and the Smithsonian are both to be commended for their role in this endeavour, she said.

Everyone should to preserve the heritage, especially the mother tongue, she added, expressing her pain that Punjabi was not being spoken in many Punjabi homes and made a passionate plea to preserve our mother tongue.

Roopinder Singh, in his vote of thanks, expressed his gratefulness to the Gurus who have given us a heritage to preserve, and the many people who had contributed to the project, including the Smithsonian Institute and the Sikh Heritage Society, Weirton, WV.

Prominent among those who attend the event were the prominent journalist and Rajya Sabha member, H K Dua; Mrs Aditi Dua; former Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune, Hari Jaisingh; the social activist and prominent former police officer, Dr Kiran Bedi; former director of PGI Chandigarh JS Neki; National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions member Mohinder Singh, Punjabi Akademi vice-chairman Anita Singh, former Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Technical University, Dr Anoop Singh; film critic Shurbra Gupta, art critic Alka Pande, Brig Gurbax Singh (retd) and prominent media personalities including Rahul Singh, Shastri Ramachandran, A J Philip, Uttam Sengupta, Swaraaj Chauhan and L H Naqvi.

Among the Stephanians who came to the event were Profs Upinder Singh and Vijay Tankha, Nitya Ramakrishnan, Aditya Arya, Madhusudan Srinivas, Ritu Seghal, Sangeeta Mishra, Daldeep Singh Shukarchakia, Radhey Pratap Singh and Amitabh Marwah.