Day Twelve: KAREN-EMMA WHITE
Back In Amritsar -
The Khalsa College
Today I had the opportunity to visit the prestigious Khalsa College in Amritsar.
Designed by the renowned Sikh architect and designer, Bhai Ram Singh -- who also designed the exquisite Queen Victoria’s Darbar Hall in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom -- and built in 1892, it’s difficult to put into words the grandeur of the building and it’s size.
The College is every Britisher’s idea of an exotic palace! The building has been sympathetically maintained and new buildings blend into their surroundings well. As a seat of learning, there is a small museum and study centre on site.
The College had been following my trip via local newspapers, and were keen that I had a look at their collection and offer some advice. The collection has some fascinating works on paper and like some of the other museums in the area, they have weaponry and a large number of photos.
Unfortunately like many of the museums I’ve been to here, no one on site seems to have had any formal museum training. However they were very open to ideas and how they could use some best practice models from the UK … which was great.
The College aspires to redisplay and open the museum to the general public, which I am sure would be very popular. And as every good museum in Amritsar should, it too has an of Maharajah Duleep Singh -- an old photograph.
I didn’t really have the opportunity to take too many photos, but I managed to snap one of the entrance hall, which reminded me of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace and, of course, Elveden Hall (Duleep Singh‘s palace back in Thetford, England.)
Fortunately the College building is supported by a regular maintenance programme and looked in very good condition. The site itself is on the outskirts of Amritsar, so feels very peaceful with lush lawns and excellent sporting facilities.
The second part of my visit gave me the opportunity to meet some of the students and staff. Today is Holi, so the College itself was rather quiet although I did see several students covered in bright powder as we arrived.
I gave a talk on Maharajah Duleep Singh’s story and the Anglo-Sikh work at the Ancient House Museum. Most of the students had heard of the Maharajah, but were unaware that he had tried to reclaim his throne and return to Punjab. They were really interested in the Anglo-Sikh work going on in Thetford, especially the Prince Frederick Duleep Singh cricket match and Gatka performances.
And of course everyone recognised the singer, Satinder Singh Sartaaj, when an image of him at the museum appeared!
The response from everyone to my trip has been so positive, I’ve lost count of the times people have said thank you for telling the Duleep Singh story or how surprised they are that a museum in the UK is so interested in Sikh culture.
On my part, I thought the students were fantastic, especially as some had given up their Holi and Hola celebrations to meet me. To mark my visit the college presented me with a framed photograph of the building.
Back in the city centre, people were out and about enjoying their holiday. I really wanted to take some photos of paint and powder covered people, but every time I saw some, they were whizzing past on a motorbike! I did manage to catch two looking very splendid, though.
Sadly, tomorrow is my last day, although I will be leaving with a notebook full of connections and partnerships to be developed fully. I have loved my visit to Punjab and have started to make a wish list of where to visit next – Patiala is at the top!
March 7, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Kaala Singh (Punjab), March 07, 2015, 7:39 AM.
It is really heartening to know that this institution is well taken care-of. The same should be the case with all Sikh heritage sites in Punjab and heritage tourism can become big business. Revenues from tourism can be used for their upkeep without depending on the government. It is time for Punjab to rise economically and regain its status as a vibrant place for business, living and leisure.
2: Harinder Singh 1469 (New Delhi, India), March 07, 2015, 1:38 PM.
A most fascinating structure indeed, designed with Sikh heritage and traditions in mind. Little known to, or visited by, Sikhs on the subcontinent, but popular with Sikhs visiting from the diaspora. Every Sikh should check it out ... something we should be proud of and cherish!