Kids Corner

Photos by the author


Our Historical Heritage Crumbling in India's Museums




I had an opportunity to visit the Anglo Sikh War Memorial in Ferozepur District of Punjab in February 2011.

The Memorial was designed as a tribute to the Sikh soldiers who lost their lives in the wars between Sikhs and the British army after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The memorial is a beautiful concrete building designed by H.S. Chopra, Senior Architect, who was inspired by Le Corbusier's architecture in Chandigarh. The building is surrounded by what were once lush green landscaped gardens. The memorial is accessed from an approach road by a ramped footpath with gardens on either side.

Flanking the footpath were two cannons on gun carriages made of hybrid timber/ mild steel structure with large wooden wheels rimmed with mild steel. Nearby, there were two police officers standing on guard.

It was shocking to see the state of these antique cannon carriages. The timber structures had rotted and one of the carriages had collapsed and the timber spokes of the wheels, to my surprise, were still lying nearby.

The other gun carriage was barely intact but rotten timber showed signs of imminent collapse.

It was a sorry scene which reflected utter lack of care and appreciation for Sikh heritage. It was also reflected a general attitude which was visible all over Punjab, and the rest of India for that matter, where heritage buildings and articles are often allowed to decay without proper maintenance.

The memorial building displayed paintings depicting scenes of the Anglo-Sikh battles. The large paintings were carefully located in their niches to receive optimum light. The museum design showed a serious effort to create a lasting memorial to the Sikh Raj and no effort appeared to have been spared in its design and construction, some 40 years ago.

The lack of care and maintenance witnessed outside the memorial, also persisted inside.

The paintings had faded, the building was full of spider webs and it had not been dusted for years.

My friend who was accompanying me - fully familiar with the maintenance of buildings - commented that the
memorial could be easily cleaned up/ dusted off for a meager sum of a few hundred rupees but because administrators are waiting for grants from the ‘higher authorities' for this purpose, it results in a deplorable state.

It also shows a lack of a sense of ownership on the part of the memorial employees and associates who expect someone else to take the responsibility for the upkeep of the building.

Whether it is a policeman guarding the gun carriages or the museum managers, if you complain of the lack of repairs, they politely state that it is not their responsibility - ‘Please take this up with the higher authorities,' they mutter.

As the ‘higher authorities' are invisible, and beyond reproach, the status quo persists.

Since my visit, I have learnt that the Memorial was going through a refurbishment. Let us hope it happens.

Even if does, the question is: should such decadence have been allowed to pervade before any action was taken?


April 8, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: H.S. Vachoa (USA), April 08, 2011, 5:27 PM.

We would prefer to lose the fundamental symbols of our own existence and heritage rather than give up our chance to show our personal piety by pretending to fight for the right of turban, kirpans and hair. Our identity has compeletely lost its dignity of heritage. No wonder then we ask why the world doesn't know about Sikhs and their heritage. We are harbouring a large element of dysfunctionals.

2: Raj (Canada), April 08, 2011, 10:53 PM.

Anyone who has visited the Alamo in San Antonio knows that it's run by a non-profit organization with support from ordinary citizens. We should support these causes ourselves, with our own means. Don't look for handouts from the government.

3: Jesroshan Singh (Malaysia), April 08, 2011, 11:54 PM.

Nothing lasts forever in this world. Nevertheless, this is our Sikh heritage and I believe our heritage will only be protected once we have our own Khalistan where our government will be filled with responsible Sikhs, not invisible Hindus who are busy fighting graft and caste.

4: Kirpal Singh (DaytonaBeach, Florida, U.S.A.), April 09, 2011, 8:39 AM.

Sikh heritage is for Sikhs to protect and not for the government of any country, including if there was a Khalistan. It requires awareness and desire on the part of Sikhs primarily to preserve their existence, history and heritage. We have responsibility to educate our posterity and others but not "they". Why should "they"? Do we teach about "them" in our homes and institutions?

Comment on "Our Historical Heritage Crumbling in India's Museums"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.