Once in a while I come across a book that I wish to bring to the attention of my friends and colleagues. Below is a review I have written of Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan (Hardcover).
Book Review by Dr. Harbans Lal
LOST HERITAGE: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan (Hardcover)
By Amardeep Singh
Published in 2016 by The Nagaara Trust inAssociation with Himalayan Books, New Delhi. 492 Pages. Price: $80 USD.
Order at www.lostheritagebook.com
Amardeep Singh, author of the book Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, was, in his own words, “propelled by a deep-rooted desire to connect with the land of our Gurus”, which was left behind in Pakistan by millions of Sikhs due to the painful partition of India in 1947. He wanted to “delve into the vestiges of a community, which was impelled to move eastwards” from land where the Sikhs’ ancestors flourished between the 15th and 20th centuries.
Amardeep, born in Gorakhpur (India), has lived across India, Hong Kong, and Singapore. After his education at The Doon School, he pursued his education in Electronics Engineering and Business Administration in the top universities of India and the USA. While actively engaged in the corporate sector, he passionately cultivated his interests in literary and creative arts (for example, see here).
To write this book, Amardeep journeyed to Pakistan in 2014 and explored the Sikh legacy in West Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. I rightfully address these areas as our holy land on account of the countless foot-prints left by our Gurus in these regions. I too had the good fortune of living in and visiting those lush lands.
The author writes lucidly and fervently. His narratives are interspersed with photographs of historic monuments, forts, battlegrounds, commercial and residential establishments, and places of worship. They all bear mute witness to the ineptness of the Sikh leadership of that time for not gauging the fateful consequences of leaving the Sikhs’ national heritage behind – the heritage that served as the foundational stones of Sikhs’ existence.
The book is divided into 60 chapters containing detailed and well-researched narratives. The chapters are aptly titled, so aptly that they would evoke the reader’s interest and deserve to be listed below:
In search of our roots, From Singapore to Amritsar , From Amritsar to Lahore, The mystic poet martyred!, Cenotaph of the ‘Lion of Punjab’, Lion’s buri, The Lion’s cub, Divine retribution, Conspiracies in the haveli, Mahajirs in cenotaphs, Sukhmani’s impact on Wazir, In the periphery, Fakir Khana Museum, Martyrs of Naulakha, Footprints in Lahore, The revered Sufi Saint, The diamond that has never been sold, The dancing Faqir, ‘Boota, where are you?, Burden of guilt, Illegal sales and deeds, Eat my flesh leave my eyes, Some say Ram some Allah!, Melting pot, Universal brotherhood, “There is no fighting on cabbages!, Panja Sahib, Meeting Noori, Rape of Rawalpindi, The North-Western Frontier, From turbulence to prosperity, Abbottabad, Jihad, A bloodied bridge, Butt Snooker Club, The road to Jhelum, Interrogation Centre, Tears rained from his eyes, I am with Jogi, First War of Independence, Butchers of Bahauddin, The humble Saint, Banno vali Bir, Italian Governor’s town, Gaudis of Punjab, The glory that was . Worldly illusions, Buddhu’s Awa, The changing road, Shalima Gardens, Baoli Bagh, Bhai Mani Singh, From France to Punjab, The Philanthropist, sava lakh, Crumbling fort, Nankana Sahib, Farewell to Pakistan.
These chapters are followed by an extensive glossary for the benefit of our new generations.
The narrative in the chapters above are interspersed with 507 photographs, all expertly taken and professionally finished. They show selections for inclusivity of the variety among many Sikh artifacts as well as messages behind them. They include many sacred Sikh shrines, town gurdwaras, historic monuments, forts and battlegrounds, and commercial and residential establishments, all with carefully selected details. There are maps to illustrate various placements and present neighborhoods.
This illustrative exploration and scholarly organization of the Sikh architecture, culture, and history brings to life for us that part of the Sikh heritage that is almost taken as discarded or lost.
The reader will also find that Sikh values are amply illustrated in the art and narratives included in this book: values such as spiritualty, altruism, goodness, bravery and fearlessness, universality, secularism, perseverance, interfaith engagement, and optimism.
Amardeep Singh’s book is very timely. Even though I was born and grew up in the areas included in this book, I could not take my eyes off it once I started perusing its narratives. I highly recommend it for libraries of educational institutions in South Asia, East Asia, and the West. Scholars as well as lay readers of Sikh history will benefit from this work. And our new generation in the Diaspora will be enlightened by the knowledge illustrated in its 492 pages.