There is a dire need for a strategy on the preservation of the Sikh way of life, including historic Sikh artifacts and gurdwaras. Sikh organisations including the Punjab Government, SGPC and Gurdwaras must endeavour to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance. We would highly recommend the creation of a 'heritage preservation trust' with funds/ resources (at their disposal) that are capable of delivering a structured program of improvement.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji saroops, such as this one which was shot
Why should we care about heritage preservation? Historic buildings and artifacts are physical links to our past. It's about saving the layers and layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors. Without that, we'd erase the stories of our past, as if the people who came before us never existed.
What needs to be done? A comprehensive strategy needs to be developed (and not limited) to the following area's -
2. Punjabi language (speaking Gurbani phrases in everyday use).
3. Preserving Sikh artifacts (inlcuding historics Guru Granth saroops) in secure climate controlled environments.
4. Developing, maintaining and preserving Historic Sikh Gurdwaras.
5. Full implementation of the 1973 Anandpur Sahib Resolution.
The negligence, gross dereliction of duty, ineptitude, carelessness and reckless disregard of some Gurdwara custodians is very worrying and resulting in the loss of Sikh history. For example, some Gurdwaras have used concrete and marble to encase Historic tree's graced with the presence of the Sikh Gurus. How are the sacred trees supposed to survive and receive rain water if they are encased, continually touched and polluted with oily hands? No wonder the trees are becoming sick and drying out.
For the Sikh community, a Gurdwara is not just a place of worship, it is a social institution as well. Gurdwaras have revenue streams via donations from Sikhs everyday and/ or via properties attached to them. Several educational and other institutions are run with the help of these funds; some of the schools function on Gurdwara premises. Often, marriages and various other ceremonies are performed in the Gurdwaras.
Many historic Sri Guru Granth Sahib's are being lost due to the inability to look after them in proper condition's. As remembered by every Ardas, Sikhs need to ask more searching questions and address;
Why haven't all Gurdwara's in Pakistan been returned to Sikhs?
Why haven't Sikhs been given full access to all Gurdwaras in Pakistan?
Why have some Gurdwaras in Pakistan been allowed to be illegally occupied by muslims?
Why have some historic Gurdwaras been allowed to fall apart, despite owning generous amounts of land?
The Pakistan WAQF Board neglects its repsonsibility with regard to Sikh Gurdwaras. Here's what Pakistan law says about the Appointment of Chief Administrator of Auqaf - 'No person shall be appointed as Chief Administrator unless he is muslim and possesses such qualifications as may be prescribed by Government'.
For many years, so called Sikh leaders and Gurdwara committees (in India and abroad) have been failing the Sikh community and failing themselves. Masands are currently ruling the community through misguided beliefs and are failing to make any significant progress in the name of Sikhi. Many historic buildings in Punjab have been destroyed to make way for larger concrete and marble structures.
In earlier days, many a decision affecting the social and political life of the community used to be taken in the gurdwaras through a consensus of the sangat; These decisions, called gurmattas, were of a binding character, and a member of the community would think twice before violating them. Many important decisions were taken at the Akal Takht in Amritsar. There are four other historical Gurdwaras, given the status of Takhts (literally thrones) where the decisions taken by the sangat had great importance. These are Harmandir Sahib (Patna), Keshgarh Sahib (Anandpur), Damdama Sahib (Talwandi Sabo) and Hazur Sahib (Nanded).
Most of the important historical Sikh Gurdwaras in Punjab are managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, a statutory body elected from amongst the members of the community. The other gurdwaras also generally have locally elected and registered managing committees. The community had, however, to undergo great suffering to acquire the control of these Gurdwaras.
Sikhs have an amazing history that needs to be preserved using modern Archaeological methods for future generations.
(above picture is the archaeological crypt of Notre-Dame, Paris)
In the last century, a hereditary group of priests or mahants had entrenched themselves in these Gurdwaras, and they were treating them as their personal property. The large income from the lands attached to the Gurdwaras and the offering of the devotees was used up by the mahants in pursuit of pleasures of the flesh and in debauchery. Even in matters of prayers, they had introduced idolatry and other practices contrary to the basic tenets of the Sikh faith. A movement for the reform of the gurdwaras and their management was, therefore, launched.
The British rulers backed the mahants and their vested interests. For the Sikhs, the rescue of the gurdwaras from the clutches of the mahants was a matter of survival of the faith, and in this struggle they had to bear the wrath of both the alien rulers and the corrupt, demoniac priests A non-violent campaign had to be launched by the Sikhs in Amritsar, Nankana Sahib and elsewhere. Thousands were beaten up mercilessly by the hired toughs of the mahants and the police. Several people laid down their lives in the struggle but the movement succeeded eventually in the vesting of the management in the hands of the community.
A Cultural Genocide is being carried out against the Sikh's. Cultural Genocide is the systematic destruction of traditions, values, language, and other elements which make a one group of people distinct from other groups.
Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples used the phrase "Cultural Genocide" but did not define what it meant. The complete article in the draft read as follows;
Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;
(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.
This wording only appeared in a draft. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, but only mentions "genocide, or any other act of violence" in Article 7 (the only reference to genocide in the document). The concept of "ethnocide" and "cultural genocide" was removed in the version adopted by the General Assembly, but the sub-points noted above from the draft were retained (with slightly expanded wording) in Article 8 that speaks to "the right not to be subject to forced assimilation".
It is said in order to destroy a race, you must destroy its history, traditions, values, language, and other elements. This is exactly what is and has been happening against Sikhs.
For the benefit of the Sangat we have provided one of the largest and most comprehensive archives on Historic Sikh Gurdwaras.
Discover the Sikh Heritage by browsing through hundreds of Gurdwaras in an easily searchable and readable format. The Gurdwara section is a great resource for research or planning travel.
Sikhs are extremely proud of an amazing and distinct heritage. There are many hidden wonders to be found at these Historic Gurdwaras. The Discover Sikhism Team would encourage you to take your time investigating as many Gurdwaras as you can. You may be surprised at the discoveries you make.
The main idea behind the Historic Gurdwara section is to raise awareness and provide information about the historic gurdwaras, locations and stories associated with the Sikh Guru's (Guru Sahibhan) and other historic Sikhs (during the period of the Sikh Guru's). We are aware that some of the information may not have been verified however we have tried to share the best available information. We will continue to improve the information in due course.
We hope this section will inspire others to carry out further research and share information about these wonderful historic places that have played such a special role in the history of Sikhi. Some of the historic locations are in a dire condition and need looking after. Although we ask for no donations we hope that you can visit and support the historic Gurdwaras by yourself so that we can keep the Sikh history alive for all.
Jahaz Haveli Todar Mal, the owners who are remembered for buying a small piece of land (for the cremation of the dead bodies of
Mata Gujri, the mother of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, and Sahibzadey Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh) at an exorbitant price.
There are many sites like this one that need to be preserved.
Note: Sikh's visit historic sites as a reminder of the Sikh Guru's, to learn about their sakhis (stories), to learn about their teachings and (most importantly) to be part of the sangat (community). Sikh do not perform pilgrimages or yatra's (a hindu ritual) to holy sites in the name of religion as other faiths do. There is no purification or salvation to be gained just by a physical visit.
ਜੈ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਤਟਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਜਾਹੀ ॥ ਰਤਨ ਪਦਾਰਥ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਮਾਹੀ ॥
Jai kāraṇ ṯat ṯirath jāhī. Raṯan paḏārath ghat hī māhī.
For the sake of it, you journey to sacred shrines and holy rivers; but this priceless jewel is within your own heart.
ਜਿਸ ਦੀ ਖਾਤਰ ਤੂੰ ਪਵਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਨਦੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਕਿਨਾਰਿਆਂ ਤੇ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈਂ, ਉਹ ਅਮੋਲਕ ਜਵੇਹਰ ਤੇਰੇ ਮਨਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਹੀ ਹੈ।
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 152
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
Other Gurbani Contributors