When the exhibition Sikh Heritage opens at the Lahore Fort today (Thursday), it will be a first on many counts.
For one, none of the items on display have been exhibited before.
The event will also mark the first time that the government has organised an exhibition of objects, relevant to the Sikh history in the Punjab, to coincide with the annual Baisakhi festival. Thousands of Sikh yatris (pilgrims) are in the country to celebrate the festival, which marks the day when their 10th guru organised the order of the Khalsa. This year about 1,100 Sikh yatris from India and about 1,000 from other countries arrived in Pakistan for the Baisakhi festival on April 10. About 300 yatris were issued special invitations for the event.
Lastly, with the exhibition, the Sheesh Mahal will be reopened – if only for a limited time – to the public after almost seven years. The Punjab Archaeology Department had closed it to the public after the structure was restored in 2004. In 2006, the public was allowed access to the Sheesh Mahal for a few days when the work of artisans from across Pakistan was displayed in the basement.
The exhibition, for which the Archaeology Department and the Archives Department have contributed a number of documents and artefacts belonging to the period of Sikh rule in the Punjab, is being organised with the help of the Evacuee Trust Property Board and the Dayal Singh Society.
Officials of the Archaeology Department told The Express Tribune that among the items being displayed at the Lahore Fort exhibition were clothes, swords and pottery belonging to Ranjit Singh and his son Sher Singh as well as the personal belongings of Ranjit Singh’s wife, Maharani Mahtab Devi Sahiba.
For its part, the Archives Department has transported its entire Princess Bamba Sophia Jindan collection from the Civil Secretariat to the Fort, Archives and Libraries Secretary Orya Maqbool Jan told The Express Tribune. The collection, which has been named after the daughter of Duleep Singh (one of Ranjit Singh’s sons), consists of miniature paintings of Sikh royals, the official record of Ranjit Singh’s government and documents belonging to Ranjit Singh’s sons Duleep and Kharak Singh.
Also on display will be the official Sale of Kashmir papers.
An Archaeology Department official said the event had been arranged as a “goodwill gesture to promote religious tourism”.
The exhibition will be inaugurated by Governor Makhdum Syed Ahmed Mahmood at 10 am. The relics will remain on display till April 20 between 9 am and 5 pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2013.