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Poet, Singer, and Activist

My Visit to the Historical City of Sultanpur Lodhi, a Hidden Jewel in Punjab

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Discussion | 7 comments

Historical Sultanpur Lodhi

Mosque inside the compounds of the Historical Sultanpur Lodhi Fort

I have just returned from a wonderful visit to India, and as usual I spent most of my time in Punjab visiting family and friends, with a day or two in Delhi. The main reason for my visit this time was to attend my nephew’s wedding in Gurdaspur, and then there was a very interesting Parvassi Samelan in Punjab during this month.

Since my time is very limited, I don’t usually venture outside what is familiar. Aside from visiting various historical Gurduaras in Punjab and of course Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar, I wasn’t even aware of historical places in Punjab, and even less of a movement to preserve it. I was delighted to have been invited to visit the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort, apparently built in 1 A.D.  I am not a scholar or academic with any in-depth knowledge about the history, but it is a place that I am glad some people are taking the initiative to preserve before it is bulldozed to the ground and a mall comes in its place in the name of “progress.”

Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to visit this historic place for a deeply moving experience. He is the chairman and Founder at the Anad Foundation, which aims to preserve the history and also the artistic culture of that history, especially Punjab’s musical traditions, like the dying art of the Rabab, and artistic traditions like calligraphy. He is also a very talented musician. To find more details of the history of the fort, check out this link and definitely check out the Anad Foundation.

IMG_4817_resizedAt first, I thought my ignorance that this historic fort even exists was because  I live thousands of miles from Punjab, but many of my relatives or friends in Punjab, who lived in the vicinity of it,didn’t know of its existence or significance either. So there is certainly something else going on and the major reason is that Sultanpur Lodhi is not being treated with respect as it deserves as a place of historical significance for Indians, Punjabis, and especially an important part of Sikh history. A similar effort one hears is underway to preserve historic sites in other places in India, so I fully encourage this to take place in the Punjab.

The audience in attendance of the seminar Bhai Baldeep Singh invited me to were calligraphers, painters of Gurbani Ragas, poets, and those with an interest in preserving this important part of our history as Punjabis and Indians, but especially for those who are Sikh. I felt greatly honored to be amongst them and found the entire event utterly engaging and thought provoking.

My son-in-law’s family live in Kapurthala next door to Sultanpur Lodhi, and they insisted I should come visit them first, and then they will take me to Sultanpur Lodhi. I quickly accepted the twin invitation. I never say no to kind hospitality, good food, and great conversation! The road from Chandigarh was in a thick fog and I almost felt like I was back in the Central Valley of California! The fog blanketed the roads and wouldn’t lift for the entire day, which really raised expectations of what this historic site would be like. Even back in California, I try not to drive anywhere when weather conditions aren’t good, but this was completely worth the hazardous road conditions, although I would strongly recommend waiting for the fog to lift before driving!

Just a few miles from Sultanpur Lodhi, I attended Khalsa College in Amritsar. My wife grew up just a few miles in the other direction in Tarn Taran, yet neither of us had ever stopped to see a treasure in the form of a historical place at Sultanpur Lodhi for all Indians, Punjabis, and especially Sikhs. Growing up in Bhakna a few miles away in the west, I heard stories from the Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak Dev Ji returning from his meditative trance and declaring what would become the foundation of the Sikh religion and resonated with the ideology of the Ghadrites who really tried to put in practice: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim,” a call to the end of discrimination and a fight for human rights, a fight that continues today.

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One often worries and complains about the destroyed history due to ignorance as the marble has replaced our humble yet proud heritage up and down the country over the years. But what about the landmarks still standing by the mere stroke of luck or their sheer resilience and are in the state of complete neglect and encroachment only waiting to be replaced or come down on their own? One such monument of the greatest importance for the Sikhs is the Nawab’s fort at Sultanpur Lodhi! Many people believe that the mosque still standing within the compounds of this fort (Quila) is the same mosque where the Nawab Daulat Khan had invited Guru Nanak to participate in that much talked about namaz or Muslim prayer. Next to the mosque, there remains that ancient narrow brick lined well which is now covered by an iron grill.

All of the photographs you see in this blog post were taken by an incredibly gifted young Punjabi photographer, Anhad Khinda, my son-in-law’s nephew, and I am very happy he takes such care with this art form. Follow him on instagram @anhad_khinda. Below are some more images he took of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort and the last one is just outside it: 

Sultanpur Lodhi ©Anhad Khinda 2013

Part picture of Sultanpur Lodhi Fort taken from within compound walls

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Sultanpur Lodhi Fort Main Entrance

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Outside the Sultanpur Lodhi Fort is a ruin called HADERA which is believed to be once the place of rest for the queens on their way to royal gardens.

Have you visited Sultanpur Lodhi? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience. 

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Lohri Message 2013: Is Punjabi a Dying Language? It may well be!

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Discussion | 0 comments

Lohri 4In view of the intense debate started about the future of one of the most ancient languages and associated cultures i.e. Punjabi and Punjabiat  and as a concerned citizen who watches this debate closely, I wrote an article titled, “Is Punjabi a Dying Language? and posted it on April 2, 2012. As usual I received some very interesting comments. One of the most recent comments that I received in the new year a few days ago was by Jehanzeb Mahar from Pakistan and I quote, “A few months ago, in Pakistan, parliamentarians from Sindh forwarded a bill calling for giving the status of national language to Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi, to a parliamentary committee. Amazingly, the members from Punjab, alongwith Urdu members, came out to be the most vocal opponents of the bill. So, the bill was rejected and couldn’t even be presented in the parliament for voting.” Vow! You should read that again and ponder!!
The question arises if the goodwill is any better on the eastern border of the Indus Valley?

Tradition has it that all Punjabis celebrate Lohri as a festival in their own ways, families get together and exchange good wishes. Not intending to water down the jubilations, I wonder how many of us really know the sober history behind it all. Reflecting on this and to bring it to the forefront of all concerned Punjabis living at home or in the Diaspora, I thought it appropriate to publish again the article as well as my Punjabi poem, ” Ma Boli Punjabie Tera Kon Vichara”, which I had written and posted on the website. Celebrating this ‘Lohri’ will not be complete unless it rekindles the spirit of ‘Dulla Bhatti’ of yesteryears who laid down his life saving the honor of a daughter of Punjab. From the ongoing it appears now the honor of Punjabi Ma is at stake!

On this note I leave you with the links to read my article as well as my poem and ponder :

http://www.pashaurasinghdhillon.com/punjabipoetry/romanized-tera-kaun-vichara/

http://www.pashaurasinghdhillon.com/discussion/punjabiadyinglanguage/

 

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Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election (Part 1)

Posted by on Aug 15, 2011 in Discussion, Radio Show | 3 comments

Punjab Elections 2012Punjab Assembly Elections are here one more time at Punjab’s doorsteps. In the spirit of “freedom,” there will be candidates and party propagandists from the parties in power and aspiring for power, selling their new slogans and others repackaging or coining new phrases to sell the old ones, all in the hopes of getting our votes and becoming elected in the 2012 Elections. The voter, on the other hand, is also getting smarter and shrewder if not totally fatigued and frustrated over this seasonal drama recurring every 5 years since 1952. The voter is expected to look and listen more carefully this year before casting his or her vote. As far as the NRIs in the Diaspora are concerned, since they have no vote or have no bowl of rice directly at stake one way or the other, it is big community news and the subject of gossip and discussion anywhere Punjabis congregate: at Gurdwaras, Mandirs, and Masjids all over the world, including California, where I and many other Punjabis, live.

Eying the voter at home in Punjab, there will be horse trading, arm twisting and dangling of all kinds of carrots to lure the voters in and keep the candidates to toe the line. Paid news, muscle power, threats, blackmailing, bribery, alcohol, and drugs are almost seen as acceptable and “natural” means to seduce the bride to come to the altar for all states in India. Falling for an extra fancy for it, and taking it to new heights or depths (depending on your perspective), this practice has been especially facilitated in the land of five rivers by our successive governments over the years so much so that this has slowly but surely crept into our most sacred of elections for our religious institutions such as the SGPC. People in general and that includes our political parties, have little faith in the local police. Running an honest and ethical election has become quite the challenge for the Election Commission who is contemplating import policing to conduct their business this time; this is what democracy looks like today!

View Irony of Punjabis and Our 2012 Election (Part 2)

 

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Irony of Punjabis and our 2012 Election (Part 2)

Posted by on Aug 14, 2011 in Discussion, Radio Show | 0 comments

The Ghadar Party

The Ghadar Party

History repeats itself we often hear. What was witnessed here in North America during Manpreet Singh Badal’s recent visit was unusual to put it mildly. 100 years ago in 1913, Indians working in America and Canada primarily from Punjab formed a movement which began with a group of immigrants known as the Hindustani Workers of the Pacific Coast. Under the presidentship of Sohan Singh Bhakna and guidance from Lala Hardyal, it established its headquarters in San Francisco, California. This Hindustani or Indian Association later came to be better known as the Ghadar Party. The aim of the Ghadar Party was to force the British to “Quit” India after their hold on the country for 100 years, and regain the self-respect of every Indian – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, and Atheist alike.

Not many people may be aware of the fact that having come away from India and watching Americans enjoying  as a free nation, the Ghadrites were the first group of Indians who had dreamt the dream of freeing India some 15 years before the Indian Congress passed its resolution in 1928 to the same effect. Their dream was to set up a national democratic government on the sub-continent similar to the federal system of the United States of America.

Coming from enslaved India a century ago in 1913 and being so few in numbers as workers in America, they kept their meetings secret yet they all gathered together in these same cities in California to rally support amongst their countrymen. How the Ghadrites did what they did and became such catalysts in the wider struggle to free India is a history now!  And because of their sacrifices we are not only free in India, we are also free in  America as NRIs and proud Sikh Americans, playing full part in making this country the best place to live.

View Irony of Punjabis and Our 2012 Election (Part 2)

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Heer Forever Stands Tall (ਗੁੱਝੀ ਰਹੇ ਨਾ ਹੀਰ ਹਜ਼ਾਰ ਵਿਚੋਂ ): A Post on Punjab

Posted by on Feb 7, 2011 in Discussion | 1 comment


Free Audio Download of me singing “Heer: Ranjha Leaves Takht Hazara” (a-capella)

“Heer forever stands Tall” is something I, and I’m sure many Punjabis take for granted. That Waris Shah’s tragic love story, “Heer” would be counted amongst the most poignant love stories of the world.

But this is not so. Not according to the many lists my son, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, who teaches English literature at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, sent me.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing a radio talk on folklore literature for the Punjab News and Views Program Radio Talk Show, presented on KBIF900AM,  in Fresno California. It is a discussion program in Punjabi for our central valley family of Punjabi listeners, which I co-host each Sunday between 3.00- 4.00PM. I asked Navdeep if there was a list of famous love stories in literature and folklore revered worldwide. He immediately sent me several lists. And surprisingly, while some of them mentioned some Indian love stories, none of them even mentioned Heer-Ranjha, or any other Punjabi love story. But William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was at the top of most of these lists.

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