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Qila Ahluwalia


Apr 3, 2005
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Tribune Impact
INTACH to preserve Qila Ahluwalia
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 3
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has decided to preserve the 250-year-old qila belonging to Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, great Sikh warrior called Sultan-ul-Qaum, which is in a dilapidated condition.

Mr S.K. Mishra, Chairman, INTACH, in a letter to Mr Jagjit Singh Walia, president of the Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Memorial Society, stated that "the INTACH team will prepare detailed drawings of the two gates of Qila Ahluwalia and the estimates after which we shall approach the Punjab Government for funds. Restoration work for the gates could then be taken up. We are all keen that this historic building should be preserved."

The story about the crumbling fort was first highlighted in the columns of The Tribune. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, and his wife Isher Judge Ahluwalia paid a surprise visit to the qila last week to have first hand information about this heritage building and described it as a "national heritage" that needed immediate preservation.

Sardar Ahluwalia played a pivotal role in repelling foreign invasions during the 18th century. However, his exploits have been relegated to the pages of history books. He was acclaimed as a supreme leader of the Khalsa Panth and awarded the title of "Padshah" (king) or "Sultan-ul-Quam" (emperor of the Sikh community) after the conquest of Lahore by Sikhs in November, 1761, and the death of Nawab Kapur Singh Faizullapuria.

The indifference shown by the SGPC towards Sardar Ahluwalia can be gauged from the fact that Qila Ahluwalia, a few yards away from Harmandar Sahib, auctioned in the beginning of the 20th century by the British Government, is hardly visited by any official or Sikh leader. The site of the qila has emerged as a big shopping hub even as no one has bothered to preserve this heritage building belonging to the Sikh warrior.

A random survey showed that many senior SGPC officials are even unaware of the existence of the qila. The historical well on the qila premises is in bad shape. While a major portion of the fort has already been demolished by shopkeepers after its auction, the remaining parts of the historical building have started crumbling.

However, one of the gates, well and certain parts of the building are intact. These could be preserved if the state government pays proper attention to it.

According to historians, the fort was intact till 1850. Sardar Ahluwalia used to stay there. However, during the British regime, Marwaris purchased it in an auction.

The wall paintings on windows of the building seem to be the works dating back to the 19th century.

"There seems to be a clear impact of the European school of art, style and technique on the art work. Except one painting, which is of Lord Shiva, all others are European paintings." There are mostly landscapes in which beautiful English women with fairies and angels, children and couples are shown in English dresses.

However, the fine colour used in this artwork is fading.

Born with the blessings of the 10th Sikh Master and brought up under the tutelage of the Guru's wife Mata Sundri, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia played a pivotal role during the turbulent period following the demise of Guru Gobind Singh and fiercely fought against invaders. This ultimately paved the way for the establishment of the Sikh rule under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

A devout follower of Gurbani and fierce soldier on the battlefield, Jassa Singh epitomised the message of Miri Piri given by Guru Hargobind.
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