A dialogue with the falling Mangat Gurdwara, Pakistan
I still remember the vibrancy of the community in the pre-partition days. Those were the days!
I recall year 1604, when the fifth Nanak (Guru Arjan Dev) deputed Bhai Banno to get the first recension of the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture) bound at Lahore, and he passionately wrote a copy, bringing it to this village of Mangat. With inexpressible joy, the community honored the act by laying my foundation stone. Later during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign, he commissioned the expansion of my premises. As demonstration of pluralism, Muslim artisans were engaged to create frescos, resounding our collective Punjabi heritage. I became a symbol of coexistence – my outer walls representing mythical Hindu characters and even the word “Allah”, while the inner premises reflected the Sikh Gurus and verses of unity from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Then all hell broke loose.
On 3 March 1947, while the Sikh villages in the Potohar region were targeted by religious miscreants, you the commune of Mangat held grounds and gave stiff resistance to the marauders. Out-numbered and encircled on 5 September 1947, you finally evacuated to the Mandi Bahauddin Refugee Camp, where many of you were viciously massacred. As the Punjab burnt, I wept seeing it being stripped of its secularity.
I still recall the promise you made to return soon! I have now been waiting for seven decades!
As no one came back, I then decided to offer my premises for a noble cause, becoming the school building for the village of Mangat. In this act of nobility, I continued to support the spirit of secularity with which I was constructed. But then as my walls started falling apart due to sheer negligence by the very people to whom I was offering myself, yet again I was abandoned!
Now I stand desolate, choking for the last breath.
I saw a ray of hope, when you, Amardeep Singh (Author of “LOST HERITAGE The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”) visited me in October 2014, promising to appeal across the world for restoring me to my former glory.
Alas, you have failed too!
I know you made sincere appeals to organizations around the world to support your vision of adopting me. To restore me, devoid of the unthoughtful practice of slapping with marble and gold, as done with all other heritage sites across the Punjab. I, the falling Mangat Gurdwara, empathize and understand you, Amardeep Singh! It’s not your fault. It’s your community that is now in a materialistic slumber.
I may not be able to live till your next visit, but in these last remaining breaths, I wish to thank you for having made an effort!
Goodbye, the descendants of a proud and honorable community. Against all odds, your forefathers had once made history, while you enjoy the sleep!
Photographed in Oct 2014, during the research for the book “LOST HERITAGE The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”