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Samadhi of Raja Ranjit Singh: blend of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims architectural design

Samadhi of Raja Ranjit Singh: blend of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims architectural design

By Raiq Qureshi

ISLAMABAD, Feb 09 (APP):Samadhi, last resting place of Raja Ranjit Singh, located adjacent to Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, near Gurdwara Derasahib (Guru Arjan Dev), is a beautiful blend of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims architectural design with gilded fluted domes and cupolas and a complex railing around the top.

The front of the doorway has images of Ganesh, Devi and Brahma, the Hindu deities, cut in red sand stone while the dome is heavily decorated with Naga (serpent) hood designs, a rich and fitting tribute to Hindu craftsmanship.

The wood panels on the ceiling are covered with stained glass work and the walls have rich floral designs. The ceilings are decorated with glass mosaic work. It said that the Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s ashes are contained in a marble urn in the shape of a lotus, sheltered under a marble pavilion inlaid with pietra dura, in the centre of the tomb. The Maharaja does not lie alone there.

Surrounding him, in smaller knob-like urns, are the ashes of four sati queens (burned alive on the pyre with their husband) and seven slave girls. The ashes of two pigeons, burnt while flying over the pyre, also have their place in the Samadhi. Under UNESO world heritage sites, it was also enlisted by PB-79 in the category of shrines.

This Samadhi was originally built on eight pillars. Due to depreciation of the building over time, cracks appeared in the pillars. The British government, under the orders of Sir Donald Macleod, late Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, erected thick iron rings around all the old pillars and raised eight additional pillars. The entire building is now supported by sixteen pillars.

According to the historians and Sikh texts, the restoration and preservation by the British government at that time was just because he had good terms with British before invading Lahore. The government gave have him tribute by restoring and maintaining his last resting place.

There are indications that some of the material used in the construction of this building was taken from the Mughal buildings, especially the Fort. The large marble door frame of the main entrance the Samadhi, ornamented with pietra dura work, corroborates that it has been taken from the Sheesh Mahal of the Lahore Fort.

Similarly, about 21 other marble door frames at different places in the building apparently also came from some other Mughal buildings in the Fort. This is also proved by the fact that while building the Hazuri Bagh pavilion, Maharaja Ranjit Singh got many pieces from Jahangir’s tomb in Shahdara.

Talking to APP, Salman Ahmed, a local resident said that the Samadhi was facing difficulties due to climate changes and other factors. He urged the incumbent government to look after this historic building as it reflects the history and traditions of the past.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was born in 1780 in Gujranwala had his first taste of battle when he was hardly ten years old. It was Sahib Singh Bhangi (they were called bhangis as they used to drink ‘Bhang’ all the time) of Gujarat (a town in Punjab, now in Pakistan). Mahan Singh died in 1792 when Ranjit Singh was only 12 years old.

Being too young to manage the affairs of the state, his mother Raj Kaur became his guardian. Ranjit Singh learnt riding and shooting in early years of his life. As per Sikh History, it was July 7, 1799 when victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore. On April 12 1801, Ranjit Singh declared himself Maharaja of Punjab.

Mohammad Farooq, a local journalist in Lahore, said Rohtas Fort and tomb of Anarkali are some of those historical structures which remained under the Sikh dynasty for a long period of time. He said that it represents the picture of Sikh Raj in many prospective.

Ranjit Singh, the one-eyed Sikh ruler of the Punjab (ruled 1801-1839), considered himself the heir to the Mughal Empire. He not only followed many of the customs of the Mughal court, but also built buildings utilising elements taken from Mughal monuments.

Historic accounts state that even though he had conquered the citadel of the Mughals, he is said to have never seated himself on the throne in the Fort.

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