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Narowal haveli has nothing to do with Baba Guru Nanak

Updated May 28, 2019

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Travel writer and poet Irfan Shahood had visited the haveli – or saraye -- and documented it through pictures. — Photo by Awon Ali
Travel writer and poet Irfan Shahood had visited the haveli – or saraye -- and documented it through pictures. — Photo by Awon Ali

LAHORE: A building in Bathanwala village in Narowal with pictures of Baba Guru Nanak on some of its walls is not a shrine or sacred Sikh place where Guru Nanak stayed.

Travel writer and poet Irfan Shahood had visited the haveli — or saraye — and documented it through pictures and a blog last year. He rejected the impression that the haveli had anything to do with the founder of Sikhism, adding that it was not a sacred place related to Sikh religion or its founder, but just a haveli. Locals knew the building as ‘Haveli Ranjit Singh’, he tells Dawn.

“The people who occupied the haveli at the time of my visit told me that it was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh for a relative of one of Singh’s three wives belonging to that area,” says Mr Shahood.

He adds that Sikh historian and writer Amardeep Singh, who has documented the whole of Sikh heritage in Pakistan in his book, Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, has not mentioned this haveli as it had nothing to do with Sikhism.

“The followers of Baba Guru Nanak would establish a gurdwara wherever he stayed even for a couple of days,” says Shahood, adding that the building could not be older than 200 years, as Nanak Shahi bricks had been used in its construction, which were common during Ranjit Singh’s period. He further says that the walls of the building had fresco work on them depicting Guru Nanak, which was a common sight in Sikh havelis.

Commenting on the haveli, writer and historian Amardeep Singh writes in a Facebook post: “Such buildings of Sikh era with frescos of Guru Nanak are in abundance across Pakistan. Frescos of Guru Nanak inside the building do not make it a palace of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak never stayed in any palace.”

Shahid Shabbir, who has also documented Sikh heritage in Pakistan, confirmed that no Sakhi mentions that Guru Nanak stayed at this place. “The building does belong to Khalsa period but it’s not related to any religious personality of Sikhism. It’s also not mentioned in Sialkot Gazetteer or Nagar Nagar Punjab of Asad Salim Sheikh.”

Ammar Kazmi, the custodian of a shrine in Badhowali, the neighbouring village of Bathanwala, says that the haveli was allocated to the family of Ranjha Gujjar that had migrated from India at the time of Partition. He says such havelis are very common in his area and they either belonged to rich Hindus or Sikhs. “In Bathanwala, Hindu Khatris used to live and the building probably belonged to one such family. But this building was not a religious place or a shrine.”

The Dawn story published on Monday did not say that the haveli belonged to Guru Nanak or was a sacred place for Sikhs. It only mentioned that some locals had named it ‘Guru Nanak palace’ because of his pictures they found on the walls.

Moreover, the district administration has stopped the demolition of the building. Narowal Deputy Commissioner Waheed Asghar, the man in charge of the record of all properties in the region, had told Dawn: “There is no mention of this building in the revenue record. Since it seemed to be historical, we are checking the municipal committee’s record.” He said he had stopped the demolition of the building.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2019