On the 180th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the legendary ruler of Punjab, a statue was unveiled at the Lahore Fort on Thursday. Around 500 people crossed the Wagah border to attend the unveiling event. The main ceremony will take place on Saturday at Gurdwara Dera Sahib.
The sculpture is the result of collaboration between Fakir Khana Museum and Sarkar Khalsa Foundation.
Fakir Syed Saifuddin, whose ancestors were emissaries of the Maharaja, runs the prestigious museum. He said the idea was mooted about 15 years ago when U.K.-based Bobby Singh Bansal, chairperson of the S.K. Foundation, came to Pakistan and agreed to sponsor the sculpture. But many years passed before the idea became a reality. “It was a very lengthy and tiring process — from getting permission from the government to commissioning the sculpture — but it was worth it,” Mr. Saifuddin told.
He added that while India has many statues of the famous Maharaja and this will be his first sculpture in Pakistan“this is by far the best sculpture when it comes to expressions, anatomy and overall look.”
Mr. Saifuddin asked three artistes — Salman, Burhan and Zark — to design it. Two of them are students of the National College of Arts in Lahore and Rawalpindi, while Mr. Zark works with Mr. Saifuddin and has studied from Naqsh School of Arts. “This took eight months to make,” said Mr. Saifuddin.
Mr. Saifuddin spoke of how they selected the horse. A model of Ashq-e-Laila, the Maharaja’s famous horse, would have overshadowed the personality of the Maharaja himself, who was just 5-feet, 5-inches tall. So the sculptors chose a horse called Kahir Bahar, gifted to the Maharaja by Dost Mohammad.
“It is unfortunate that our people don’t know anything about Maharaja Ranjit Singh who made the Punjab State — from Lahore to Kabul, Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh was an extremely prosperous and developed State,” lamented Mr. Saifuddin, who said Mr. Bansal wants to now commission the sculptures of other icons like Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala and Hari Singh Nalwa through the museum.
Kamran Lashari, Director General Walled City of Lahore Authority, said that their basic objective is to promote religious tourism, which is in line with the present government’s policy as well. Kartarpur Corridor is one such initiative.
“Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s sculpture is a small step in that direction. Lahore Fort and its vicinity have his footprints all around… He figures very prominently in the history and culture of Punjab,” Mr. Lashari told.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, an admirer of the Maharaja, said Ranjit Singh’s governance reforms, especially land reforms, were “the most practical reforms made by any ruler… He was also extremely wise to call French Generals to train his army — which was a very progressive decision,”he told
Lahore has rich cultural and religious diversity for centuries and Ranjit Singh was one important part of it.
Around 465 Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit Lahore at Gurudwara Dera Sahib the funerary urns of Ranjit Singh.
It commemorates the 180th death anniversary of the Sikh ruler.
Fakir Khana Museum launched 180 limited edition bust sculptures of the Maharaja.
It is done for art connoisseurs in the history of Punjab.