New book reveals lost heritage of the Sikhs

By Leah Bjornson,
Special to The Post

A country torn apart. Families separated. The heritage of an empire all but erased.
This is the story told in Amardeep Singh’s new work, Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan.
Filled with 507 photos of historic monuments, forts, battlegrounds, residences and places of worship and written in a “lucid” style, the book provides a rich vision of the Sikh empire spanning the 15th and 21st centuries.
The novel also considers the distinct Sikh contributions to the spiritual, social, cultural and architectural history of present-day Pakistan.
Singh was inspired to write his novel after visiting Pakistan in 2014. Although he was proud to finally visit the beautiful buildings created by his ancestors, he also felt a profound sense of loss when seeing how many structures had fallen into decay after the Sikhs were forced to abandon them following the Partition of India.
"A hundred years from now, none of these places will exist. They are about to fall apart; they won't last more than 10 to 15 years," he said in an interview with The Straits Times.
"If I don't document it, who's going to do it?"
Lost Heritage follows Singh’s journey through 36 cities and villages in West Punjab, North West Frontier and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, and Pakistan itself. Through photos, illustrations and anecdotes, he weaves a story that reaches back to the glory days of the Sikh Empire.
For Singh, this was also a journey to discover his own history, as many members of his family lived in Pakistan until the mid-20th century.
Singh's parents, who were Sikhs living in Pakistan at the time, were forced to migrate in 1947. Members of his extended family were killed in the massacres that occurred as millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims resettled in the newly defined territories of West and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), India, and Kashmir.
Today, there are only around 20,000 Sikhs in Pakistan, which has a population of 182 million.
Singh hopes that his book inspires members of the Sikh diaspora to work with the Pakistani Government to preserve these heritage sites and important cultural features.
“I see myself as a catalyst, taking this work across the world, and hopefully, we can save some things.”
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