Bobby Singh Bansal, the man behind Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s life-size statue which was unveiled at the Mai Jindan Haveli in the Lahore Fort in Lahore on Thursday on the occasion of 180th death anniversary of legendary Sikh ruler, is a London-based writer and historian whose father migrated to UK from Phagwara in Punjab in early 1960s for work.
Talking on phone from Lahore, UK-born Bobby said he visited Pakistan for the first time as a tourist in 1989 when he was only 19 and ever since he has visited the country several times.
“In 2003, I set up SK Foundation UK, basically to preserve and promote Sikh heritage and culture in Pakistan, and since then have restored several Sikh structures in Pakistan. These include the samadhi of Maharaja Sher Singh, baradari of Sardar Mahan Singh at Gujranwala and the British obelisk at Chillianwala, site of the Anglo-Sikh wars of 1849, in collaboration with the British High Commission, Islamabad,” said Bobby, who is a frequent visitor to India and Punjab as well.
His wife hails from Jalandhar. Bobby said that the samadhi of Maharaja Sher Singh was damaged in Pakistan in retaliation to Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. “Muslims could not differentiate between monuments of Hindus and Sikhs”.
“In 2016, we unveiled a bust of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in St Tropez, and last month a bas-relief of the Maharaja and his Italian officer General Ventura, near Bologna,” he said. Bobby said the bust unveiled in St Tropez was “gifted” by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and the bas-relief near Bologna was manufactured by a Mohali-based firm.
He said that he wanted to get the life-size statue of Maharaja made from artisans in Delhi but eventually decided against it owing to unpredictable ties between the two nations where “borders get closed”.
Bobby said statues of Maharaja Ranjit Singh which were installed in cities of Punjab and even in Delhi were “out of proportion”. “There is the wrong depiction of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The statues in India glorify him, show him wearing diamonds and beads. All such articles including his golden chair were showpieces for the dignitaries who visited him,” said Bobby. He said the 8-ft-high and 6-ft-long statue on two-and-a-half-feet plinth unveiled in Lahore in open space in the Haveli named after Maharaja’s youngest queen Mai Jindan was “realistic”.
“The project was commissioned in 2016, and shows the Maharaja going for a hunt on his favorite Arabic horse ‘Kahar Bahar’. It has been gifted by me and my friend Raj Kapany to the people of Pakistan to forge a unity of lasting friendship and to promote peace and tourism in Pakistan,” said Bobby. The life-size statue of the Maharaja was sculpted by local artists, under the guidance of the Fakir Khana museum.
An author and a documentary filmmaker, Bobby said he was working on a book “Punjab chiefs”, the foreword of which was “likely to be written by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh”. He said he had few projects for Punjab but could share details only if the Punjab government gives a formal clearance. Bobby said he traces his family roots to Rawalpindi in Pakistan who moved to Ferozepur during partition and subsequently to Phagwara. “My father came to the UK for work after invitation in 1962-63,” he said.
Took 8 months to complete the statue
Islamabd: It took eight months to complete the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, sitting on his favorite horse named Kahar Bahar. The horse was a gift from Dost Muhammad Khan, the founder of the Barakzai dynasty. “The statue weighs around 250-330 kilograms. It is made up of 85 percent bronze, 5 percent tin, 5 percent lead and 5 percent zinc,” Bansal said. WCLA Conservation and Planning Director Najam-Us-Saqib said the statue will be a “good tourist attraction” and iron grills would be erected around the sculpture to protect it.
(With PTI inputs)