DIPLOMAT, TRAVELER and writer Baron Hugel wrote about his visit to Amritsar during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, “Amritsar is now the richest city in northern India. It is larger than Lahore. The wealth of the whole Punjab seems collected in it and its great merchants have made it their abode. I felt agitated with various emotions as my elephant passed the city gates where Thanedar was waiting with numerous deputation of merchants to receive me. Amritsar is the most bustling of all cities in the Punjab, in every street the most beautiful production of India are semi-exhibited for sale.”
However, no official function to celebrate the birth anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was held on Friday. Earlier this year, Ranjit Singh had been named the ‘Greatest leader of all times’ in the BBC World Histories Magazine poll, in which Winston Churchill was also a contender.
NGO Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) celebrated the birth anniversary of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit at Ram Bagh, which was also known as Company Bagh.
“We had gone to Amritsar Municipal Corporation to check if they had any plan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Last year, the corporation had held a brief function to celebrate the day but they forgot this year,” said Kulwant Singh Ankhi of AVM.
“Now, when achievements of the Maharaja have been celebrated not only by Sikhs but all the world, the district administration or municipal corporation had no plans to increasing the popularity of Maharaja Ranjit Singh even for the sake of tourism. Amritsar was the city which benefited most from the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was to offer gold to the Golden Temple,” said Ankhi.
“We are not in control of most of the historical structures related to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The tourism department is in charge of the legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. I don’t know if they celebrated the day. But it is true that Amritsar as a city should celebrate Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” said Amritsar mayor Karamjit Singh Rintu.
“When we asked for permission to celebrate the day from the corporation at Ram Bagh, we were asked to take permission from police. We preferred to hold a very small function to praise the gift of Ram Bagh given by the Maharaja to the city,” said Ankhi.
Manmohan Singh Brar, Dr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, Er Daljit Singh Kohli, Er Manjit Singh Saini, Sucha Singh Ajnala, Yash Pal jhabal, ex-district education officer Gurpartap Singh Guri, Yogesh Kamra and other members participated in the function.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh established the garden in 1819 over a big chunk of land which presently measures 84 acres on the same pattern of Shalimar Bagh of Lahore. He brought rare shaddy and ornamental plants and trees from the Nilgiri Hills and Himalayan areas. Maharaja’s summer palace was also constructed in the centre of the garden which was used as the summer capital. Besides summer palace, four watch towers, three entrance deorhis, Hamaamghar (bathing pool) and ‘barandaris’ were constructed in the garden.
Ram Bagh was renamed ‘Company Bagh’ by the British.
“Ram Bagh was in its best blossoming form till 1990. After that the carelessness of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation towards the maintenance of the ‘lungs of the city’, almost ruined Company Bagh. Presently, most of the historic buildings are in shambles. Under the patronage of local politicians, most of the garden is encroached by various organisations and clubs,” said Manmohan Singh Brar.
“We demand that municipal corporation and district administration celebrate the birth anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, because it would oblige its officials to take care of the legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which is deteriorating day by day. Also we should show some gratitude towards the great king. As word about Maharaja Ranjit Singh is still spreading around the world, more and more tourists will come to Amritsar to know more about him. If we can’t remember his birthday then what would we tell such visitors?” asked Ankhi.
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