Muhammad Faheem

Man Singh was a notable general and warrior in the army of Hari Singh Nalwa — the commander of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s army in the early 19th century.

And just how the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa city of Haripur is named after Hari Singh Nalwa, the city of Mansehra is named after Man Singh.

The city’s Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara is equally historic but has been locked away ever since the Partition of 1947.

The picturesque building, with traditional religious artwork all around, still stands with all its glory amidst a busy thoroughfare of the city, even though it has not been frequented by Sikhs for decades. Erected on September 5, 1937 when Mansehra featured a sizeable Sikh population as a former garrison town of the Sikh empire, its aura slowly faded away as Sikhs began to fizzle out of the city after the creation of Pakistan.

While the building was not used for religious purposes, the provincial local government department opened a library at the premises which is frequented by book lovers and education enthusiasts.

The building is presently being used as a library frequented by students and knowledge enthusiasts. Photo: Sabaat

In line with the prime minister’s recent directives to reopen minorities’ worship places, the department began to plan the gurdwara’s reopening as well. The plan is to close down the library so the worship place can be restored per its original design and purpose. The department is also coordinating with the Auqaf Department as well as the Evacuee Trust Properties Board which oversees properties of Hindus and Sikhs abandoned at Partition over how to manage the reopening and future functioning.

Keeping in view the gurdwara’s historical significance and potential as a means of promoting religious tourism, the provincial government is giving its refurbishment a high priority.

However, officials of the KP Archeology Department claimed that they do not have concrete evidence pertaining to the veracity of the gurdwara’s historic significance as no survey of any kind has been conducted in the Hazara Division, in which Mansehra is situated, to determine the historical significance of religious sites of minorities.

Sikh community leader Baba Gorpal Singh informed that a total of 17 gurdwaras are operational in the province at the moment, including Bhai Joga Singh and Bhai Biba Singh gurdwaras in Peshawar. However, he added that dozens more remain closed down in cities like Abbottabad, Mansehra and Haripur which can not only be used for domestic purposes but also to promote international religious tourism.

March 31, 2021

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