The Punjab is the vast swath of land between Delhi and Peshawar on the one axis and between Kashmir and Sind on the other with no fixed boundaries. It is a land replete with tales of romance, celebrations of nature in its fecundity and challenges, heroes and battles, and above all a people rugged and resilient. It went through very turbulent times as the Mughal Empire crumbled after Emperor Aurangzeb (d 1707) until Ranjit Singh, (1799-1839) the Maharaja, gave parts of it some semblance of stability and prosperity. He ruled the Punjab for about 40 years and many consider that as its golden period. Samia Karamat has explored the history, culture and architecture of the Punjab during this period in a comprehensive and a holistic manner. She connects the evolution of the Sikh Faith with the contemporaneous developments in the political and social fabric and then weaves the developments in architecture into that mosaic.
Architecture like all arts grows out of a particular culture and varies accordingly. The Gurdawara symbolized freedom from oppression, equality among the living, and encouraged people to focus around that symbol of human wisdom, the Guru Garanth Sahib, holiness personified. The form was dictated by the beliefs, tenets of the faith and a set of spaces were developed which in use, and aesthetics of space are unique. One such example is the hall provided for the holding of the Langar. The Sikh Langar was in sharp contrast to any in Hindu or Muslim faith and became an integral part of the architectural spaces of the Gurdawara. Through the act of eating together without any differentiation based on religion, cast, creed or race the Sikh Faith ordained the breaking of all taboos that divided humans. It is a unique example in the South Asian context, which is and continues to be riddled with divisions based on caste, color of skin etc. In its plan as well as the decoration, the Gurdawara stands unique and tall as a contribution to the human heritage.
Samia Karamat has made a significant contribution to the understanding of the period of turbulence and the ultimate stability brought about by the sagacious Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The author has brought to our notice some of the lesser known Gurdawaras that were sadly neglected in the post Partition period. This is a contribution that will be lauded by all those who believe in tolerance and a harmonious living among all faiths and creeds.
Pro Vice Chancellor at Institute for Art and Culture,
The book brings to focus information that is critical for scholars interested in the study of sacred Sikh geography and history. A welcome addition to the budding field of Sikh architecture and heritage, one cannot help but be grateful to the author for her hard and painstaking labor.
Gurinder Singh Mann، Global Institute for Sikh Studies, New York USA.
Architect Samia Karamat has completed a valuable study of several well-known and not so well-known Sikh religious and community buildings sited in Pakistan Punjab. That several of the buildings she so painstakingly describes are now close to collapse underscores the value of her efforts, both for scholars and enthusiasts today, and for those in the future whose actions will determine whether these important Sikh sites will be cared for properly, as they must. Samia’s book is genuinely a work of seva, carried out with skill and generosity of vision.
Professor William Glover, Department of History, University of Michigan. USA
This comprehensive study of some of the forgotten sites of the Sikh legacy across Pakistan provides a glimpse of the erstwhile architectural expertise. It evokes a strong sense of a longing for embrace.
Amardeep Singh, author of ‘LOST HERITAGE The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan’ and ‘THE QUEST CONTINUES, LOST HERITAGE The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan’
The origin and development of Sikh religious architecture is a neglected subject notwithstanding prominent Gurdwaras scattered all over the area. Samia Karamat has done well to take up this work in right earnest. In this monograph, she has in brief traced the religious and political history of Sikh religion and identified the basic religious teachings and precepts that influenced the eventual plans and forms of Sikh shrines.
The detailed sketches, actual plans and architectural contours of the Golden Temple, Amritsar and some Gurdwaras of Pakistan present a thought provoking study of how the Sikh Mut, the youngest religion, originating from the soil of the Punjab, developed a distinct architectural pattern as compared to Muslim Mosques and Hindu Temples.
Syed Afzal Haidar، Former Acting Chief Justice of Federal Shariat Court, Pakistan
Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan. Member, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan
From Hoshiarpur to Lhore
Ever since my childhood I was told very interesting stories about our ancestors. How the Rana’s came into existence and different aspects of the history of Ranas. In my schooldays our father, General Bakhtiar Rana (1908-1993) kept narrating some of his life stories. When I was in College of Home Economics, Lahore I lived with my grandfather Rana Talia Muhammad (1884-1956) as my father was posted as J.O.C in Quetta and there were no colleges then. Grandfather used to tell us lot of stories about his father Rana Jalaluddin (1859-1926) and his brothers and other families.
But mainly when I read all the diaries and autobiographical accounts of our elders I fell like sharing everything with younger generation who did not know anything about the glory of Rana family elders and their achievements.
When my mother died (1992) and left my father lonely, I began visiting my father every day to keep him company and also to look after him as much as I could. During these days my elder daughter Zaibunisa Junaid also visiting frequently. That time my father started telling us all about his life from the beginning (his birth onward). I used to listen everything and tried to keep it in my memory. But Zab recorded each and every word of his narration in her cassettes and saved the history. In 1988, Zaibunisa migrated to Canada and soon afterwards Papaji (my father) died in December 1998. Amongst the inheritance he left the valuable diaries of our elders. It is the biographical history of three Rana generations. Zab is writing about Papaji with the help of his diary and recordingsand I used this information in this book.
My brother Salahudin & his wife Koko gave me all the important files & diaries and motivated me that our ancestors’ life stories and achievements must be saved in the form of a book. So that our young generation who are completely ignorant about our family background should be well informed, getting motivated and inspired, I began collecting the information of my great grandfather, my grandfather & my own father. But it was difficult to do it alone and at that stage my younger brother Major General Ghaziuddin Rana rescue me and with his consistent guidance, motivation & coauthor ship we transformed that idea into reality. He not only corrected army details but also identified all important names present in numerous valuable rare & historical photographs included in this book.
Our old family diaries gave me lots of information of great grandfather Rana Jalaluddin & Grandfather Rana Talia Muhammad’s job’s information in a complete date wise, their services record and important dates. All the rest was compiled from our family sources. Though it has taken me three years to compile all the information regarding our ancestors as it covers one and half century old history.
I feel so proud and fascinated that I almost felt it is my moral obligation to compile all these vital historical facts into a shape of a book. So that our future younger generation must know about our precious Rana history.
To compile three generation history it took three years and some of the most vital information was provided by two people without which this book could never be completed. One my brother Major General Ghaziuddin Rana & 2nd is my daughter Zab. I am highly obliged for their help.
I am also grateful to some of my cousins for their useful input. My effort is purely to benefit our family members specially the younger generation and I dedicated this book to them.
Dr. Elizabeth Kuti
Director of Centre for Theatre Studies,
Usman Ali sent me his passionate and explosive plays by email, and with them, photographs of his theatre and productions. The correspondence between us has been a fragile connection across a dangerous and terrifying world. I have been moved, puzzled and shaken by Usman’s plays. They feel like a howl of anguish, but also the work of a fine dramatic poet, who knows and uses form – in language, in stagecraft – with great assurance. His plays are mysterious, and full of feeling, with the ambiguity of poetry – and yet they also speak of a yearning to connect, and to express in a vital, even a simple way, what it is to be human. I can imagine Usman’s work being very powerful in performance – although I have never seen it – because his writing is so visceral, so concrete, and so intensely physical: his plays feature bicycles, cigarettes, trees, water, fire, and dancing, as well as words. I’m humbled by Usman Ali’s knowledge of European classical myth and drama, not to mention the poetry of Walcott, Hughes, Frost and Akhmatova; I doubt there would be many European playwrights who would know so much about drama and literature outside their own sphere; British theatre can be extremely parochial, but Usman Ali seems to write from a deep well of experience and reading that is truly global, and must surely be rare. He also seems to write from a place of empathy and sensitivity. His characters suffer, and suffer extremely, but we feel that their author suffers with them. In his play The Odyssey, Usman Ali writes in horror of the ‘war against terror’ which has set Muslim against Muslim, has resulted in the deaths of countless thousands of innocents, and has unleashed a nightmare that has enveloped the whole of our world. Through theatre we can be united in sorrow at the atrocities that make us ashamed to be human, whatever nationality we have printed on our passport; and yet also united in joy at the lyricism, sweetness and possibility of our common existence. Usman Ali writes, in the introduction to his play The Last Metaphor, ‘Drama awakens compassion in the spectator’s sensibility for the characters by dissolving their shells of ego’. This is true of Usman Ali’s writing; as it is true of all great drama – which exists to take us out of the shell of our own ego. Reading Usman Ali’s work is to enter into a shared, empathetic experience; to leap across the false boundaries of nationality or ideology; to explore what it means to be human.
Quiet Women: a unique celebration of poetry
Newline is happy to inform you about our latest publication. Lahore based poet, editor and columnist, Afshan Shafi 2nd book of poetry collection, Quiet Women has published by Newline Publishers. Stocked at Readings, the collection is a unique all-female collaboration featuring the illustrations of acclaimed artists , Samya Arif (Pakistan), Marjan Baniasadi (Iran) and Ishita Basu Mallik (India).
The book has received praise from internationally renowned critic and novelist Anis Shivani, who has described it as a ‘wise history of female (aesthetic and social) awakening that has few comparisons in the contemporary American poetry world’.
TS Eliot Award Nominee and winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry , Vahni Capildeo termed ‘Quiet Women’ as one of the ‘new poetries emerging in the twenty first century which are characterized by a ferocity that spans yet exceeds love and outrage, involvement and observation’
‘Quiet Women’ is an exploration of form and linguistic artistry, propelled by a sense of creative freedom espoused by the surrealists and abstract artists. Inspired by the creations of both Eastern and Occidental female artists and writers this book is a tribute to women, and the power of their collective voices.
The poet is currently a senior contributing editor at Pakistan’s premier literary anthology, the Aleph Review and chief editor of the online Pandemonium Journal. She hopes to write a novel in the future.