LAHORE: After being in a dilapidated condition for quite some time, Samadhi of Bhai Vasti Raam, located outside the Lahore Fort, has been successfully conserved by the Punjab Archaeology Department, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, the Samadhi needed to be conserved as it was a heritage and holy site for the Sikh community, which was getting ruined due to the lack of maintenance and ageing. They added that during the pilgrimage of Dera Sahib, several members of the Sikh community were disappointed because of its poor condition as well.
Sources further said that, previously, waist-high shrubs surrounded the Samadhi and some of its sections had collapsed. “There was no proper access to the site as well and it used to go unnoticed by the tourists owing to its dilapidated condition.”
According to historical references, it is said that Bhai Vasti Raam was the spiritual guide of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was a witness of the persecutions that the Sikhs underwent till their ultimate rise to political power in Punjab, especially Lahore. He devoted himself to the study of medicine and became famous for his skill in the use of indigenous herbs.
Stories of his healing power and piety spread across the Sub-Continent and he was also believed to possess supernatural abilities. Bhai Vasti Ram died in 1802 at the age of 94. A marble Samadhi was raised near the Lahore Fort at the spot where he was cremated. Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to visit it on his death anniversary.
A historian, owner of Faqir Khana Museum and resident of the Walled City of Lahore, Faqir Saif, appreciated the efforts of conserving the Samadhi of Bhai Vasti Ram and said, “I think it is a good initiative taken up by the Archaeology Department as such historic and holy sites for Sikhs should be conserved and well kept.”
A tourist guide at Lahore Fort, Muhammad Javed, said that tourists had often asked about the structure but the access and condition of the structure were derelict due to which visitors could not go there. “The conservation of this Samadhi will surely add to the beautiful experience of Lahore Fort,” Javed added.
Punjab Archaeology Department Deputy Director Malik Maqsood told Pakistan Today that the marble Samadhi was a beautiful architectural specimen and unique monument of the 19th century (Sikh Period). “These structures, and others like Jain Mandir, faced the wrath of angry mobs after the disturbing Babri Mosque incident in 1992. This monument was severely damaged and the structure along with its decoration was ruthlessly plundered,” he said.
Maqsood added that a number of local and international Sikh associations as well as NGOs had requested the Archaeology Department to conserve and restore such monuments for the minorities.
“The major components of work included consolidation of structures, repairing of cracks, restoration of missing portions, marble slabs with carving and inlay work as per original, marble perforated grills, floor, ceilings, plaster, flooring, courtyard, doors and parapets.”
“Some hidden features like water cascades, pools and fountains were also discovered when the debris lying at the Samadhi since the British era was removed. The conservation has been completed and presently it is part of the newly-developed Greater Iqbal Park. The area in the front of the Samadhi has also been developed into lawns by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA)”, he concluded.