Bhangra, giddha and phulkari and that’s all. This forms the popular narrative of Punjabi culture. But there is more to the heritage of Punjab that has been lying in oblivion. The crude reality is that manuscripts, paintings and religious texts — the tangible heritage — never become the points of reference to the rich Punjabi culture. What to talk of their conservation and digitisation.
Well, documentary filmmaker Daljit Ami’s latest creation Seva, which was screened in Chandigarh on Sunday, brings into focus this very aspect. “The film is an introduction to the unexplored field of conservation and digitisation of heritage and I act as a medium to initiate a dialogue on the issue,” says Daljit. Indeed, he does so by threading together different narratives.
The film documents the untiring work of heritage conservationist Namita Jaspal, who has been working to preserve old texts and manuscripts in its original form. These days, she is working on an old text of Guru Granth Sahib. Making an equivalent contribution is the Panjab Digital Library (PDL), Chandigarh, working to preserve the information in texts.
Since its inception in 2001, the PDL has digitised and uploaded on the Net nearly 8 million pages of manuscripts, paintings, rare books, photographs, archives of magazines and newspapers, and other rare books that were earlier in the private collection of individuals.
Then there is a narrative of those in Angitha (crematorium) Sahib gurdawars, where old texts of any religion are ‘cremated’. Those managing the Angitha Sahib gurdawars believe that religious texts are living beings and so they have a lifetime. Once they are old, texts need to be consigned to flames.
Be it Guru Granth Sahib or Gita or Puranas, religious texts from states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are sent to such gurdwaras near Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh), Patiala (Punjab) and Goindwal Sahib in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, to name a few, for their ‘last journey’.
Through the movie, Daljit crosses the regional barrier and sheds light on global scenario of heritage conservation, which is no different from Punjab. The filmmaker says, “At the screening of Seva in Bengaluru, a scholar from Myanmar said it was a film about his country.” And why not? Daljit crosses the regional barrier to talk about the global scenario.
The film refers that the loss during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only in terms of human lives but also in terms of heritage. The destruction of Lord Buddha’s sculptures in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s regime and further damage to heritage during the ‘war on terror’ is vivid in the memory of those keeping track of global events.
And those who have forgotten such events, Seva invokes such memories and forces us to think that our present is governed by the past and it is important to preserve the sources of our identity (read historical evolution of humankind).