As the town gets ready for the second edition of the Sangrur Literary and Heritage Festival — November 19 and 20 — the heritage-proud people are bemoaning the loss of the century-old Jind Hermitage Palace. Much of the imposing Indo-Gothic building comprising 100 rooms, built in Ghabdan village, 10km from Sangrur, has been bulldozed to make room for the proposed satellite centre of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).
This has happened in spite of the fact that members of the Sangrur Heritage and Preservation Society having raised pleas for its preservation and renovation. Society’s chairman Karanvir Sibia says, “I had met the PGI director two years ago with a request to preserve the building for administrative purposes or for a serai (inn) so that relatives of patients could be accommodated there. The property spread over 47 acres was gifted by Maharaja Rajbir Singh in 1957 to the health department of the state of Punjab.” A number of articles appeared in newspapers pleading for the preservation of the building that was used by the erstwhile Maharaja of Jind as his winter residence.
Sangrur-based author Rajeev Jindal, known for his book ‘The Princely State of Jind Revisited’, says: “Since Sangrur was the capital of the erstwhile state of Jind, it has fine colonial buildings of the Indo-Gothic fashion, a style of architecture evolved by British architects using elements of Mughal, Hindu and Gothic cusped arches, spires, tracery and minarets. It was not as ornamental as Mughal architecture, but beautiful still and more convenient for use.”
Significantly, the society had shown the Hermitage Palace to conservation architects and the entire cost of renovation would have been less than Rs 3 crore. The General Gurnam Singh Memorial School, which was built by the General, who was the father-in-law of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, was renovated a few years ago as per its original style using a sum lower than this. This school is also the venue of the heritage festival. Jindal points out that while some of the structures are well preserved like the Baradari and the Diwan Khana, yet the heritage Clock Tower constructed in 1870, Ranbir College and the Orphans’ Home (now known as the Rajai School) are crying for conservation. He points out that the gong of the Clock Tower is not resounding as it used to.
The Heritage and Literary Festival, which runs into its second edition this year, is drawing attention to this lest we lose more of our precious heritage.
The Sangrur Festival besides focusing on the heritage of Sangrur has vibrant sessions on literary heritage too, including Waris Shah, Kabir, Amrita Pritam and Shiv Kumar Batalvi. There will be a session also on the legacy of the first lady of the Indian canvas, Amrita Shergil. Celebrated Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh who passed away earlier this year will be recalled in the session of filmmaker Gurvinder Singh’s film ‘Anhe Ghore Da Daan’, based on the author’s novel. There is a special session on sharing the experiences of the 1971 war with Pakistan. Prominent war veterans will be honoured. There will also be a session with Surjit Hans, who has translated into Punjabi the complete works of Shakespeare. A special focus on environment and wildlife preservation is part of the festival.