To Give our Past a Future by Jasprit Singh
* Read the Introduction to this Feature
Note-Mouse over images for description
Sikhs have recently realized that our heritage needs to be preserved and our past needs to have a future. Many scholars have conducted numerous studies and undertaken conservational efforts in protecting Sikh relics.
Sadar Manohar Singh Marco is a well known historian and an expert on handwriting styles from the times of the gurus. He always believed that since Guru Gobind Singh ji spent so many years in Sri Poonta Sahib with a court full of scribes and poets some writing of Guru Sahib must have survived. In 1963, Manohar Singh Marco discovered and located the Anandpuri Bir.
This scripture of the Sri Anandpuri Bir was lying amongst some ancient handwritten books in the home of a Pandit Om Prakash of Anandpur Sahib. The physical condition was terrible. The covers were drenched and the binding in tatters. Pandit Om Prakash’s grandfather brought this Granth from Rajput Kanets of Kangra. According to the records of the Municipal Council , Pt. Om Prakash’s grandfather died on 12th August 1900 at the age of 90. Then Pt Om Prakash’s father after taking care of this Granth for 72 years died on 23rd December 1947. Pt Om Prakash not knowing the importance of the Granth put the Granth Sahib on a shelf along with other astrology books.
After studying the Granth in some detail Manohar Singh Marco discovered that this bir was something that needed scholarly studies in identifying its true glory. After paying the Pandit his asking price, Manohar Singh Marco brought the scattered pages of the Granth back to Delhi. Giani Sharam Singh (Jathedar Keshgarh Sahib), Principal Ganga Singh, Pritam Singh Bedi (Muncipal Commissioner), and five Singh’s accompanied the Bir to Manohar Singh Marco Research Centre in Delhi.
In understanding the Bir many obstacles arose. The first issue is the handwriting of the Scriptures. The Gurmukhi script has a Persian influence making it extremely difficult to read. Manohar Singh Marco then separated the writing, letter by letter and prepared a key of all the letters that were present in the Bir. Using this key to understand the content of the Bir all the pages were collated into the Bir. The Anandpuri Bir was then micro-filmed at the National Physical Laboratory, Pusa. With the assistance of Rupinder Singh Marco, Principal Narinderpal Singh and Manjit Singh Khalsa, all the pages were placed within plastic envelopes and a temporary hardcover was made.
Manohar Singh Marco placed the Anandpuri Bir in a Fireproof Safe with Neem leaves. Neem works in two ways firstly it absorbs the moisture thereby preventing the manuscript from getting damp and secondly neem being bitter ,keeps the insects from biting the pages. With the help of the Delhi Gurdware Parbandak Comittee a pamphlet about the Anandpuri Bir was distributed and the sangat informed. There was a lot of discussion in newspapers and magazines about the Anandpuri Bir.
Manohar Singh Marco passed away on 26th August 2006. His widow Gurdarshan Kaur with the assistance of S. P.Singh (Director Rashtri Sangralia New Delhi), Rupinder Singh Marco, Principal Narinderpal Singh, Manjit Singh Khalsa, Om Prakash Kalra (Rashtri Sangralia, New Delhi),Iqbal Kaur and myself, started the work of the restoration and digitalization of the Anandpuri Bir.
Every page was first cleaned with a mix of Thermal and Bromium Hydroxide, dirt if any was removed very carefully. Then each page was placed in between absorptive papers to allow to dry completely, with this the writing on each page became even clearer, surprisingly there was no damage caused to the page. At the end all the pages were placed in between blotting papers for 2 months. In between the pages and the tissue papers, cellulose acetate work was added and on top of that Acetone was applied with cotton wool. By doing this, the cellulose acetate melted and the blotting paper automatically sealed together. The pages were then placed in between absorptive papers and then pressed. This allowed all the pages to be crease free. To prevent any discrepancies from appearing again the pages were kept pressed for one week. After this the binding of the Bir was bound once again to bring it back to its glory of being a Granth. To make the spine of the Bir, medium weight paper and the pages of the Bir were bound with Fevicol (special rubber glue dissolved in water). To make the cover embroiled cotton cloth and cardboard with polyfill sheet sandwiched in between was used. After the Bir binding was complete the full digitalization took into effect where each page was photographed at a 18 sec shutter F32 f-stop along with some microscopic scanning at 400x to get a closer look at the handwriting styles. Throughout this project, the Marco Foundation were steadfast in keeping full respect of the Bir.
Working on various manuscripts over time I normally come across handwritings that are very neatly done mainly by a ‘Lakhri’ (scribe). Unfolding the Anandpuri Bir you can see this is not the work of a Scribe. The long flowing animated strokes show the work of a true scholar. The Marco Foundation has done an excellent and professional job in persevering such an amazing manuscript like the Anadpuri Bir. Our heritage is a concern to us its validity, its existence in years to come. Yet working with the Marco family I have hope for our heritage. The scientific methods, theories and examples are there for us to implement them. Let’s use them to give our history a future.