Few weeks back, in Palmyra (Syria), ISIS terrorists razed 2000 year old temple structures to dust. It was not the first such incident, in 2001 Taliban blew up the statues of ‘ Buddhas of Bamiyan’ by dynamite. Devil of bigotry never rests. Religious intolerance believes in demolishing anything which looks different from its own definition of the world; be it people, writings or structures.
But, still there are people whose efforts keep hopes alive. Shahid Shabbir of Lahore is one of them. Shahid, who is known among his friends as ‘Babaji’, has been working on documentation of ‘Gurudwaras’ and ‘temples’ of Pakistan. Shahid is a historian and a photographer and he likes to be called a ‘Historiographer‘. He believes that these monuments are heritage of humanity and we must not look at them only from point of view of religion. He asks, “When will people come out of narrow mindedness in dealing with the history?”
Shahid’s profession is landscape designing but his passion is history. After completing Diploma in Floriculture, he shifted to Islamabad from Lahore. He started working as a Landscape Designer but his passion for History compelled him to pursue MA in the subject from Open University.
Shahid has been working in ‘West Punjab’ and has discovered dozens of gurudwaras, courts, havelies and dharamshalas of historical importance. His work speaks of his efforts, Shahid has identified at least 16 major patterns of gurudwaras depending upon the time-period of construction. If all different structural designs are considered, he has identified 120 different shapes of gurudwaras, dharamshalas and havelis. At times even he couldn’t believe what he saw, “There are some gurudwaras which have dome and minarets and completely identical to mosques. People of new generation wouldn’t believe but it is a gurudwara.” …”Seventy percent of sikh heritage is in Pakistan. Khalsaraaj has deep signs all over in the region, even the smallest of hamlets have signs of past.”
Born in 1975, though, Shahid did not witness violence of 1947, but he is neither ignorant of the destruction followed by the partition. He says, “Politics is not my cup of tea. But, we must learn from the past. If anyone thinks that a country is meant only for one religion or culture, then he is completely wrong. This is impossible.”
Shahid’s work has not only been appreciated in Pakistan, but, his friends in India and elsewhere hold huge regards for him. Shahid aka Babaji runs a facebook page “Khalsa Raj Foot Steps in Pakistan” and “Heritage of Pakistan.” All the historical sites which Shahid has documented so far, can be found on these pages.
Shahid Shabbir is always busy in tracing the footsteps of the past, but so far he is alone in this venture. He gets no fund from the government, religious organisations or from any global institutions. Though he is apprehensive about the availability of fund, yet, he hopes for the best. “If God wants me to do this then certainly something will come up.” But as of now each and every penny spent on the exploration work comes from his own pocket.
(Copyright of all images: Shahid Shabbir )