India: the land of colours, chaos and contradictions. Where towering sky scrapers rub shoulders with matchbox houses. Where one stumbles across history at every turn, nestled quietly in the nooks and crannies of the present, even as the country strides determinedly towards the future. A country whose people overcome the barriers of language and religion every day to co-exist in peaceful harmony.
What can better demonstrate the secular and inclusive nature of India than the events of 1911, when two Sikhs and two Hindus came together to publish a book held sacred by all Muslims.
Image for representation only. Source: Wikimedia.
Sant Vaidya Gurdit Singh Alomhari belonged to the Nirmala Sect of Sikhism, a Sect devoted to the study of religion and literature. In 1911, he embarked on a fairly unusual project: to translate the Quran from Arabic to Gurmukhi – the script for Punjabi.
While Sant Alohmhari took on the responsibility of translating the holy text himself, he enlisted the help of two Hindus and a Sikh to help print and distribute the translations.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Sant Alomhari, Bhagat Budhamal Adatli Mevjat, Vaidya Bhagat Guraditta Mal and Mela Singh Attar Wazirabad more than 1,000 Punjabi translations of the Quran were published by the Gurmat Press of Amritsar.
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Today, more than a century later, one of the thousand copies has made its way to a historian in Punjab: Subhash Parihar.
Parihar, a professor at a college in Kotkapura, is hard at work putting together an encyclopaedia on Sufism. The unique circumstances that led to the printing of these rare copies are sure to find mention in his book.
Parihar’s copy is believed to have originally belonged to the poet Sardar Jhanda Singh ‘Aarif’ of Kotkapura. After his death, the poet’s son gifted the copy to Noor Muhammad, a resident of Lande Village.
Noor, who works as a senior lab attendant in Kotkapura, told The Times of India, “Natha Singh had kept the holy book for decades with utmost respect before presenting it to me last year. He passed away some months ago.”
When Parihar, who was on the look-out for rare books in Punjab, approached Noor for the book, the latter happily obliged. “It would be a privilege if Parihar can use it for his literary assignment,” says Noor.
Talking about the circumstances under which the copies were made, Parihar says, “I do not think that there can be a better example of Muslim-Hindu-Sikh goodwill in the beginning of the 20th century.”
Given that his copy was translated by a Sikh, printed by two Hindus, owned by a Sikh, then gifted to a Muslim and is now in his possession – we have to agree!
“These people rightly deserve to be called ‘religious’ in the true sense of the word,” Parihar concludes.