The first Sangrur Heritage & Literary Festival brought with it a new promise of uplifting the world of words, melody & arts across our state of mustard fields, writes Karanvir Singh Sibia

While the mustard shoots stood dancing in the fields, and the early winter chill brushed past softly, the heritage-abundant Sangrur welcomed its first Heritage and Literary Festival from November 20 to 22, courtesy the Sangrur Heritage Preservation Society.

Sangrur, when you trace its history, was the capital of the princely State of Jind, hasn’t been zeroed in on as the venue for such an event just like that. It comes embroidered with a rich fabric of architecture, spiritual centres, music and art and thus, easily enough, provided the thematic background for all the sessions including literary, art, traditional music, folklore, cultural and other activities, across the three days.

That soft tap of the

The festival kicked off in the early hours of November 20 at the famous Baradari Gardens in Banasar Bagh with a heartwarming kirtan recital by Padma Shri Bhai Nirmal Singh, Hazoori Raagi, Golden Temple, Amritsar. Needless to say, he cast a divine spell… And when the dulcet notes riding the gentle breeze filled up the spaces across the Baradari Gardens, they set a perfect tone for a soulful encounter with books, music and conversation.

In the afternoon, the residents of Sangrur, the special guests and authors assembled to pay homage at the famous Shahi Samaadhaan to the founder of the Princely Jind state Maharaj Gajpat Singh. For the first time, 13 Punjab (Jind) Regiment participated in this homage ceremony while Govind Grewal, the grand nephew of His Highness Satbir Singh of Jind, placed the wreaths. By the way, 13 Punjab (Jind) was the Jind Infantry before Partition in 1947 and comes backed by a history of 243 years since it was raised in 1732 and is one of the most decorated regiments in the country.

In the lap of heritage

The main festival was aptly hosted at the old-worldly heritage building of General Gurnam Singh Public School. The building, built in 1907, was initially named Bachitar Niwas where erstwhile Commander-in-Chief of Jind state General Gurnam Singh resided and where the baraat of the late Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala was received on March 9, 1908.

The festival kicked off with the Tricolour being hoisted at the historic monument with the 13 Punjab (Jind) playing the national anthem.

Ideas, People &

The fest took off with a session on Heritage Preservation and Conservation with noted Environmentalist Gurmeet S Rai; Thakur Raghav Pratap Singh, Founder, Jaipur Lit Fest; Rajiv Jindal, Historian, in conversation with Karanvir Singh Sibia, Chairman, Sangrur Heritage Preservation Society and Festival Director.

Since 2015 is the centenary year of Saddat Hassan Manto, the festival eked out a special session in his memory. Dr Sabina Shabnam, Head, Punjabi University (Malerkotla branch); formerPunjab Deputy Speaker    Birdevinder Singh, and Ashwani Kumar spoke on the legendary author’s writings, especially his soul-stirring work ‘Toba Tek Singh’ centering on the 1947 Partition. Quite obviously, the work continues to ride the high waves of literary genius with almost no parallel in the way emotions get expressed so effectively. No surprise then that Manto continues to be popular both in Pakistan and India

sangrur40Folk it up!

The festival kept under spotlight traditional music, folklore and instruments. And Day One saw an interesting session wherein instruments were introduced and played independently and in unison to stress and  understand the importance of each with its unique sound and beat. The instruments included dhol, dholki, dhadh, nagara, khanjari, chimpta (chimta), kato (kaato/katto), sapp, sarangi, tunga, tungi, daariya, bugdu, alsejo, vanjhali, gheel and ghada.

With the festival being initiated in the heart of Punjab, it was only natural to honour the Punjabi culture, tradition and  folklore and keep them fragrant for the future generations. Thus, the festival created sessions on the same, giving an insight into the village life, on how our ancestors lived together in an inclusivesociety with various folk traditions, songs and wedding customs. These were brought alive, courtesy three books: ‘Mera Pind’ by Gyani Gurdit Singh, ‘Saun-Shilp’ by Dr Tejinder Harjeet and ‘The Village Pond’ by Dr Sidhu. The session had the audiences – across all age groups – sitting in rapt attention, soaking in the intriguing stories behind our popular customs.

Art & Soul

Also, special workshops were held by the famous artist Sidharth and Kamaljeet Kaur, an internationally-acclaimed calligraphist, besides an interactive session on comic books by Daljit Sidhu whose bed-time stories are crisply relevant today and are popularly read to many children in India and  abroad before they sleep.

Also, a short film on the legendary journey of Sant Attar Singh Ji Mastuana was released during the festival. This work by Harjit Singh, who famously produced and  directed the well-received motion picture ‘Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe ’, is quite an inspiring film, since it talks about the saint’s dream of educating the masses and especially the girl child. Today a good 162 institutions are running under his name.

  • Day Three saw a session titled ‘Sense of Justice’ with Justice Rakesh Garg, Chairperson, NRI Commission, Punjab, centering on the varied problems faced by NRIs in context of land and  matrimonial disputes. Justice Garg listed out the rights of the NRIs and  tips on handling prickly issues.

For Better & Verse

Poetry flowed. Thanks to sessions with the likes of Surjit Patar and Bittu Safeena Sandhu. Recitations thickened the afternoon silences with audiences sitting back and  feeding on some of the most sensitive notes of the soul.

Also, a beautiful book on Japanese haikus, by Jaspreet Mandher, was shared with the audiences, by way of recitations and  deliciously done visuals. Of course, the hearts felt bathed in love and  all things fragile.

For the love of

Punjabi literature formed a focal point in many sessions, especially those with Dr Surjit Singh (Punjabi University, Patiala) and  Manmohan Singh, a Sahitya Academy Award winner, who shared notes on popularizing Punjabi language and  multiplying the reader base across India and abroad.

Since the Sangrur Heritage and Literary Society stands committed to the promotion of young authors, the fest gave many prominent young writers, artists, photographers and poets a platform to share views and experiences. Among those who surfaced in the sessions included Khushwant Singh, Mandeep Singh Manu, Suditi Jindal, Sandeep Singh and Jaspreet Mandher.

Of course, the highlight was the release of Dr Rajmohan Gandhi’s bestseller- ‘Punjab – A History, From Aurangzab To Mountbatten’, translated into Punjabi by Prof Harpal Singh Pannu. It was released by Swaran Singh Boparai, former VC, Punjabi University, Patiala. Rajmohan Gandhi shared notes on his nostalgia with Sangrur and fond memories of being hosted by a very prominent family of Sardar Nasim Singh. Sure enough, he said he was keen to return to the fest next year.


The fest also created a platform to honour Sangrur residents who are achievers from fields besides literary. Like Haqiqat Singh (Mission Everest), Alamjit Sekhon (Mission Artic), Col PS Grewal (Mission Thar Desert) and young nationally-acclaimed shooters Capt Fatehbir Shergill and Karam Sukhbir Singh Lehal, were honoured, among others.

As the Rajasthani troupe Tera Bandani regaled the audiences with those traditional notes from the deserts, their songs rode the breeze and  went far away flying, promising to return with a richer rendezvous next year.