A bronze statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will be unveiled outside the Sikh Gallery in Lahore on the occasion of his 180th death anniversary on Thursday, June 27. Ranjit Singh had ruled Punjab for nearly 40 years in the early 19th century.
The eight-feet statue features the ruler perched on top of his favourite horse Kahar Bahar, which was gifted to him by the founder of the Barakzai dynasty, Dost Mohammad Khan.
Three artists from Lahore's National College of Art and Naqsh School of Art took eight months to complete the statue. "This sculpture is a tribute and homage to the son of the soil," said Faqir Khana Museum director Faqir Syed Saifuddin.
Sikh Heritage Foundation UK director Boby Singh Bansal said they are "extremely happy to be a part of this historic moment", according to Express Tribune.
Apart from celebrations of the ruler's legacy, it also provides an opportunity for promoting Sikh tourism. "The reason for a Ranjit Singh statue in Pakistan is that there is not a single monument in this country to commemorate him. A lot of Sikh pilgrims come to his samadhi here every year on his death anniversary, but you can not commemorate a grave. It is also to promote the Sikh legacy in Pakistan, to promote Sikh tourism to Pakistan. It will also educate local people about this unique leader who ruled all of Punjab, not just over Sikhs, but all people," Bansal said.
Saifuddin said he was "proud" as three members of his family were emissaries to Ranjit Singh. "Lahore has had rich cultural and religious diversity for centuries and Ranjit Singh was one important part of it," he said.
As a part of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, the Pakistan government has issued more than 450 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India for the occasion of Ranjit Singh's death anniversary on June 29. Last year, India had announced the development of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. It will connect the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev - Darbar Sahib in Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India.
Known as the "Sher-e-Punjab", Maharaja Ranjit Singh's legacy includes cultural and artistic renaissance through his sponsorship to construct Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Bihar, Hazur Sahib Nanded in Maharashtra and other major gurdwaras.