Remained known as ‘Bunga Sardar Mangal Singh, CSI’ for more than 140 years
The word Bunga (Punjabi word for quarters) is inseparable from the history of the Golden Temple because its very existence was dependent on the latter. Bungas were built by important Misl Sardars for the protection of Golden Temple from the invaders and it is due to this reason that God’s blessings are solicited in Sikh Ardas (prayers) for eternal life of Bungas.
The Bunga was known as Bunga Sardar Mangal Singh and remained with Sardar-e-Bawakar Sardar Mangal Singh and his his posterity for almost 140 years. His descendants owned the Bunga and lived until 1972 after which it was handed over to SGPC, Amritsar by “Sardar Sahib” Sardar Tarlochan Singh for maintaining it as a historical monument and possibly use it as Sikh museum. Because of the sole ownership and prolonged stay in the Bunga, the descendants of Sardar Mangal Singh are popularly known as “The Bungewala Family”.
During the reign of the Mughal Emperors the temple was blown up with gunpowder or destroyed by other means no less than seven times but each time the Sikhs rebuilt it. When it was demolished the last time, the Sardars of important Misls assembled at Akal Takht / Bunga (situated in the front of the temple and founded by the 6th Prophet of the Sikhs, Sahib Sri Hargobind jee as a mark of temporal authority) to hold consultations about the reconstruction of the temple.
It was rightly decided that it would be of no use to rebuild the temple unless some of the Sikhs remained in its vicinity for its protection against their enemies. The Bhangis, the Ahluwalias and the Ramgarhias were selected to dwell in the sacred precincts with their forces as guardians of the temple. They were directed to call the other Sardars for help in case of any great danger. As already stated, the Bhangis built two forts and in addition built their Bunga to the west of the temple. The Ahluwalias built one fort called the Ahluwalia Fort for their army and one Bunga called the Ahluwalia Bunga for their own residence, both to the North of the temple.
This building has been saved due the efforts of Sardar-e-Bawakar Sardar Mangal Singh, CSI (1800 – 1897) for restoring it as his personal property and ‘Sadar Sahib’ Tarlochan Singh Bungewala (1901 – 1975) for getting a status of a historic monument during mid sixties before handing it over to SGPC. Onkar Singh Sandhu with help from SGPC is now (2008 onwards) renovating the building to be converted into a Sikh Museum as envisioned by Late ‘Sardar Sahib’ Tarlochan Singh Bungewala.
The Ramgarhias, likewise, rebuilt the old fort Ram Rauni for their forces and named it Ramgarh and also built a Bunga called Ramgarhia Bunga for their own residence to the east of the temple. Thus these Sardars protected the temple on all four sides. It was also a period during which the area around Golden Temple was turning into the township of Amritsar. The very structure of the Bunga shows the special purpose for which it was built. The lofty towers of Ramgarhia Bunga were obviously built to spy on the enemy from a distance. This building was the largest of all the mansions. The towers are three storied and nearly 156 ft high from the ground. No wood is used anywhere in the construction. Besides numerous masonry arches, there are marble and red stone pillars supporting the roof of upper story of the Bunga.
The front portion facing the Golden Temple is decorated with delicately chiseled patterns. Here the ancient Coronation Stone of the Grand Mughals which Sardar Jassa Singh brought from Delhi is placed, having three pillars on each side; the priest every day used to recite the holly Granth on this historic slab. The dimensions of the stone are 6’-3” X 4’-6” X 9”. The frontage of the Bunga is nearly 150 ft. One can have a very good view of the city from the top of the towers. Many Europeans visitors used to come to enjoy the sight until late seventies. The building has three layers of basements capable of hiding thousands of troops. At one time, while two were completely submerged due to seepage on account of the adjoining water tank of the Golden Temple, one basement was still intact.
After Jodh Singh (s/o Jassa Singh) died in 1816, the Misl including this Bunga was annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, A lot of material which was lying for the completion of Bunga incuding the canopy which was meant / partially constructed on the top of the Bunga was removed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and placed on Ranjit Singh Gate in the Company Bagh in Amritsar. Since Mangal Singh along with Hari Singh Nalwa was able to have brought honor to Ranjit Singh’s regime in NWFP by successfully overpowering Afghan recalcitrant tribal Chiefs in the Afghan region, Ranjit Singh rewarded Sardar Mangal Singh and returned a portion of his ancestors estate in Amritsar including the Bunga to him. The Bunga was thus known as Bunga Sardar Mangal Singh and remained with the family for almost 130 years. His descendants lived until 1972 and after obtaining the status of historic monument it was handed over to SGPC, Amritsar by “Sardar Sahib” Sardar Tarlochan Singh for maintaining it as a historical monument and possibly use it as Sikh museum. Because of the sole ownership and prolonged stay of his ancestors in the Bunga, the descendants of Sardar Mangal Singh until Sardar Sahib Tarlochan Singh were popularly known as “The Bungewala Family”.
However, with the efforts of Sardar Onkar Singh Sandhu and his team; and also the financial help being provided by SGPC (2008), the complex is being renovated including the basements. Some of the material including stones, pillars and the Sill (also known as the Coronation stone) placed in the building are pieces of evidences that the Sikhs raided the Red Fort at Delhi during the Mogul rule. During mid sixties, the building was officially declared a historical monument by the Punjab government with the sole efforts of ‘Saedar Sahib’ Sardar Tarlochan Singh. At the time of handing over this building to the SGPC by “Sarsar Sahib” Sardar Tarlochan Singh, the last occupant from the family, there was an understanding that building will be used for the Sikh Museum so that the building could inherent a process of natural maintenance and protection. The building is now under renovation and is in the process of being converted into a Sikh Museum.
Today this building is the only surviving example of Bunga architecture typology even though not all the Bungas were as magnificent as this building. This Bunga is not just a building, it is a historical monument that reflects the history of Sikhs. Since this is the only Bunga now left on the peripheral of the Golden Temple, it also remind us of other Bungas that were built for the protection of the Golden Temple. It is imperative that this Bunga is retained as a heritage complex. The Langer (kitchen and dinning area) as seen in the background of this building was constructed in the open area of the Bunga around late seventies and virtually blocking its entrance. A new entrance is now being worked out from the Golden Temple side.
As of now the actual entrance to the complex has been virtually closed in view of the construction of Langar (eating hall) in the open area. A entrance is now being taken out so that the people visiting Golden Temple can visit the complex from within the complex itself. The building is currently being renovated and being converted into a museum as was envisioned by Late “Sardar Sahib” Sardar Trilochan Singh, the last occupant from the family.
Sill – The Coronation Stone Brought from Red Fort, Delhi
As mentioned, Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, with many other things brought a piece of stone, known as Sill, (length 6ft. 3 inches, breadth 4ft. 6 inches, thickness 9 inches). The Sill was the base on which the great Mogul Peacock throne was placed. It is believed that the Sill itself contains some rare stones. There was another identical stone on which mock coronation of the Ahluwalia chief was performed which was not accepted by the Ramgarhia chief. After the Peacock Throne was plundered by Nadir Shah in 1739, the Mogul rulers sit on this stone during public court. Jassa Singh collected many historical material from the Red Fort, with which the Red Fort was built, and brought to Amritsar for the construction of the Bunga adjoining Golden Temple, Amritsar. It was later completed by his son Sardar Jodh Singh. The historic stone was later placed in front part of the Ramgarhia Bunga, facing Golden Temple, where it still exists. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia’s vow was fulfilled, when for many years it was used as throne for the Holy Granth Sahib, the everlasting guide and the immortal King of the Sikhs. Even though this practice has been discontinued, the reciting of Guru Granth sahib on this Royal stone (Sill) can still be considered by appropriate authorities. When ‘Sardar Sahib’ Sardar Tarlochan Singh, popularly known as Bungewala Sardar, was approached by a foreign delegation which wanted this Sill (Coronation Stone) along with other material at any cost. The Sardar out rightly refused to accept the offer as he did not want to destroy the history created by his family elders.