Sultanpur Lodhi is a small town in Punjab with a glorious historic past and looking into the future. The town is in the Kapurthala district, which has maintained its s in the fact that over the years of struggles, invasions, colonial rule, independence and industrialization this town has preserved its ‘spirit ‘. Synonymous with the ‘spirit’ of Punjab itself that has been conserved with the bounds of this small town surrounded by agrarian landscape. This island of religious, architectural and historic and significance has miraculously been saved from recent inconsiderate development that has consumed most other similar towns.
There is a spiritual aura intrinsic to this place that can probably be explained by its history. It was a sacred grove that became the abode of monks and slowly developed as the centre of Buddhist learning in the 4th century BC. It went through serious of Mughal invasions and plunders, yet rose again as it was considered a place of learning and education. In the 15th Century this town was the heart of the new religion of Sikhism. This is where the first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, lived for fourteen years and where he began his spiritual udasi’s (journey).
The town today is densely spotted with places of religious associations, shrines, temples and abandoned mosques. The town has a plethora of immeasurable architectural heritage, including the havelis (traditional courtyard house), the Qila Sarai (fortified rest house) and the tombs. Since the town was located on the historic Delhi-Lahore trade route, the Qila Sarai, built on the highest point of the town was meant to provide a safe haven for traders to provide rest and food on their journey. The bursting market, narrow rustic streets, aroma of traditional delicacies, all takes you back to a time when this was an economically and culturally prosperous center.
The buildings now appear derelict, the Qila Sarai is being used as the Police Station, the Vet hospital is abandoned, the owners of a few Havelis have moved elsewhere, yet what is maintained is the amiable, humble and yet knowledgeable nature of its residents. They have ensured the continuity of their heritage and are now torn between the hard choice of embracing development in the narrow sense of new buildings and industries or struggling to keep alive their traditional ways but without any means to support the same.
The Anād Foundation recognized the potential of this town and had a vision for its future. It was important to preserve this center from the impinging forces of builder developments, to protect the people from the pawns of the global phenomenon of malls and call centers, to nourish the strengths and roots of its existence and make it prosper from its already existing intangible cultural heritage. Like the uncut diamond, the town presented endlessly faceted sparkling possibilities that could be realized. The Anād Foundation set itself a task to try bringing about a change, by infusing the town with a reinstated cultural spirit by establishing a Music and Arts Conservatory, dedicated exclusively to the study of cultural traditions, in the premises of the Qila Sarai . This was selected as their Sarai for the organization for their long journey towards the resurgence and renaissance of the culture of Punjab…