The project promoted by the Anād Foundation (and Bhai Baldeep Singh as a driving force behind it) to put back Sultanpur Lodhi in the cultural place it had for several centuries, and should have again, is very important for four reasons.
One. It is a place of the spirit.
Wandering in the countryside along the river where the ancient Shāhi bridge stands, walking inside the walled space of the Sarāi, strolling in the old quarters of Sultanpur Lodhi one makes an unusual experience. Even if there are not imposing monuments, extraordinary works of art and a breathtaking landscape one has the feeling to be at the center of a uniquely important space. In a site dense of meanings, where overlapping layers of culture send messages. At first the bystander does not understand what they teach. He has to stop, sit and meditate. Then the many voices of an extremely rich cultural and spiritual history condensed in ruins and open fields can be heard and things look in a different and clear way. There is little of tangible but the intangible is so powerful it becomes more solid than physical elements. There are not so many places in the world, and even in India that have this spiritual and intellectual quality and power. A project of conservation of this heritage must be fully aware of this unusual aspect: the intangible that creates a virtual tangible environment.
Two. It is a place for the transfer of knowledge
Sultanpur can teach something very basic for human society: the transfer of intellectual knowledge from one generation to the other. The role of the Masters never ends and nurtures innovation, as an improvement of previous skills or as a search for alternative solutions. Sultanpur can become a place where ideas, feelings, skills from the past can be transmitted to future generations at the same time that new approaches, new forms of expression and communication, new techniques are explored. The cultural layers one can see in the local architecture and landscape allow to learn more about the past. At the same time they stimulate to find new answers, to make new original things. This implies that a policy of conservation must be able to blend together traditional elements, new technologies, contemporary solutions, anticipations of the future. I believe that Sultanpur Lodhi offers exceptional opportunities to do this. And this in turn will make it a model for many other places where knowledge is transferred.
Three. It is a place of mutual understanding and tolerance
The history of Hindustan and of the Sultanpur region have been shaped by a sequence of different cultures and religions and by the coexistence of different people. Though conflicts from time to time took place, it has mostly been a peaceful place. Few decades ago things took a different direction but this does not mean that traditional strong ties cannot be re-established. Sultanpur could be the metaphor of the need that the present world has of doing and living together in order to survive. And can also be the laboratory for experiencing cooperation, joint research, dialectic confrontation among cultures in the field of arts and science. I imagine young people from India, Pakistan, other Asian countries, and from Europe, Latin and Northern America learning how important it is to learn together, to understand each other, to jointly build the future without losing their cultural identity which is an extremely important resource. I really believe that Sultanpur will be the right place to do this since it has a very solid and rich cultural tradition and at the same time it is an open place.
Four. Kapurthala as a place for creation and innovation
I cannot imagine a project based on Sultanpur Lodhi that does not involve also Kapurthala with its history of trade, industry and cultural innovation. Sultanpur Lodhi and Kapurthala could easily become a major center of intellectual life in India and an international pole of cultural attraction. In contemporary world creativity in arts cannot be disjointed from inventiveness in science and this will become even more important in the future. Kapurthala could become a place where new generations can express their artistic gifts or can develop their scientific ingenuity while Sultanpur would become the conservatory of traditions, the place where ancient roots are still made alive.
These are the reasons why I am so honored and happy to participate in the Anād Foundation project. I feel that through this experience I can receive new insights and give what I have learnt in my life. And I can also help to build a better world for new generations.
Professor Paolo Ceccarelli is the UNESCO Chair in Urban and Regional Planning for Sustainable Local Development, President, International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design (ILAUD) Milan, Italy and Chairman, ANĀD Scientific Advisory Committee (ASAC), Sultanpur Lodhi, India.
He visited Qila Sarai, Sultanpur Lodhi on a state visit on April 4, 2008.