As Bilga’s treasure decays, villagers seek outside help

On July 1, 1590 AD, a board on the main gate of Gurdwara Panjvi Patshahi in Bilga village says, an important marriage party halted in this village located off Phillaur town in Jalandhar district. Having spent two nights in the village and on the request of its residents, the groom left his old clothes and other articles here as he prepared for his wedding.

For some 420 years since that day, Bilga village has devotedly taken care to protect and preserve the clothes and other articles of Guru Arjan Dev - the 5th Sikh guru - who had stayed here before getting married to Mata Gangaji of Mau Sahib village, five kms from Bilga. The Guru's robes are housed in the Gurdwara.

Now, however, their efforts seem to be unravelling. With passage of time, the items — a cream coloured mal mal (extra fine cotton) kurta, a white silk pyjama with pink stripes, a white cotton stole with phulkari traditionally called the dushala, a jute purse, a white crystal mala (called simarna), a cotton silk saili ( cap), a light pink cotton silk hanky, a low stool made of chandan wood on which Guruji sat to take a bath and a white coloured cotton sheet popularly known as the Hazuria - have lost their lustre.

While the clothes have never been washed, they were dusted annually. No one dares to open the packing now fearing that the robes may get spoiled. "Earlier when the clothes were in good condition, they used to be displayed on Guruji's wedding day but as they started getting damaged, they were packed in plastic bags and are now kept in a small glass room for display only," says Purshottam Das, a retired teacher.

The villagers have done their bit to preserve the clothes with the cotton kurta having been pasted with more mal mal cloth twice. The last time such pasting was done was 100 years ago, says Dr J S Bilga (60), a horticulturist and a resident of this village, who adds that he heard this from his forefathers.

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