BC man collects thousands of rare books, artifacts documenting Sikh history – BC

It’s a collection that took nearly three decades to build: rare medals, maps, artifacts, and volumes of many types of books, some dating back to 1696.

Raj Singh Bhandall, the man behind the Wanjara Nomad Collections in Surrey, BC, estimates that he has more than 2,000 objects from around the world, including India and Afghanistan, in his personal mini-museum.

“If someone asks me, ‘What do you have?’ I always say, ‘A couple of books,’ but when they slide that door open and walk in, they say, ‘That’s not what you told us,'” Bhandall told Global News.

“They are like living objects. There is a story behind it. Every single item has a story.”

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Wanjara Nomad Collections states on their website that they have a “collection of over 1,230 rare books on Sikh rule, the East India Company and the British Empire”.

“Despite ill-advised and unsuccessful attempts to racially cleanse Sikh history, Wanjara Nomad Collections has assembled a bespoke selection of antiquities to collect and assemble Sikh history for preservation, learning and sharing” , says the website.

Bhandall said he was driven by a desire to learn about his story. He began browsing antique stores, flea markets, and garage sales while keeping tabs on online auctions around the world as part of his ongoing treasure hunt.

“I feel like a kid, too,” he explained. “I used to collect marbles, fly kites – it’s not the same thing, but it’s similar in a way.”

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It’s a hobby and passion that has taken up much of his free time.

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“At home and with my friends, I drive them crazy,” he said with a smile. “So they’re like, ‘Is there anything else you can do?'”

Now a large portion of the collection is being streamed online for others to learn from. Wanjara Nomad Collections does not accept donations and is free for anyone to use.

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“If they want to read about it, they can, and then readers go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that,'” said Sunny Khroud, researcher and cataloger for Wanjara Nomad Collections.

“Questions and comments are coming in, we have a phone line.”

One day, Bhandall said, he plans to find a public space and open the doors to anyone who wants to browse his collection – a legacy he must leave so that this story will always live on.

“I only see myself as a caretaker. I’m not an intellectual or a very educated person, but I care about these things. Preserve, learn and share,” he said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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