Dr. Saqib Razzaq, Project Officer, Colourful Heritage

The South Asian and Muslim community in Scotland have formed unique strands of the tartan fabric of Scottish society, but have you ever wondered how they came here? Why they travelled thousands of miles to a foreign land? Their personal journey, including the highs and the lows? How they contributed to society over the years?

This blog highlights the work of Colourful Heritage in exploring and documenting South Asian and Muslim history in Scotland. We want to showcase the amazing resources on our website, which can be accessed for free by anyone from around the globe!

Colourful Heritage is one of the largest South Asian, heritage focused, community led initiatives in Scotland. We host one of the biggest online archives with over 120 unique video histories!

Figure 1: Pedlars outside Tanda & Ashrif warehouse, Nicholson St, Gorbals, Glasgow (1953)

We have captured video stories from all faiths of South Asian background, recounting everything from the 1947 partition, to the migration journey, and the work people undertook to survive, raise a family and eventually flourish in Scotland. We continue to celebrate their contributions and achievements to educate and inspire future generations, creating a variety of resources year on year. These help us to achieve our main goals: to Capture, Celebrate and Inspire.

Our aim was to become the first platform to document the unique South Asian and Muslim heritage in Scotland. What started as an informal conversation amongst a group of friends over 10 years ago has shaped into the formation of Colourful Heritage as we know it today. During 2020-21, we continue celebrating our 10-year anniversary. Watch this short video summarising our work during this decade and why our work is vital for younger generations of Scots, whether of South Asian background or not.

At Colourful Heritage we passionately believe in preserving our heritage for current and future generations to look back with pride and learn valuable life lessons. For the younger generation, it will help them to learn about the pioneering contributions of their forefathers to not only Scotland but Britain as a whole. Armed with this information, it will help them to tackle issues such as racism and Islamophobia as well as many other contemporary issues they face today in relation to self-identity, community belonging and having a stake in the land.

Therefore, we have created several easily accessible resources for the community, including youngsters and educators, which can be explored further by clicking on the titles and any links within:

  1. Online video archive

This contains over 120 unique video interviews from men and women of various faiths, within the South Asian community in Scotland. Our interviewees span across Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and relay information about Pakistan/India partition, migration to Scotland, working life (i.e., often starting as pedlars, then as conductors and bus drivers), family life and identity. Many of the interviews are in English and those that are in Urdu and Punjabi will soon be subtitled so that everyone can benefit from their words of wisdom! Watch ‘Our Journey’ video featuring a collection of snippets from Scotland’s first South Asian Policewoman, oldest South Asian entrepreneur, and the UK’s first Muslim Councillor. If you would like to have your story recorded for our archive then please email us at: info@colourfulheritage.com

2. Digital timeline

This is a fantastic, ever-growing interactive resource about Scotland’s South Asian history. It spans from 1855 when Maharaja Duleep Singh (aka The Black Prince) lived in Perthshire right up to 2021 when the first Muslim and Sikh women became Ministers for the Scottish Parliament. The timeline gives you a visual insight into Scotland’s deep South Asian heritage and highlights the many ‘firsts’ achieved by this small yet very active community.

3. Digital Schools Resource Pack

To highlight the contribution of the South Asian community in Scotland, Colourful Heritage, together with Glasgow Museums, created a ‘Digital Schools Resource Pack’ for both teachers and parents to use. 

The material in the pack provides a unique insight to both World War 1 & 2 and the story of Force K6– Indian Punjabi Muslim soldiers who trained in Scotland. It also highlights Scotland’s South Asian contribution to entrepreneurshippolitical participation and Glasgow’s multicultural history as well as South Asian migration and how their identity has been shaped. 

This resource pack is aimed at pupils in Primary 6 and 7 and in early years of high school and consists of 5 digital units. Richly illustrated and complete with case studies, suggested lesson plans, discussion points, activities and options for further reading, they each provide a fantastic opportunity to teach children about a lesser-studied element of Scottish culture.

4. British Indian Army Resources and Scotland’s first BIA Memorial Project

In one of our more recent areas of interest we have focussed on the role of the British Indian Army (BIA) servicemen and women, who, from a variety of faiths, sacrificed their lives and fought for Britain in both World War 1 & 2. This is a part of our history which has not been taught in schools, and sadly runs the risk of being forgotten.

Figure 2: Naik Gian Singh (L) and Khudadad Khan (R), both to have won Victoria Crosses for services in the wars (1956)

Check out our India’s contribution in World War 1 & 2 infographic to find out more. Our website features several videos related to a specific regiment called Force K6 who were stationed in Scotland, with several of them buried in the highlands. It also includes articles, mobile exhibition posters and our BIA brochure called ‘Forgotten Sacrifices’.

Colourful Heritage and partners will be building Scotland’s first permanent memorial in Glasgow to remember the sacrifices of the South Asian soldiers of varying faiths that fought for Britain in both World Wars. Thanks to our digital school’s resource pack, teachers have been educating school pupils about the BIA across Scotland and recently we engaged several schools with our memorial design project. Check out some of the amazing designs sent in by school pupils, and the teachers and pupil’s feedback, by clicking here.

5. Finding Force K6 podcast

Learn more about the Punjabi Muslim soldiers that escaped from Dunkirk during WW2 and made their way to the Highlands of Scotland through this series of interviews. Find out who they were, where they came from, where they stayed and what daily life was like for them. This plus much more!

6. Explore Scotland – Interactive map of South Asian and Muslim Heritage in Scotland

This is one of our latest resources that has gone live in July 2021! Whether you are planning to stay in Scotland or visit for your next staycation there’s loads of places you can find out about Scotland’s South Asian history, from magnificent Mosques to marvellous museums. Colourful Heritage have collated these landmarks onto one interactive ‘Explore Scotland’ map. Take a look for yourself!

7. GlaswegAsians Exhibition

In July 2017 along with Glasgow Museums, we opened Scotland’s first dedicated exhibition in Glasgow’s Scotland Street School Museum to promote the brilliant achievements of Scottish South Asians. 

This contained a fascinating wall sized timeline (dating from 1855!) and featured amazing artefacts such as a pedlar’s suitcase, a 250-year-old Quran, a medal awarded in 1904 to an Indian Muslim soldier serving in World War 1 and an election poster from 1970 when Britain’s first Muslim was elected to public office. The exhibition is temporarily closed in 2021 due to relocation so keep an eye on our webpage for future updates.

Figure 3: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the opening of the GlaswegAsians Exhibition, Scotland Street Museum (2017)

8. Bashir Maan Archive

We have also put together the Bashir Maan archive (UK’s first Muslim Councillor) located within the majestic Mitchell Library – Scotland’s largest public library. This is an amazing resource to explore his many original photographs, newspaper cuttings and documents.

Figure 4: Bashir Maan CBE delivering a speech at the opening of the Bashir Maan Archive, Mitchell Library (2014)

9. Feeling Scottish and Being Muslim: Findings from the Colourful Heritage Project

This chapter about heritage is published in ‘Scotland’s Muslims – Society, Politics and Identity’ book by Edinburgh University. It explores the theme of identity through photographs and documents within the Bashir Maan archive and from interviews from many of our oral video history participants. 

Almost over two thirds of the participants were unable to refer to themselves as a single ethnic identity and instead adopted a hybrid identity e.g., Pakistani Scots, Scottish Muslim etc. which is directly linked to their positive integration experience they had whilst in Scotland compared with their English counterparts. Find out what makes Scotland so special and explore the Muslim story of integration in Scotland through this chapter.

The numerous resources that we have curated will no doubt be a priceless asset for all of Scotland and beyond as well as for the generations to come.

In the words of the Colourful Heritage Founder, Omar Shaikh –

‘We may not have changed the course of history, but we have most certainly gone a long way to document it and address the archival silence  our history, told by our community.’ 

For further reading and to see some great images check out our blog for Historic Environment Scotland: ‘Meet the GlaswegAsians, Glasgows South Asian Heritage’.

If you have a personal story related to Scotland and would like to be interviewed or have valuable information for our digital timeline then contact us by email at:


Follow our latest activities on our social media platforms.

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/ColourfulHeritage

YouTube:     www.youtube.com/Colourfulheritage

Twitter:        @ColourHeritage 

Instagram: @ColourfulHeritage

Web:            www.colourfulheritage.com

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