Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sikh Heritage in neglect part 1

Building new memorials but ignoring the old ones.

While the ruling SAD combine in Punjab lists as its achievements a slew of museums promoting the Khalsa heritage, the existing ones are in a sad state of neglect

The Guru Teg Bahadur Museum is located less than 1 km from the monumental Virasat-e-Khalsa and just 50 metre from Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in this holy town, but its condition is very different from the Rs 300-crore monument inaugurated by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on November 25.

The museum was shut for renovation some 18 months ago and is yet to be opened to the public though work was “completed” some time in June-July at a cost of Rs 1 crore. The reason: Official apathy and an unending wait for some exhibits that were taken to Patiala and Chandigarh for restoration soon after renovation began in the first half of 2010.

Located across the road from one of the five Sikh Takhts, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, the museum’s main door was found locked earlier this month. A woman employee, one of the nine working at the museum, revealed that due to renovation “it had been closed to the public for over 18 months. Some of the artifacts were yet to arrive and only once they did could the museum be formally reopened to the general public,” she told The Tribune team.

Guru Teg Bahadur Museum, Anandpur Sahib.
The locked entrance: Guru Teg Bahadur Museum, Anandpur Sahib.

A little later, a member of the museum security staff opened the side door to allow the team to have a look at the paintings on display in the exhibition hall. The paintings had been taken to Chandigarh and Patiala for retouching and for new mounts.

A cannon belonging to Guru Gobind Singh lay wrapped up in a piece of cloth in a corner as its mount was yet to be assembled. Empty display cases waited for Guru Teg Bahadur’s robe and Guru Gobind Singh’s sword.

Though polished granite and glossy imported tiles have been used in the renovated exhibition hall, a thick dust cover could be seen on paintings of the Sikh Gurus. The museum does not have a cleaner.

The Guru Teg Bahadur Museum is dedicated to the ninth guru’s sacrifice but not many in the holy city that primarily owes its eminence to ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, and tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh,were aware that it had been closed for almost two years.

The SGPC employees at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib didn’t know. The Director of Cultural Affairs, mandated to look after all museums in the state, is not even aware of its existence.

“To be honest, I am not aware of this museum. I was given charge of this department recently. I was brought in as the Chief Executive Officer of the Anandpur Sahib Foundation to get the Virasat-e-Khalsa completed. That task has been accomplished. Now I will focus on other heritage buildings, museums and war memorials in the state,” says Karamjit Singh Sra, director of Cultural Affairs. He had no explanation for the state of neglect.

The new-look museum boasts of close circuit cameras, neon lights and other state-of-the-art fittings. The original plaque tracing the museum’s origin lay stacked outside along the boundary wall with broken pieces of furniture and old fittings.

The plaque says that the museum was developed under the guidance of Dr MS Randhawa. Architect Surjit Singh, artists Kirpal Singh, Jaswant Singh and Devinder Singh and engineers SS Virdi, TN Gupta, Surjit Singh and Sarup Singh Rattan were associated with its design, construction and exhibits. Also associated with the museum were the then Director of Punjab Public Relations Tej Singh and Additional Director, Cultural Affairs, Tarlochan Singh.

The museum was completed in the early 80s. In 2010, because of years of neglect, it was shut for renovation. There is still a lot of wet paint around and it is likely to be a while before the museum is re-opened to the public.

Rich history forgotten
  • Cannon belonging to Guru Gobind Singh lay wrapped in cloth in a corner; its mount yet to be assembled
  • Thick layer of dust on paintings of the Sikh Gurus; the museum has no safai karamchari
  • Empty display cases await Guru Teg Bahadur’s robe and Guru Gobind Singh’s sword

Prabhjot Singh,Tribune India, Anandpur Sahib, December 28

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