Thursday, 1 March 2012

Weather shield at Golden Temple doesn’t wow heritage lovers

SGPC says causeway shed to benefit devotees, detractors assert it will disturb shrine’s character

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s move to install a fire and water-resistant fabric shed on the causeway between Darshani Deori and the sanctum sanctorum at the Golden Temple to protect devotees from the vagaries of weather, has not gone down well with heritage lovers.

Darbar Sahib manager Harbans Singh Malhi says Rs 1 crore will be spent on the retractable shed, which will be operated with the help of a motor. This will protect devotees from the harsh summer heat and rain. “Infrared lights will keep the passage warm in the winters,” says Malhi. The new facility will be in place within a month.

Heritage lovers, however, feel that the shed would disturb the original character of the shrine. Balvinder Singh, Head, Guru Ram Das School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University, says: “The original character of the holy shrine should be maintained at all cost.” Singh, who is also member of the SGPC’s Heritage Advisory Committee, said he had also protested against the installation of ACs inside the sanctum sanctorum. “Now the ACs are damaging the frescoes inside the shrine”, he claimed.

Sikh scholar Bhai Ashok Singh Bagaria says the shed will block the view of the sanctum sanctorum. “How can you call it Darshani Deori when ‘darshan’ is blocked from there?” he asked. Bagaria said it is a shrine not a place for entertainment where facilities should be given a priority. “People have been visiting the shrine for centuries and will continue to do so irrespective of amenities,” he added. Rawal Singh, assistant professor, Department of Architecture, GNDU, said the move will destroy the character of the front façade of the shrine.

Interestingly, even the SGPC Secretary Dalmegh Singh feels that the shed will block the view of the shrine. He, however, said he was not much aware of the exact details of the project. Another SGPC official, pleading anonymity, said the traditional look of the shrine should be preserved.

On the other hand, the move has evoked a mixed response from the devotees. Joginder Pal Singh, a pilgrim from Kuwait, said, “It would be a big relief for the devotees who visit the shrine in summers or rainy season.”

Kuldeep Singh Arora, a local SBI official, said the SGPC should preserve the shrine in original form and avoid tampering with it. Amarjit Singh, another pilgrim from Delhi, said he would like to see the SGPC continue with the traditional ways like using the ‘shamiana’ or watering the floor to comfort the devotees during summers. “Though at times we find it difficult standing in queue in extreme weather conditions for long, but somewhere down the line I feel it increases our faith,” he added.

Makkar backs project

SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said the authorities used to erect a ‘shamiana’ fitted with fans earlier, but there was always a threat of short-circuit in case of sudden rainfall. “This new facility will pose no such hazard,” said Makkar. “Moreover, the foldable shed will be about a feet away from Darshani Deori and the sanctum sanctorum. Hence, it will not obstruct the view of the shrine from Darshani Deori,” he added.

The shed is set to replace the shamiana over the causeway leading to the sanctum sanctorum

Perneet Singh/TNS, Amritsar, February 29


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