Hit by delays, Sikh heritage project gets another deadline

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Monday, December 6, 2010

CHANDIGARH - It promises to be a landmark monument of Sikhism. But six years have passed since work on the Khalsa Heritage Complex (KHC) started at Anandpur Sahib and the Punjab government has now given it yet another deadline for completion.

Announced in April 1999, it is now in its final phase and the Punjab government has set July 30, 2011, as its final deadline so that the monument can be dedicated to the nation in August next year.

“The Punjab government has directed officers of the Anandpur Sahib Foundation to complete the interior exhibit designs of the Khalsa Heritage Complex by July 30,” Punjab Finance Minister Upinderjit Kaur told IANS.

Being built on a 100-acre plot at Anandpur Sahib, 85 km from Chandigarh, the site is the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth - the present day Sikh religion. The second holiest Sikh shrine, Takht Keshgarh Sahib, is also located there.

The monument was originally expected to be completed by September 2004 to coincide with 400 years of celebration of the holiest of Sikh shrines, Harmandar Sahib — popularly known as the Golden Temple. The completion deadline was pushed further several times. The latest ones were November 2009 and April 13, 2010.

“This project is a unique endeavour of the Punjab government to showcase the different facets of 500 years of Sikh history so that the future generations get to know about their rich Punjabi culture and glorious traditions,” said Kaur, who is also chairperson of the Anandpur Sahib Foundation.

It was in Anandpur Sahib in 1699 on the day of Baisakhi that the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth and baptised the Panj Piaras, the first five baptized Sikhs known to be the loved ones of the guru.

The budget of the project is estimated to shoot up to Rs.2.55 billion by the time it is completed, almost double the original estimates. Funds for the project have come from the government, Punjab’s rich NRI community and religious organisations.

The roof of the flower-shaped building is in the form of five petals depicting the Panj Piaras. The petals will exhibit the life history of all gurus. The complex will be illuminated at night.

It was during the tercentenary of the founding of the Khalsa Panth in April 1999 that the idea to set up a monument as an inspiring tribute to the heroic and poignant saga of the Sikhs came up.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, in whose earlier tenure (1997-2002) the project was announced, is showing personal interest in the setting up of the heritage complex.

“The holy city of Sri Anandpur Sahib has sacred religious values for the Punjabis, especially the Sikh diaspora settled all over the world. The monument would not only highlight Sikh history but also infuse the spirit to imbibe high moral values of Sikhism among the future generations,” Badal said.

Boston-based internationally acclaimed Israeli-architect Moshe Safdie has designed the monument which is termed as a ‘wonder in the making’ - something that has no comparison in the country. Safdie is being assisted by Kirstin Kelly, a museum expert from the US.

Popularly known as the ‘ajooba’ (miracle), the complex’s museum covers 6,500-sq m of air-conditioned space. The story to be told within the museum’s monumental architectural spaces will be deeply spiritual, passionate and emotional.

The concept planners vouch that those visiting the monument will leave better informed and emotionally moved. Latest technology will be laden with the oldest details of Sikh history to drive home the message.

“The architectural grandeur of the complex would enable it to become one of the wonders of the modern world in propagating the basic tenets and philosophy of Sikhism. It will also be the fusion of culture highlighting the concept of Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat,” Kaur said.

The foundation claims the monument will cater to a wide audience - Sikhs from rural and urban milieu; NRI Sikhs; the devout and the sceptic; other Punjabis and tourists; the non-literate, the scholar, the aesthete; children, teenagers and the aged.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

Filed under: Religion

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