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Heritage Mauled

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source: http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodna...8F%29&sid=1

sikh heritage demolitions

Have You The Eyes For It?

Sikhism's heritage is being pulverised by a blend of ignorance, arrogance, new money


Heritage Mauled

In the name of kar seva, historic Sikh structures are being demolished:

Part of the 150-year old Gurudwara Hazoor Sahib in Nanded was razed

The 500-year-old home of Bebe Nanki (elder sister of Guru Nanak) also met the same fate

Homes of Sikh gurus Amar Das and Ram Dass in Amritsar were razed

According to INTACH 90 per cent of all ancient Sikh buildings in Punjab have been demolished


In the dead of the night, sometime in October last year, police surrounded the historic baradari at Gurudwara Hazoor Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra, built during Maharaja Ranjit Singh's reign. Under their watchful eye, the once-magnificent structure was razed to the ground, even as conservationists who had drawn up detailed plans to restore it were pleading with the gurudwara management to preserve the 150-year-old building. It was 300 years ago, in October 1708, that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, bestowed the guardianship of the faith on the Guru Granth Sahib at this very spot. Since then, Hazoor Sahib has been revered as one of the four takhts of Sikhism.

What happened at Nanded in October and before that in January 2007, when another historic structure in the complex, the Ramgarhia Bunga, was similarly demolished, leading to rioting by local Sikhs and police firing, has become a recurrent story with Sikh historic monuments across the country. In the face of sharp criticism by conservationists and Sikh intellectuals in Punjab and elsewhere, as well as vigorous online campaigns spearheaded by expatriate Sikhs to preserve their heritage, the keepers of these monuments have brazenly continued their wanton depredation. Gurmeet Rai, director of intach's Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI), who has restored several ancient Sikh historical buildings in Punjab, says, "I would say 90 per cent of Sikh heritage monuments have been destroyed in Punjab in the name of renovation and kar seva." Kar seva is a unique institution in Sikhism, wherein the community collects funds or volunteers its labour to repair or build religious structures, generally gurudwaras. Why and how did things come to this pass?

"Though kar seva babas had been renovating gurudwaras ever since anyone can remember, it was after Operation Bluestar, when the Sikh community donated generously for the massive rebuilding of the Golden Temple premises, that 'babas' began to appreciate the money-making opportunities such rebuilding threw up. The trend then spread across Punjab and in the last two decades, old heritage structures began to be demolished and replaced by garish, opulent marble gurudwaras", says H.S. Dilgeer Singh, a Sikh historian. Adds Rai, "These pseudo-babas are armed with so much money but they spend it foolishly on rebuilding instead of restoration, because they are absolutely ignorant about the historical value of these old monuments. Somewhere along the line, the original, unpretentious Sikh architecture has begun to be perceived as something to be ashamed of. Our Gurus were simple, down-to-earth men of the soil, and their buildings reflect the simplicity and harmony which Sikhism is all about."

It was this very simplicity of the Ramgarhia Bunga and the Baradari at Nanded which brought about their destruction. Dr P.S. Pasricha, present chairman of the Hazoor Sahib Gurudwara Board and former director-general of police, Maharashtra, told Outlook, "The Baradari was a dilapidated structure which was coming in the way of the huge development plans currently being executed for the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the guruship of the Guru Granth Sahib at Nanded this year.As far as I am aware, it had no historical value. As for the Ramgarhia Bunga, it was an old room with two tin trunks in it. We have now given 3,000 sq ft of land at another place to the Ramgarhias to construct a new 31-room sarai with a museum. We are making the place an international pilgrimage destination. Besides the Rs 125 crore which the board is spending on the gurudwara project, the town of Nanded too is getting a facelift, for which the Planning Commission has earmarked Rs 1,500 crore."

But what Pasricha and his cohorts do not talk about is the painstakingly elaborate restoration plans made by Sharad Chalikwar, a consultant engineer with the board and Kiran Kalamdani, a restoration architect from Pune once associated with the project. "I spent two years drawing up the plan for the Baradari, but was forced to dissociate myself from the project when it was demolished despite our pleas. They are bulldozing their own heritage," says Chalikwar. Adds Kalamdani, who was originally appointed to conserve the Baradari, "We were thrown out along with the demolition of these monuments. All that matters to them is the desire to make grand structures." Both the Baradari and the Bunga were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The destruction at Nanded is particularly unfortunate because it was done under the supervision of a top police officer and not some ignorant kar seva baba.

Back home in Punjab, the list of Sikh heritage structures which have fallen at the hands of overzealous babas is growing too. Dr Gurtej Singh, a Sikh scholar, lays the blame at the door of the Sikh leadership of recent times. "Whether it is the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee or the Akal Takht or even the political Akali Dal which draws its strength from the former two, there is no appreciation for our heritage. Scholars like us do not matter in the scheme of things, because we obstruct their commercial aspirations. The sgpc patronises these babas and they do not realise that they are converting history into mythology by destroying historical evidence." Take the case of the 500-year-old house of Bebe Nanki (elder sister of Guru Nanak) in Sultanpur Lodi. A few years ago, it was bought up by one Baba Jagtar Singh and was demolished in 2003. A sparkling white marble building now stands in its place. The old homes of two Sikh gurus, Amar Das and Ram Dass, which stood in Amritsar till a few years ago, were pulled down and shining new gurudwaras erected in their place. The same fate has befallen Gurudwara Jyoti Swarup at Sirhind where the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh were cremated, and Shahid Ganj near Mani Sahib Hall near Amritsar, the site of the mass cremation of Sikh martyrs who fought against Ahmed Shah Abdali. The peeling, faded frescoes at Baba Atal Gurudwara in Amritsar and at Baba Bakala in Gurdaspur were removed and replaced by common ceramic tiles, much to the anguish of educated Sikhs. Why, even the Golden Temple at Amritsar was not spared—frescoes in its Darshani Deori were whitewashed some years ago and the 'renovation' was stopped only when the matter was raised in the local media.

But who shall bell the cat? Or is it too late already to launch a strong protest? If community leaders are apathetic to the obliteration of their spiritual heritage being done with the active collusion of religious leaders, is there hope for Sikhism's architectural heritage, much of which has already fallen prey to insensitivity and greed?

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This is moorakhtaa. They say in Punjab that a friend who is an idiot is more dangerous than a smart enemy. This is the case with these karseva people. In their minds they are doing great seva by demolishing our heritage in favour of marble buildings. Where once beautiful frescos adorned walls, now they are either white washed or covered up by bathroom tiles. This is a sign of utter, utter moorakhtaa.

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A few years ago I remember seeing a picture of a historical well connected to Guru Nanak Dev Jee in the Sindh province(pak). Some idiot from the UK thought that the original well did not look good enough since it was so old looking, so he "created" a new marble one in it's place. People like these who feel they have so much money they don't know what to do with it, instead of spending money to preserve the existing historical remnents connected with Sikh history, they destroy it and make marble structures in it's place. Unfortunately they don't even make it in the traditional way, it's all completely white decorated with bathroom tiles.

Even new Sikh monuments barely have anything traditional looking about them. Just take a look at that newly constructed Khalsa heritage museum in Anandpur Sahib. Considering that it's supposed to be a 'heritage' museum of the Khalsa, you would think they would have used traditional Sikh architecture, but instead they created a building which looks more like a nuclear power plant.

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here is the clear cut example taken by bahudar ali analogy.... once there was a maharajah was taking rest on his bed and his servant duty was to make sure there is no flies or mosquitoes going around and bugging him in his sleep....after few minutes,.. flies came to bug his king.. start sitting on king's nose and making noises...servant tried to get rid of flies by various ways,, at last he became so angry that he thought of using talvar (sword) to kill the fly who was sitting on his king's nose.. he tried killing the fly with his "GOOD INTENTION" but killed the king instead.

so khalsa ji having good intention is not the only thing you need to do seva but you also need bibek buddhi which these people lack.

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This what happens when you give some authority, money and a teenie-weenie bit of education to jatts. They just look at the coffers of the SGPC bank balance and do what they think will bring the best Return On Investments, without any regard for asthetic value.

It may not have anything to do with spirituality per se, but everything to do with taking pride in culture, past achievements, heritage etc.

Unfortunatley, after the Hazoor Sahib destruction, I beliecve that the more noise we make to preserve our material history the quicker they will be destryed.!

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  • 1 month later...

but yes, symbolically, you can see this as an attack on the panth. Symbolically. BUT like always, NOTHING will happen.. why, because we have been brahminised heavily (our insititions anyway)

I don't understand the link between being brahminized and destroying heritage. I don't seen Brahmins destroying their heritage so how does this have anything to do with Brahmins?

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  • 2 weeks later...

""As for the Ramgarhia Bunga, it was an old room with two tin trunks in it. We have now given 3,000 sq ft of land at another place to the Ramgarhias to construct a new 31-room sarai with a museum. We are making the place an international pilgrimage destination. Besides the Rs 125 crore which the board is spending on the gurudwara project, the town of Nanded too is getting a facelift, for which the Planning Commission has earmarked Rs 1,500 crore.""

All this is outright lies. mr pasricha and gang havent even given a single room in the new sarai they have built for this purpose. They forcibly took out the ramgaria bunga and the baradari with the help of police force and by subjecting the local hazoori sangat to house arrest then. As far as teh money being sanctioned its not for the gurdwara but for teh develpment of teh nanded city. Its a diabolique plan the central govt has placed to displace all the sikhs in hazoor sahib. They are using all means to get the gurdwara under their control and put an end to the maryada there. Mr pasricha is a gvt tout just like badal and gang. they have even satrted naming roads in front of nagina sahib gurdwarda as " developed under jawarhar lal nehru urban development scheme". The sikhs in hazoor sahib never asked for teh govermnts money, but they have used this as an excuse to use this gandhi pariwars name just to rub salts on our wounds.

Close to 700 sikhs homes were forcibly bull dosed and are left homeless now. They were promised new houses and shops but nothing is in place by now. They are trying hard to lossen the hazoori sangat hold on the gurdwara.

its a very bad plight there.... i guess this time the govt has fought the sikhs with a different game plan nad have succeded to quite an extent.

After the 1984 gallughara i guess they have learnt their lesson to never take the singhs head on!

If any of you sangat ji has been to hazoor sahid like a year ago, and our planing to visit hazoor sahib any time soon ull know for urself.... u gotta see it to belive it.

I m not sure where this is all heading but one thing is for sure, the sangarsh is not over, we are still being hunted but the methods are different this time. Develpment is just the right excuse they are using to wipe evrything that reminds us of our fore fathers scarifices, so that the coming genration will never really be able to understand what sikhi stood for. Every thing is being glamourised and tailored to the governments point of view. They are making us a ordinary qaum like jains, buddhs etc etc in india.

What is most distressing is that the far-sightedness of our leaders and dharam parcharaks has gone to the dogs Hazoor Sahib is under siege this time, only time will tell if we ever realised this.

bhool chuk i maafi incase i wasnt very clear or havent made sense and also for the typos.

thught would share my dukh with u guys, i feel so helpless.

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