Thursday, April 05, 2007
No money for heritage conservation says SGPC
Damaged and worn frescos inside the Darbar Sahib in desperate need of professional conservation and restoration. The damage has been exacerbated by poorly advised kar-seva in the past. Photograph Kurtas Singh.
In the recently passed Rs 330-crore ($76million) budget of the cash-rich Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, not even a penny has been earmarked for preservation and conservation of historic gurdwaras, Sikh art and creating awareness about heritage buildings. Angered by this, conservationists, artistes and social workers feel that the religious body managing gurdwaras in northern India must set up a heritage cell so that the history can be preserved and documented.
The artistes feel that the biggest danger to the Sikh art - comprising paintings, murals and frescoes decorating walls of the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple - is from its custodian, the SGPC.
Recently, the SGPC came under condemnation for damaging heritage in the name of 'kar sewa' at various gurdwaras as murals were painted white, paintings destroyed and traditional Nanakshahi bricks were replaced with marble and shining stones.
"They (SGPC) and kar sewa babas have done more harm to the buildings than anyone else. The murals and frescoes at the Golden Temple are peeling off and the restoration at some sections has been improperly done, without taking care of the originality," rued state convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Dr Sukhdev Singh.
He said the SGPC should realise the significance of historic buildings and art work and set up a heritage wing with experts on panels.
Art historians and critics said the SGPC employees were not aware of the importance of the heritage of gurdwaras. "When the Akal Takht was re-built after Operation Bluestar in 1984, the art was hit the most. Instead of preserving, the rich murals and frescoes were devastated," alleged Brij Bedi, a social worker. "It's a pain to see the rich heritage ruining. There is no one to stop the process," he said.
Bedi said the heritage wing should work as an advisory body to the staff and be consulted while restoring the art work.
Renowned artist Satpal Danish, whose forefathers were entrusted with the task of doing art work on the walls of the
Darbar Sahib, said, "In the utmost disgrace, glazed tiles were fixed on the ground floor of Gurdwara Baba Atal, situated in close proximity of the Golden Temple. We have been raising the voice against the damage being caused to the historic buildings, but there is no one to listen," he said.
"Many of the devotees and pilgrims are ignorant about the great artistic treasure. The paintings on the walls depict the 'janamsakhis' of Guru Nanak Dev and other Gurus," said Dr Sukhdev, adding that even the books and documents at Sikh Reference Library inside the Golden Temple complex were not being preserved professionally.
Some renovation of the upper domes and walls at the Golden Temple was carried out by INTACH a few years back, but the work was stopped by the SGPC without giving reasons. UK-based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewa Jatha also carried out repairs, but the original craftsmanship was not preserved though the members claimed to have preserved the heritage.
SGPC chief Jathedar Avtar Singh, denying that the SGPC was unconcerned, said he would take up the matter in the executive body meeting and if decided, they would seek help of the experts.
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Darbar Sahib Tour : www.sikhtourism.com/golden-temple.htm