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.

Punjab and Sikh Heritage News :

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sikh Festival Baisakhi on April 14, 2007

Baisakhi is one of the major festivals of Sikhs and is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and gaiety in the state of Punjab and all throughout the world where there is a significant Sikh population. For the large farming community of Punjab, Baisakhi Festival marks the time for harvest of rabi crops and they celebrate the day by performing joyful bhangra and gidda dance. For the Sikh community, Baisakhi Festival has tremendous religious significance as it was on a Baisakhi Day in 1699, that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru laid the foundation of Panth Khalsa-the Order of the Pure Ones.

Baisakhi Festival falls on the first day of Vaisakh month (April-May) according to Nanakshahi or Sikh Calendar. For this reason, Baisakhi is also popularly known as Vaisakhi. According to English calendar, the date of Baisakhi corresponds to April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. This difference in Baisakhi dates is due to the fact that day of Baisakhi is reckoned according to solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. The auspicious date of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names and different set of rituals and celebrations. Baisakhi date coincides with 'Rongali Bihu' in Assam, 'Naba Barsha' in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and 'Pooram Vishu' in Kerala.

People of Punjab celebrate the festival of Baisakhi with exuberance and devotion. As the festival has tremendous importance in Sikh religion, major activities of the day are organized in Gurdwaras. People wake up early to prepare for the day. Many also take bath in the holy river to mark the auspicious occasion. After getting ready people pay a visit to their neighbourdood gurdwara and take part in the special prayer meeting organized for the day. At the end of the Baisakhi ardas, congregates receive specially prepared Kara prasad or sweetened semolina. This is followed by a guru ka langar or community lunch.

Later, during the day people of Sikh faith take out a Baisakhi procession under the leadership of Panj piaras. The procession moves through the major localities of the city amidst the rendition of devotional songs by the participating men, women and children. Mock duels, bhangra and gidda performances make the procession joyous and colourful.

For the large farming community of Punjab and Haryana, Baisakhi marks a New Year's time as it is time to harvest rabi crop. On Baisakhi, farmers thank god for the bountiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes and make merry by singing, dancing and enjoying the best of festive food.

Cries of "Jatta aai Baisakhi", rent the skies as gaily men and women break into the bhangra and gidda dance to express their joy. Everyday farming scenes of sowing, harvesting, winnowing and gathering of crops are expressed through zestful movements of the body to the accompaniment of ballads and dhol music.

In several villages of Punjab Baisakhi Fairs are organized where besides other recreational activities, wrestling bouts are also held.

Punjab and Sikh Culture News :