Friday, March 13, 2009

Protecting Golden Temple from pollution

Punjab government is contemplating a ban on use of fuel other than LPG by goldsmiths, hotels and restaurants in the walled Amritsar city to reduce pollution affecting the Golden Temple.

The data collected by Central Pollution Control Board reveals that every goldsmith and restaurant/hotel owner uses 15 kg to 25 kg coal or up to 50 litres of diesel/kerosene a day, depending upon the workload and availability of electricity. CPCB had found high levels of harmful nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide in the ambient air. Experts had also cautioned that fireworks release these gases which could react with marble leading to corrosion and blackening. Miniature paintings and gold plating were also under threat from harmful gases, experts added.

Board has recommended to the Punjab government to ban burning of fuel other than LPG in the walled city to save the Golden Temple.

A team had visited the Golden Temple complex last year to free its surroundings free from pollutants on the pattern of the Taj Mahal. It had also favoured restriction on vehicles in 500-m- radius of Harmandar Sahib and suggested to use low-intensity crackers and fireworks during Gurpurbs or Bandi Chhor Diwas (Diwali).

However, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation’s decision to make surrounding the shrine a vehicle-free zone by introducing battery-operated buses to ferry pilgrims is still in the pipeline.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hola Mahalla at Anandpur Sahib

Hola Mohalla or Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival that takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet which usually falls in March. This, by a tradition estabished by Guru Gobind Singh, follows the Hindu festival of Holi by one day; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine sounding Holi. The word "Mohalla" is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. But unlike Holi, when people playfully sprinkle color, dry or mixed in water, on each other, the Guru made Hola Mohalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles.

Together the words "Hola Mohalla" stands for "mock fight". During this festival, processions are organised in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers and proceeding to a given spot or moving in state from one gurdwara to another. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh who held the first such mock fight event at Anandpur in February 1701.

The foothills of the Shivaliks in Ropar district of Punjab's north-eastern region, especially around the historic townships of Anandpur Sahib and Kiratpur Sahib, have, since 1701 been playing host to Hola Mohalla. Recently, the Indian government accorded it the status of a national festival. The military exercise, which was personally supervised by the guru, was carried out on the bed of the River Charan Ganga with the famous Hindu temple of Mata Naina Devi in the Shivaliks as the backdrop.

This annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab and now replicated at other Gurdwaras worldwide was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi at Anandpur Sahib. It reminds the people of valour and defence preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru who was at that time battling the Mughal empire and the hill kings. On this three-day grand festival, mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc., are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.

There are also a number of Darbars where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takhat Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various important Gurdwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takhat (Keshgarh).

For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service). Raw materials like wheat flour, rice, vegetables, milk and sugar are provided by the villagers living nearby. Women volunteer to cook and others take part in cleaning utensils and other manual tasks that need to be carried out. Traditional cuisine is served to the pilgrims who eat while sitting in rows on the ground. (Pangat)

The popularity of this festival may be judged from the fact that out of five Sikh public holidays requested by the Khalsa Diwan, Lahore in 1889, the Government approved only two - Holla Mahalla and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Golden Temple Amritsar's Darshani Deori to be renovated by Experts

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has agreed to get the renovation of Darshani Deori, which leads to sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple, done by experts with the support of the district administration.

Earlier, the SGPC had stopped the renovation of the deori being done through kar seva when The Tribune highlighted the use of gaudy colours, crude workmanship and sub-standard material in March last year. Talking to The Tribune, Deputy Commissioner KS Pannu said more than Rs 56 lakh would be spent on the conservation of the deori as per the tradition.

The experts have recommended that the cement plaster on the deori be removed with wooden hammer. The restoration work would include waterproofing of the terrace. Wooden boarding, wooden panels in niches above the entrance to a private TV channel office would be removed.Conservation of wall paintings on the cornice and bracket area of the deori by cleaning of painted surface has been recommended.

A team comprising Maninder Gill, Ajaydeep Jamwal and Tushar Chakarvarty has been entrusted with the restoration of Baba Atal and other heritage buildings. Meanwhile, in another major decision, the priceless frescoes that adorn the inner walls of the gurdwara would be recreated in its original designs and pattern. The entire cost of the project is estimated at Rs 1.20 crore and would be met through donations and contributions from other sources.