Monday, November 28, 2011

Virasat e Khalsa....A Heritage Complex

It was in the year 1999, the tercentennial year of the Birth of the Khalsa that the dream process start build a Khalsa Heritage Complex at Anandpur Sahib to commemorate the epoch-making event. The Virasat-e-Khalsa stands at a site that is the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth, which. It was here in 1699,onVaisakhi Day, that  Guru Gobind Singh, founded the Khalsa Panth.
It had to be an inspiring tribute to the laudable and poignant saga of the people of Punjab unfolding Sikh history and tradition like never before.

Hailed as a "wonder in the making", the Khalsa Heritage complex had been conceived on a scale with global perspective and located amidst rolling hills on a sprawling 100-acre estate inspired by the nearby Himalayan Mountains

In its grandeur it has no precedent, no comparison..... Conceived as a repository of the rich heritage of the Khalsa, showcasing the history and culture of Sikhs and their homeland, Punjab, the heritage complex enshrines the eternal message of Guru’s

Hype on Heritage
 The clarity of creative mission was to create a concept in architecture shaped like hands ascending as if in a subliminal act of offering a prayer

The Heritage complex.... Virasat e Khalsa is located in the state of Punjab and is sited overlooking the town. Divided into two sections that straddle a ravine, the memorial is joined by a 540-ft long pedestrian bridge over a network of reflecting pools. The western side, which is connected directly to the town, features exhibition galleries, a two-level library centred around a grand reading room that overlooks the water gardens, is a facility for storing rare archival materials, and a 400-seat auditorium.

The eastern side houses permanent exhibitions presenting Sikh history, religion, and culture. Rising from the cliffs below, the building is clad with locally-sourced sandstone and evokes the fortress cities of Rajasthan, Gwalior, and Punjab.
The galleries are arranged in groups of five and reference the Five Virtues of Sikh religion. Themes such as the earth and sky, mass and lightness, and depth and ascension are represented in the museum’s sandstone towers and reflective, dramatic sweeping roofs.

The credit of design and structural plan goes to Moshe Safdie, the internationally acclaimed Boston-based Israeli architect.

Safdie began designing the museum way back in 1999 and finally saw his efforts come to fruition at the inauguration.
A button to unveil the museum’s inaugural plaque as theVirasat-e-Khalsa monument rose out of the Shivalik hills of Punjab. 

Nihangs astride horses and on foot along with ‘gatka’ troupes dressed in blue with saffron colour turbans dotted the hillocks, adding to the backdrop.
Asha Bhosle started the function with a soulful rendition of the shabad, Mera Sahib, Mera Sahib, followed by Jaspinder Kaur Narula's rendition of ‘Deh Shiva Var Mohe Ihe’.
The programme ended with an ardaas.
A glider then cascaded confetti and flower petals on the throng crowd.
Then a finale, a fireworks display......and illumination.
Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1938, Moshe Safdie  must be proud  of his creation...He.moved to Canada with his family at age 15. He graduated from McGill University in 1961 with a degree in architecture. After apprenticing with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, Safdie returned to Montreal to oversee the master plan for the 1967 World Exhibition and realized Habitat ’67, pioneering example of prefabricated housing and launched the 29-year-old Safdie on his illustrious career.

In 1970, Safdie established a Jerusalem branch office and was responsible for major segments of the restoration of the Old City of Jerusalem and, the new Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Rabin Memorial Center. During this period, Safdie also became involved in the developing world, working in Senegal, Iran, and Singapore

Design Philosophy of the Virasat e Khalsa.

Moshe Safdie is the leading architect, of the project .....He embraced a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, guided by a strong set of values and without succumbing to current trends. Safdie philosophy is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project’s program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that in turn responds to human needs and aspirations of the community.

—and in conjunction recognize its responsibility to contribute richly to its setting and enduringly contribute to its community.

Contemporary architecture often lacks the qualities of ritual and ceremony that have historically been fundamental to civic, cultural and religious life. ...but this was not so for the Khalsa Heritage Complex.Safdie  was able to achieve  his  central objective  to create unique spaces and forms that introduce a sense of ceremony appropriate for the Virasat e Khalsa.

Through his buildings Moshe Safdie has been especially adept at realizing our aspirations. For us he has created buildings where heritage is forged, memory is enshrined, and identity is created in built form. Few architects would have been able to so fully realize their philosophies in practice and in such diversity of project type and geography. 
Virasat e Khalsa

The two main complexes are joined with a connecting long ceremonial bridge. The canopy on this bridge is an architectural experiment and is situated in the opposite direction of the sun and does not provide any shade. 

The western complex houses an auditorium with a seating capacity of 400 with temporary exhibition galleries and a library, housing all journals, magazines, books and periodicals on Sikhism. 

The eastern complex has the Flower Building and a wing called the Boat Building or the Heritage Section. 
The experience begins at ‘Panj Pani’ —The Boat Building of the complex houses the largest hand-painted mural in the world, depicting the past and the present of Punjab, as seen in its villages and towns and cities ....It took almost three and half years to complete the interiors which includes paintings, murals and around 400 artist were involved in it including designers.

Contrary to the tradition of domes which crown the sacred Sikh sites, the roofs of the Museum are concave-shaped receptors facing the sky. Sheathed in stainless steel, they reflect the sun’s light towards the Gurdwara and the Fort.

The roof of the Flower Building is shaped in the form of five petals - representing the Panj Piaras . Each petal will house an exhibit tracing the life history of all the Gurus from birth to attaining salvation/ martyrdom. These will be permanent exhibits. The petal at the highest altitude will have information and exhibits on Guru Granth Sahib. 

At night, the entire building will be illuminated with its large silhouette being reflected in the seven acres around of water around it. It will also illuminate the night skyline of the historical city of the birth of the Khalsa.

The museum, is truly Virasat e Khalsa  .....Not only will the visitors be impressed by just the majestic structure but the multi-media galleries at the complex as well. They bring alive the Sikh history and culture. Out of the total 25 galleries, 15 are ready to greet the visitors. The rest will be made in the second phase of construction at the complex.

For the remaining galleries, visitors will be guided by the auto-trigger audio guides, available in English, Hindi and Punjabi. ‘Auto-trigger’ implies that as you walk into any gallery and the audio guide plays content specific to the area. The voiceover has been rendered by actress Divya Dutta, Surjeet Pattar and Kabir Bedi respectively. The first five galleries depict the spiritual aspects of the Panth by making use of research material, stories and technology.

Next, I am told the visitor is greeted with the thought-provoking concept of Ik Onkar. The Mool Mantar will echo all around this exhibit. 

This exhibit, with special sound effects, is situated in a drum-like building where lights will create an image of Ik Onkar and an audio message will highlight the core principles of Sikhism. 

Then starts a mesmerizing journey into the lives of the first Five Gurus in the five petals of the flower building. These five petals tell tales from Guru Nanak to Guru Arjan. 

The first petal will have the milieu of the times Guru Nanak was born in, tracing his life through the far-flung travels (udasis) he undertook. Further, there will be galleries depicting the lives and contributions of Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das. 

One of the galleries is divided into two, by recreating a baoli in the middle, to highlight the latter‘s life work. It will have leather and shadow puppets with painted murals in background. 

The gallery in the fourth petal contains exhibits on the contribution of Guru Ram Das, including the construction of the city of Ramdaspur, adding 11 ragas to the existing corpus of Gurbani, and the Laavan. The city of Ramdaspur has been recreated in an embroidered form. 

The gallery in the fifth petal showcases key events in the history of Sikhism: the construction of Harmandar Sahib, as well as the compilation and investiture of the Adi Granth. A pathway leading to the gallery will have a replica of Harmandar Sahib. The gallery also has an ethereal, glowing representation of the Parkash Sthan - the place of the Adi Granth in the Harmandar, in the centre. 

Around this central installation are shown stories related to the Adi Granth. Four doorways around it recreate different scenes describing the life and times of Guru Arjan. 

There is another gallery depicting Guru Arjan's martyrdom in the form of a sculpture on the terrace. Here, the events around the martyrdom have been narrated in an evocative manner

There is also an exhibit, which will suggest the coming together of five elements - fire, earth, water, air and space. 

The petals in the crescent building will cover the lifespans of Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Harkrishan, Guru Teg Bahadar, Guru Gobind Singh andGurta Gaddi.

The galleries at the lower level will chronicle the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Khalsa, from Banda Singh Bahadar to immediately after Partition, when Sikh dynamism helped revive a trifurcated Punjab with its flamboyant energy and resilience. 

Is it a Tourist Hub in Making 

TheVirasat e Khalsa has a great potential to attract a large number of visitors, as the town already attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world to the many historical gurdwaras and Sikh forts in the region. 

The Punjab and Himachal Pradesh Governments have proposed a joint ropeway project from Naina Devi - the site where Guru Gobind Singh first recited "Chandi ki Vaar" - the Ode to the Sword - to Anandpur Sahib. Currently, a survey of the area is underway for this project. 

Besides these attractions, the Bhakhra-Nangal project and the Nangal wetland offer perfect features for developing this area as a major tourist hub. 



  1. Thanks Daarji. What a tribute to this amazing monument. Your words are fit to go into and form a part of the proud heritage of which they speak - the Virasat of the Khalsa

  2. Thank you Harcharan ji....the comment coming from you I value dearly. Bless you.

    Though I wish our PM had the sagacity to rise above party politics and jointly honoured the heritage of thew Khalsa. Sadly History never gives a second chance.

  3. Fine tribute to a rich and proud heritage. The monument will continue to remind us of the sacrifices of the brave Gurus and the selfless followers and will inspire generations to come.

  4. Thank you..... Monuments do become heritage frozen in time..

  5. Anand Bahuguna unconditional love and light to you beautiful angel hugsssssss always live in bliss hare krishna may lord give you lots of positive people in your life they will help you in alll levels they come in your like angel and m,ake your life blissfull and give forever happyiness Amen in the name of god i forgive your soul say i forgive your self , i love your self , i bliss yourself , i accept your your says all these things to yourself… Namaha shivya

  6. amazing blog , loved the piece and then a visit to the monument indeed proves all that is written and more .. what an enchanting place

  7. its a beautiful buildings for the memorial sikh history of punjab well made by shri parkash singh badal SAT SHRI AKAL

  8. its an excelent comlex to aware new generation about our culture nd history

  9. Dear paji,

    Mr. Amar is the designer of this museum.
    now we are doing the next part of this museum after that you see this museum it's a wonder of world ,