Roots – Anandpur Sahib and Virasat-e-Khalsa

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure, indeed honour, to talk about Sikhism at the Bangalore Walks- Living Faiths of India Tour. And no talk on Sikhism would be complete, without talking about Anandpur Sahib.

On 26th May 2012, as a part of my trip tracing my roots, I took my children to Anandpur Sahib, the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth. It is roughly about 80 km from Chandigarh. The drive in two cars with 4 children and 4 adults was interesting. As one can imagine, there was musical cars played by the children throughout the trip!! But at one point, I had all four with me in my car. And as a former History teacher, I could not let the chance go waste. I spent about 20 minutes giving them a crash course in Sikhism, especially the Khalsa Panth. As the kids ranged in age from 5 to almost 10, it was a very macro level view 🙂

Please click the thumbnails to see a larger view.

Anandpur Sahib is the place where Sri Guru Gobind Singh baptised his ‘ Panj Pyare‘, and set forth the rules by which the Khalsa would live.

The children were enamored by Guru Gobind Singhji’s weapons– the real ones used by him 🙂 The swords and spears are so long and heavy, that one can only assume that the Guru was a very strong man and must have been near 7 feet tall! The Gurudwara itself is pristine white. It has only just started getting it’s main domes covered in gold. Yes, real gold!! It is beaten in sheets and then clad on the surface of the domes. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is entirely covered in the real stuff!! The children paid respect at the sanctum sanctorum where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept. And then we all proceeded to have a hearty lunch at the langar.

After which we proceeded to visit the  Virasat-e-Khalsa (Punjabi:ਵਿਰਾਸਤ-ਏ-ਖਾਲਸਾ) (formerly known as Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex). A museum located in Anandpur Sahib. The museum is an absolute must see. It is a building that has been designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdi. And it is absolutely stunning in it’s architecture. It took 13 years to complete!!
The entire structure has been made using poured concrete and has some exposed walls and beams. though the plan is to clad the entire building in some pale local stone in time. The rooftops are stainless steel-clad and exhibit a double curvature: they gather and reflect the sky while a series of dams in the water body on either side, create pools that reflect the entire complex at night.

It is only when you see the building up close, that you realize such workmanship still exists in this country. Every angle matches the next. And every surface seems absolutely smooth to the naked eye. And anyone, with even a little knowledge of architecture, would know how tough that is to achieve with exposed concrete.

The entire complex was built to commemorate 500 years of Sikh history and the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. It gives insight into the events that took place in Punjab five hundred years ago, which in turn led to the birth of Sikhism and finally the Khalsa Panth. The museum, not only throws light on the vision of the Gurus and their message of peace and brotherhood but also the rich culture and heritage of Punjab.

The entry is free and the complex is huge. Only about 40% or so is in use right now. Sadly, cameras were not allowed inside 🙁 Else, I would have taken a gazillion pictures. It was heartening to see the work displayed. The entire story of the ten Gurus is told through elaborate use of art and craft. From huge hand painted murals, to work in stone and metal.  But, what truly caught my eye was the use of fabric. The installations in textiles stole my breath, quite literally. I forgot to breathe! There are huge panels embroidered and appliqued with the Gurus life story and specific incidents depicted. What is fantastic, is the fact that sometimes the motif continues across panels – panels that are individually meters long and wide!! And the applique work is done with multiples layers of semi-transparent fabrics in muted tones…amazing.

Ok, I could ramble on here for quite a while… so I leave you with a fervent request. If you get the chance, go visit the Virasat-e-Khalsa.

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