Virasat-e-Khalsa: Banake Kabooter Cheena

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Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, July 28: The audio programme to enlighten the visitors about heritage of the Khalsa  starts with a big bang. It is “Banake Kabooter Cheena”. This is the Virasat-e-Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib, perhaps the most prestigious project that is credited to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The fact can’t be disputed that this Rs 1000 crore heritage complex and other memorials to Sikh personalities and events could not have been raised during non-Akali government. This should also include memorial to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Golden Temple complex. Work on this much delayed memorial was started only after a nod from Badal. The Golden Temple complex is managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the elected body that is dominated by the Shiromani Akali Dal.

The Virasat-e-Khalsa  complex attracts thousands of Sikhs not only from Punjab but from across the globe and the people line up much before the opening time. They come with  reverence as if visiting  a shrine. What hits them is this song at full blast followed by rendition from Heer Waris Shah.

This is the opening gallery with walls painted to depict the scenes in Punjab’s villages and cities, of course not from the latest period. For a person who goes to see heritage of the Khalsa, the song hits as 440 volt shock.

Virasat-e-Khalsa was supposed to be Sikh museum but that it is not. There is not a single item that the government has managed to exhibit here which can be termed as part of the Khalsa heritage.

From the village and city scenes, one enters the section that is devoted to the ten Gurus. Fine. But then Guru Nanak was not glamorous. He moved around like an ordinary human being and that was the greatness of the founder of the Sikh faith. That Guru Nanak might find the Sikhs in the present form as aliens, people who believe more in rituals than his teachings. The First Guru had rejected all rituals.

The only appreciable part is the one that is devoted to the creation of the Khalsa through audio-visuals.

The complex is still to be completed. However, one wonders what would be shown in the remaining part going by the bankruptcy of the ideas. The services of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee could have been utilized to persuade people who have private collections of  memorabilia belonging to the Gurus and to the period in Punjab. Even the state government could have taken the initiative. There could be manuscripts besides weapons belonging to the Sixth and the Tenth Gurus. There are people who are willing to donate their collections and they have even approached the government with the offer. But then the bureaucrats in Punjab are too indifferent and political leadership can’t think beyond the vote bank.

Moreover, these belongings need to be preserved scientifically and that job can’t be done without institutional help. Several of these collections were on display during tercentenary of the Khalsa in 1999 displayed in the hall of the Khalsa College at Anandpur Sahib. However, it is the entire concept of exhibiting the Khalsa heritage that needs to be revisited.

Of course, the weapons belonging to Guru Gobind Singh exhibited Takht Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib can’t be displayed in Virasat-e-Khalsa complex as it is the Takht that is the heritage of the Khalsa. At the time when its construction had started, this question used to be posed by the knowledgeable people about the exhibits that the government had with it to be displayed in this museum. Many of the items from the Sikh heritage are preserved in London Museum.

Memorial to Banda Singh Bahadur has been raised at Chappar Chirri. He was the Sikh warrior who is credited with establishing the first Sikh Raj. This memorial again is just brick and concrete structure, of course with beautiful lighting. Some of these memorials are ill-kept. There is no proper approach to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur memorial.

The government should set up a committee of experts minus the bureaucrats and the journalists to turn these buildings into the ones reflecting the heritage of the Sikhs and Punjab.

The Virasat-e-Khalsa tour can start with socio-political narration of Punjab at the time when Guru Nanak founded the Sikh faith.

One wonders what would be the fate of Jang-e-Azadi memorial that is coming up at Jalandhar.

Editor-in-Chief

Jagtar Singh

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