Kids Corner


Pearls Before Swine, Part I:
Neglect of Our Heritage in Punjab





The Guru Tegh Bahadar Museum is located less than 1 km from the monumental Virasat-e-Khalsa and just 50 metres from Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in this historical city, but its condition is very different from the Rs. 3-billion monument inaugurated  on November 25, 2011.

The museum was shut for renovation some 18 months ago and is yet to be opened to the public though work was “completed” some time in June-July at a cost of Rs. 10 million. The reason: official apathy and an unending wait for some exhibits that were taken to Patiala and Chandigarh for restoration soon after renovation began in the first half of 2010.

Located across the road from one of the five Sikh Takhts, the museum’s main door was found locked earlier this month. A woman employee, one of the nine working at the museum, revealed that due to renovations, “it had been closed to the public for over 18 months. Some of the artifacts were yet to arrive and only once they did could the museum be formally reopened to the general public,” she said.

A little later, a member of the museum security staff opened the side door to allow us to have a look at the paintings on display in the exhibition hall. The paintings had been taken to Chandigarh and Patiala for retouching and for new mounts.

A cannon belonging to Guru Gobind Singh lay wrapped up in a piece of cloth in a corner as its mount was yet to be assembled. Empty display cases waited for Guru Tegh Bahadar’s robe and Guru Gobind Singh’s sword.

Though polished granite and glossy imported tiles have been used in the renovated exhibition hall, a thick dust cover could be seen on the paintings of the Sikh Gurus. The museum does not have a cleaner.

The Guru Tegh Bahadar Museum is dedicated to the Ninth Guru’s sacrifice but not many in this city that primarily owes its eminence to him and the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, were aware that it had been closed for almost two years.

The S.G.P.C. employees at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib didn’t know. The Director of Cultural Affairs, mandated to look after all museums in the state, is not even aware of the existence of this Museum.

“To be honest, I am not aware of this museum. I was given charge of this department recently. I was brought in as the Chief Executive Officer of the Anandpur Sahib Foundation to get the Virasat-e-Khalsa completed. That task has been accomplished. Now I will focus on other heritage buildings, museums and war memorials in the state,” says Karamjit Singh Sra, Director of Cultural Affairs. He had no explanation for the state of neglect.

The new-look museum boasts of close circuit cameras, neon lights and other state-of-the-art fittings. The original plaque tracing the museum’s origin lay stacked outside along the boundary wall with broken pieces of furniture and old fittings.

The plaque says that the museum was developed under the guidance of Dr M.S. Randhawa. Architect Surjit Singh, artists Kirpal Singh, Jaswant Singh and Devinder Singh and engineers S.S. Virdi, T.N. Gupta, Surjit Singh and Sarup Singh Rattan were associated with its design, construction and exhibits. Also associated with the museum were the then Director of Punjab Public Relations, Tej Singh and Additional Director, Cultural Affairs, Tarlochan Singh.

The museum was completed in the early 80s. In 2010, because of years of neglect, it was shut down for renovation. There is still a lot of wet paint around and it is likely to be a while before the museum is re-opened to the public.

To be continued ...


[Courtesy: Tribune]

December 29, 2011



Conversation about this article

1: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), December 29, 2011, 3:22 PM.

Punjabis just don't take an interest in anything artistic or heritage bound. They only love fun and money. Sikhism is so wasted on the majority of this ilk.

2: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), December 29, 2011, 8:13 PM.

I have insisted - Punjabi Sikhs must get into the arts as well as gurbani. The attitude is - we have gurbani, we don't need anything else. True - but without an artistic attitude or aesthetic sense, we are no better than swines. I have not gone to the new Central Gurdwara in Singapore because the all male committee decided that stained glass artwork windows will not be necessary to enhance the beauty of the space where people gather to hear gurbani. It's not the money - the Guru's sangat is generous! - it's the artistic/ imaginative attitude, or the simple absence of it. The French got Matisse to create a chapel with his artwork to let light in!

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