Saving Baba Atal

My Nana Ji (maternal grandfather) often says: Ja savair da bhulia, shaam noo ghar muriavye, ta oh nu bhulia nehee keheeda. That if one is lost in the morning, but finds his way home by evening, hes no longer lost. Hopefully thats the case with Sikhs and their preservation of history and architecture.

Over the years, well-intentioned but individuals kar sewa babas took on the responsibility for the renovation and expansion of Sikh religious institutions across South Asia. Unfortunately, in almost every case, they lacked any expertise in preservation and caused way more harm then good. The result has been, literally, a whitewashing of Gurdwaras. With an out with the old and in with the new attitude, old historical structures have been torn down, modified beyond recognition and historical paintings and frescos have been painted or tiled over.

For me the most shocking example of this came from the Baba Atal tower in Amritsar, where hideous green bathroom tiles (that no self-respecting homeowner would ever use) were installed over top of century-old paintings. Here is pic that were sent my way a few years back.

Thankfully, someone has woken up to the fact that bathroom dcor isnt the best way to preserve our history for future generations.

The heritage experts engaged by the SGPC and the district administration have found priceless frescoes from the first floor of Baba Atal, the tallest building of Amritsar, hidden under bathroom tiles put up by Sikh Babas during previous kar sewa.

The art work is exquisite. Most of the art work, hidden during the kar sewa can be retrieved though it requires extra care and expertise. The experts are careful that further damage is not caused while removing marble or bathroom tiles.

Earlier, the SGPC had entrusted kar sewa to the Sikh Babas who had destroyed the Sikh heritage, much to the chagrin of experts. Deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu today held a meeting with experts in the Golden Temple complex after monitoring the restoration work of Baba Atal and Ramgarhia Bungas.

Earlier, the kar sewa, carried out to repair age-old murals at Gurdwara Baba Atal, had earned flak from heritage lovers. Interior walls of the first floor were adorned with murals depicting Sikh history. About 100 panels of murals had been left on the first floor of the gurdwara, while the rest of them had been destroyed beyond recognition. Link

This is an area where the Sikh diaspora can have a direct impact. Most kar sewa efforts are highly dependent on dollars and pounds coming in from abroad. Before giving from your dasvand to these causes, please make sure and find out what the project is actually doing. The last thing anyone wants to further devastate the little physical we have left.


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7 Responses to “Saving Baba Atal”

  1. Blue says:

    Will there be any post about the historic election of the Sikh Youth in Surrey? Please post and make the sangat aware! As of January 1st it will be the second only Gurdwara in North America managed by youth. Both are in BC. The rest of North America's youth should take notice and get involved for local change.

  2. Blue says:

    Will there be any post about the historic election of the Sikh Youth in Surrey? Please post and make the sangat aware! As of January 1st it will be the second only Gurdwara in North America managed by youth. Both are in BC. The rest of North America’s youth should take notice and get involved for local change.

  3. Blue says:

    Will there be any post about the historic election of the Sikh Youth in Surrey? Please post and make the sangat aware! As of January 1st it will be the second only Gurdwara in North America managed by youth. Both are in BC. The rest of North America’s youth should take notice and get involved for local change.

  4. Blue says:

    Will there be any post about the historic election of the Sikh Youth in Surrey? Please post and make the sangat aware! As of January 1st it will be the second only Gurdwara in North America managed by youth. Both are in BC. The rest of North America’s youth should take notice and get involved for local change.

  5. […] issue of the loss of Sikh heritage sites and documents has long been lamented by many Sikhs. In fact, one of my fellow langa(w)riters […]

  6. […] elite culture in Punjab. Tales of the loss of our historical materials and architecture form a common topic here in The Langar Hall as throughout conversations of Sikhdom. Destruction of historic Gurdwaras […]

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jasdeep Kaur, Jasdeep Kaur. Jasdeep Kaur said: http://thelangarhall.com/india/saving-baba-atal/ […]