Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Authorities plan to bulldoze sacred spaces of Hazur Sahib

The River Godavari as visible from Gurudwara Nagina Ghat.The historic town of Nanded, in Maharashtra is an important place of pilgrimage for the Sikh community due to its association with Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji, who is known to have meditated on the banks of river Godavari and spent the last few days of his life in the region.

Just yards from these sacred spaces plans are in place to bulldoze a corridor that will destroy the last few historical reminders of the Guru’s association with the region. Unique Sikh architecture that was built with devotion and served generations are slated for destruction rather than the sensitive conservation that they deserve.

Gurmeet Rai, of the CRCI, Delhi lead a team of experts to the area to petition the State and Gurdwara authorities to re-think their plans and conserve these building.

Words and pictures by Gurmeet Rai, Director CRCI Delhi.

The year 2008 will mark the 300 years of the Guruship of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and therefore a major event is planned by the Gurudwara board and the State Government in the town of Nanded when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to come to Sri Hazur Sahib.

In preparation for that event, numerous projects of infrastructure upgradation and environmental improvement are proposed and some are currently being undertaken so as to have befitting celebrations marking the event.

However, the threat to the historical built heritage has started as the Gurdwara and State authorities have started to bulldoze monuments in preparation for modern buildings to accommodate the pilgrims.

The site was visited by a team of conservation architects and urban designers on 21 December 2006 and this article briefly, brings forth some of the concerns related to the historic buildings in the town (within the precinct of Sri Hazur Sahib) which are threatened to be demolished and some may just be lost due to sheer neglect.

The team was informed that much new construction by way of larger buildings and wider open spaces (referred to as a Galiyara) is proposed to be built around the inner shrine. Demolition activity is in progress with much fervour around the inner shrine of Sri Hazur Sahib.

  Demolition of the structures in close proximity to the inner shrine
Demolition and digging dangerously close to the Ramgarhia bunga (in the rear, to create the Galiyara)

The proposed plan lacks adequate sensitivity to the heritage buildings, some of them are of sacred association. These buildings include the Baradari (built during the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, built to house the Guru Granth sahib and the weapons of the Guru while the shrine was being built in early 19th century)

 External view of the Baradari

 Inner hall of the baradari- a unique building typology

Also at great threat is the Ramgarhia Bunga (built during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to provide accommodation to the masons who arrived from Punjab to build the shrine of Sri Hazur Sahib with the offerings sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh),

 Ramgarhi Bunga as seen from the inner shrine of Sri Hazur Sahib. 

A unique example of vernacular architecture.

 The pavilion within the precinct of the bunga,

in urgent need for conservation

The historic stepwell in the forecourt of the inner shrine is in need of urgent restoration. The stepwell exists, while the Modikhana has been recently demolished

 The stepwell exists, while the Modikhana has been recently demolished

(was being demolished on the 21st December 2007)

 Incredibly well built, with extremely fine stone masonry.

Another extremely important heritage site that needs urgent attention is the historic well in the court behind the inner shrine (associated with Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji).

 Believed to have been blessed by Guru Gobind Singh ji, the water of the well is sweet and is still used in the langar for cooking. Numerous additions have been made to the structure which are insensitive and need to be removed and the well conserved.

The team met with numerous important people who are residents of Nanded and are closely linked with Sri Hazur Sahib including the head granthi Giani Pratap Singh ji and the family members of the Ramgarhia clan who are the caretakers of the Ramgarhia bunga. Many local residents as well as pilgrims (both national and international) are seriously concerned about the loss and threat to heritage on account of this mindless demolition activity.

Many trees within the complex too are threatened to be removed as part of the Galiyara development program.

 A small garden within the complex, trees of which need to be retained as a respite for the pilgrims from extreme weather conditions and visual relief

The team urgently recommends that while it is appreciated that the infrastructure needs to be upgraded, the proposed plan must be reviewed by a team of conservationist (cultural and natural) so as to ensure that the important aspects of the cultural landscape are preserved.


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