Virasat e Khalsa Heritage Complex
Virasat e Khalsa Heritage Complex is conceived as a repository of the rich heritage of the Khalsa,. It showcases the history and culture of Sikhs and their homeland enshrining the eternal message of Guru’s.
Located in Sri Anandpur Sahib ji amidst rolling hills on a sprawling 100-acre estate . The Virasat-e-Khalsa stands at a site that is the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth. It was here in 1699 on Vaisakhi , Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded the Khalsa Panth. It had to be an inspiring tribute to the laudable and poignant saga of the people of Punjab unfolding Sikh history and tradition like never before.
It was in the year 1999 , the tercentennial year of the Birth of the Khalsathat the dream process to start building the Khalsa Heritage Complex at Anandpur Sahib commenced . Moshe Safdie, the leading architect, of the project embraced a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, guided by a strong set of values.
The complex is divided into two sections that straddle a ravine . It is joined by a 540-ft long pedestrian bridge over a network of reflecting pools. The western side, is connected directly to the town . It features exhibition galleries, a two-level library centered around a grand reading room that overlooks the water gardens,is a facility for storing rare archival materials, and a 400-seat auditorium.
The eastern side houses permanent exhibitions presenting Sikh history, religion, and culture. The galleries are arranged in groups of five and reference the Five Virtues of Sikh religion. Various themes such as the earth and sky, mass and lightness, and depth and ascension are represented in the museum’s sandstone towers and reflective, dramatic sweeping roofs.
The eastern complex has the Flower Building and a wing called the Boat Building or the Heritage Section. The roof of the flower building is shaped in the form of five petals – representing the Panj Piaras. Each petal houses an exhibit tracing the life history of all the Gurus from birth to attaining salvation/ martyrdom. The petal at the highest altitude has information and exhibits on the Guru Granth Sahib.
The museum is truly a Virasat e Khalsa. The visitors are impressed not only by the majestic structure but also by the multi-media galleries at the complex as well. Out of a total of 25 galleries, 15 were made in first phase and another 10 were recently completed
The awe inspiring experience begins at ‘Panj Pani’ . The Boat Building which houses the largest hand-painted mural in the world, It depicts the past and the present of Punjab as seen in its villages and towns and cities.
The moment you enter the first phase, there is darkness in the room and then suddenly echoes the voices of chirping birds and a blue tint of light becomes visible. The feeling and the scenic view is hard to put in words and is best experienced. You realize that the room is like a deep well with adorned walls and the viewers ascend the height on a central circular walkway. The ceiling of this heritage building is made of glass and its floor is covered with water. The walls are covered with multicolored murals and cutouts depicting the culture, climate, seasons, and festivals of Punjab. The visual, sound and light effects are magnificent. Jasbir Jassi has lent his melodious voice for a medley of Punjabi folksongs. Beginning with the dawn of the day, taking you through numerous love stories, Punjabi festivals, rituals, occupational works,the Golden Temple of historic times, and ending with the setting of the sun, This part of the museum leaves you yearning for more. It took almost three and half years to complete the interiors which include paintings, murals and around 400 artists were involved in it including designers.
For the remaining galleries, visitors are guided by the auto-trigger audio guides, available in English, Hindi and Punjabi. ‘Auto-trigger’ implies that as you walk into any gallery and the audio guide plays content specific to the area. The first five galleries depict the spiritual aspects of the Panth by making use of research material, stories and technology.
Next, the visitor is greeted with the thought-provoking concept of Ik Onkar. The Mool Mantar echos all around high tech exhibit created with fiber optic lights, highlighting the core principle of Sikhism.
Then starts a mesmerizing journey into the lives of the first Five Gurus in the five petals of the flower building. These five petals tell tales from Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
The first petal has the milieu of the times .Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in, tracing his life through the far-flung travels (udasis) he undertook. Further, galleries depict the lives and contributions of Guru Angad Dev JI and Guru Amar Das Ji .
One of the galleries is divided into two, by recreating a baoli (step well) in the middle, to highlight the latter‘s life work. It has leather and shadow puppets with painted murals in background.
The gallery in the fourth petal contains exhibits on the contribution of Guru Ram Das JI, including the construction of the city of Ramdaspur, adding 11 ragas to the existing corpus of Gurbani, and the Laavan. The city of Ramdaspur has been recreated in embroidered panels.
The gallery in the fifth petal showcases the construction of Harmandar Sahib (depicted with tall columns covered with Zari embroidered cloth panels) as well as the compilation and investiture of the Adi Granth. Around this central installation are shown stories related to the Adi Granth. Four doorways around it recreate different scenes describing the life and times of Guru Arjan.
Guru Arjan’s martyrdom is depicted in the form of a sculpture on the terrace while the events around the Guru’s martyrdom have been narrated in an evocative manner.
The petals in the crescent building cover the lives of
- Guru Hargobind JI, Guru Har Rai JI, Guru Harkrishan, Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh and Gurta Gaddi
Virasat-e-Khalsa Heritage Complex is must visit place, a departure from the present times into the historical Punjab, from where you come out drenched in a feeling of pride.8