The city of Amritsar has gained recognition across the globe due to its most prized possession - the holy Harmandar Sahib. As a result, the city is inundated with visitors from across the globe who throng the shrine daily to pay obeisance.
To aid the thousands of devotees from all corners of the world, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has implemented numerous hi-tech features at the shrine to assist devotees during their visit. And, SGPC's work force continues to churn out new ideas to ensure that these facilities are in tune with the rest of the world.
Langar is distributed round the clock at the langar hall (community kitchen) of the Golden Temple. So, it is not surprising that Harmandar Sahib's hi-tech makeover started from the kitchen in 2003 when a devotee donated an automatic chapatti-making machine. At present, the community kitchen has two chapatti-making machines and solar energy has also been employed to warm the water used for washing utensils. And, floor-cleaning machines made in Ludhiana are used to wash the floor of the two halls of the building.
Taking the environmental-friendly initiatives further, soon steam will be used to cook rice, pulses, tea and to warm milk for the langar. "With this, our consumption of fuel will decrease substantially," says Harband Singh Malhi, manager of Harmandar Sahib. The building of the community kitchen is also currently under modification - soon the preparation of food and the washing of utensils would be shifted underground and modern amenities would be added to the kitchen. Malhi shares that Punjab's Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal inaugurated the same and the kar sewa (voluntary services) for the same has also been entrusted.
Since the shrine witnesses numerous devotees round the clock, stringent security is crucial. So, 130 CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras have been erected in the complex for the surveillance of the premises and 130 more will be installed in coming times. A control room has been constructed inside the parikrama and security personnel in civilian clothing are constantly in touch with the control room staff using wireless sets. "This move has proven to be very helpful in reducing the number of cases of theft and pick-pocketing inside the complex. Last year, through our CCTV footage, we nabbed a gang of pickpockets who used to operate inside the complex," Malhi adds.
The SGPC has made special arrangements to ensure a steady power supply at the shrine. This has been achieved by generating power using solar energy and with 500-kilowatt generators and sourcing power supply from three different stations. "We have installed hi-power transformers to make certain that we get uninterrupted power supply and constant voltage. These initiatives have helped us reduce the electricity bill by R15 lakh. We also have plans to install online uninterruptible power supply (UPS) at Harmandar Sahib and Akal Takht so the time it takes to start up the generator is also done away with," says Nishan Singh, electrical supervisor at the shrine.
A greener path
What better place than Harmandar Sahib to set an environment- friendly example! To save power, halogen and mercury lights of nearly 500 KW power at important points in the complex have been replaced with LED lights of 60 KW power. For the discharge of water, five-foot deep bores have been drilled into the floor of the parikrama. The water from these bores converges into a 20-foot deep bore outside the complex, so that the wastewater goes back into the ground. Plus, the administration also has a submersible pump which is used to pump out water if required. There are underground treatment plants for cleaning the water in the sarovar (holy water tank) as well.
Comfort for devotees
To ensure that the holy verses of gurbani echo throughout the entire Harmandar Sahib complex, nearly 90 small Bose speakers have been installed at the parikarma which project 80 decibels of sound and ensure top vocal quality. A large LCD screen has already been installed at the parikrama which displays the verses of gurbani being recited inside the shrine along with its translation in English and Hindi. The administration has plans to install one more such screen and three smaller LCD screens inside the complex in future.
In addition, a canopy has been erected atop the passage from the entrance (darshani deori) to the sanctum sanctorum to shield devotees waiting their turn to pay obeisance at the shrine from heat, rain and cold weather. The motorised shed contains fans and LED lights - a superior option to the earlier method using only a cloth to cover the passage. And, 10 battery-operated vehicles are used to shuttle devotees from town hall chowk to Harmandar Sahib.
The process of making receipts of parshad that is offered by devotees and the list of raw material used at the langar have both been computerised to align the work of the administrative staff as well as the process of maintaining checks and balances.
To streamline the safe consumption of water by visiting devotees, a new Reverse Osmosis (RO) water treatment plant has been constructed at the shrine with a capacity of two lakh litres of water. The plant has been erected and will soon be inaugurated. For live telecast, a fixed camera will be placed inside the sanctum sanctorum, while there is a proposal to install additional PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras, single wired IP (internet protocol) cameras and 60 dome-shape cameras in the complex. Laundry machines have been installed behind Mata Ganga Ji Niwas (a guesthouse in the complex) and the SGPC also plans to outsource the contracts for sanitation and laundry at the shrine.