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Golden Temple losing its lustre

Despite the fact that the entire gold sheet of the shrine was replaced in 1999, the pollution has turned the 24-carat gold to black.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2007 12:33 IST

The 17th century Golden Temple, which is the holiest shrine of Sikhism and a magnificent monument, is gradually losing its shine on the layers of pure gold that adorn its upper part - thanks to pollution.

The 24-carat pure gold of the sanctum sanctorum has started turning dark at several places and the management of this shrine, also called Harmandir Sahib, has already expressed its concern over it.

"The pollution around the Golden Temple has started taking its toll on the gold. The authorities should take immediate steps to save it," says Golden Temple manager Harbhajan Singh.

Not even a decade has been completed since the entire pure gold sheet of the shrine was replaced in 1999 - after three years of laborious workmanship - the hundreds of kilos of gold have started to turn black.

The Sikh community internationally had got together with Punjab Sikhs and religious bodies to get the gold layer of the shrine - completed in 1,604 - changed. Hundreds of kilograms of gold were used in re-laying the gold sheet over the shrine.

The dome of the shrine and its upper storey outer and inner walls has gold leaf layers.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) this week installed four pollution-monitoring machines in buildings around the sanctum sanctorum to see the level of pollution that was affecting the famous shrine.

"We will monitor the pollution being caused in this area. Most of this could be from smoke-emitting auto-rickshaws, hotels in the vicinity of the Golden Temple and also small-time working units like those of goldsmiths and blacksmiths," a pollution board official told the media.

But devotees to the holy shrine are not satisfied.

"They must take emergency steps to save the gold on this magnificent shrine. It involves the emotions of millions of people cutting across all religions. The temple itself is an international monument," said devotee Jagir Singh who had come to pay obeisance with wife Swaran Kaur.

Land for the shrine was donated by Mughal emperor Abkar to fourth Sikh Guru Ram Dass in the late 16th century. The shrine was completed during the time of the fifth Sikh Guru Arjun Dev. <b1>

In 1830, Punjab's king Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated 100 kg of gold for gold-plating the outer walls of the shrine. It was done on copper sheets. That's when it got its more popular name Golden Temple.

Some decades later, the upper part of the building was replaced by layers of gold leaf. In the mid-1990s, the renovation of the shrine started and the entire gold was replaced. A lot of the gold used was donated by devotees in the form of ornaments.

Despite the fact that the entire pure gold sheet of the shrine was replaced in 1999, the hundreds of kilos of 24-carat gold have started to turn black.