The Sikh leadership in Punjab is furious over attempts by a sect to replicate the design and structure of their holiest shrine - the Golden Temple or Harmandar Sahib at Amritsar.
Reminiscent of the huge row after the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had sought to imitate the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, by wearing look-alike robes in April 2007, the private shrine in Punjab's Sangrur district, 170 km from Chandigarh, seems to have upset everyone -- from common devotees to the apex Sikh clergy and the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).
While an indignant SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar has ordered the management of the Gurudwara Sachkhand Angeetha Sahib at Mastuana to halt further construction on the structure, the head priest of the Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of Sikhism), Giani Gurbachan Singh has declared it "sacrilegious".
"No one will be allowed to make a replica of Sri Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple)," the Akal Takht head said.
A probe panel sent by the SGPC to Sangrur recorded video evidence and said in its report that the sect was trying to replicate Sikhism's holiest shrine. The panel reported "a blatant attempt to copy the design of Harmandar Sahib".
The roots of the controversy go back 40 years ago.
The shrine, owned by the cash-rich Mastuana Dera headed by Sant Sadhu Singh, has been under construction since 1967. It had provoked similar controversy when its outer shape became apparent in the early 1990s and the then Akal Takht Jathedar had issued a Hukumnama (religious edict) barring its completion till key structural changes were made.
The Mastuana sect comprises of Sikh followers, mostly from the lower-strata of society. Its main influence is limited to a part of south-west Punjab's agricultural belt of Malwa.
Recent attempts to restart work on the incomplete shrine have provoked angry objections.
SGPC chief Makkar has summoned a meeting (Sarbat Khalsa) of important Sikh leaders and religious organisations at Amritsar on June 20 to decide on the fate of the Mastuana Gurudwara. He said any attempt to replicate the sacred Harmandar Sahib built by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan dev himself, "would not be tolerated".
The Mastuana shrine management has submitted a written apology to the Akal Takht but its fate will be known Saturday.
"The issue, including specific directions on necessary structural alterations will only be issued after the June 20 meeting," a SGPC spokesman said.
The issue is expected to raise further acrimony amidst demands that the controversial Golden Temple replica be pulled down completely. SGPC chief Makkar has said he wants to "settle the matter once and for all".