Will the white glistening marbles outside the Clock Tower or Ghanta Ghar entrance of the Golden Temple add to its grandeur and beauty?
This was the idea with which Punjab administrators were toying when they proposed the entrance plaza project for the shrine, as they felt that old structures did not give a presentable look to the area. They felt that an open space should be created on which pilgrims and visitors could move around more freely without bumping into vehicles that once plied to and fro on the busy road a few steps from Ghanta Ghar.
As of now, shopkeepers and residents taking the road to reach their destinations stop for a moment to have a glimpse of the sanctum sanctorum from under the archway of Ghanta Ghar and bow their heads.
However, the proponents of the plaza project hardly bothered about 'daily darshan' aspect of the shrine, as they were more concerned with thousands of devotees and tourists flocking to the shrine everyday.
When chief minister Parkash Singh Badal proposed the project in 2010, he had the Taj Mahal in mind. Thereafter, the project designers proposed a marble flooring outside the Ghanta Ghar entrance, which found a nod by the chief minister too, but criticis felt that greenery would have been more suitable and soothing to the eyes as it would not be easy to walk barefoot on the marble in summer.
Its designer SS Behl, professor, department of architecture, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), observed: "The plaza has been made in semblance with the internal construction, with a white spread of marble similar to the internal premises, making the path to the shrine easy and adding to the beauty."
"An important feature of the structure is that it has come up at the same level as the marble flooring of the Clock Tower," explained prof Behl.
Demolishing old order
The proposal to demolish old structures outside the Clock Tower entrance was not a recent, and was taken during the fifth and final phase of the 30-metre Golden Temple periphery beautification plan launched in June 1988. Like other four phases around the shrine, this area too was to be developed into a green belt.
In 2009, the old market outside the Clock Tower entrance was demolished and a green space came up. However, when the plaza project took shape in 2010-11, the green belt was done away with to make way for the marble flooring. The wall that demarcated the area of the shrine from that of the municipal corporation (MC) was also demolished and the road running along the wall now does not exist.
The foundation stone of the project was unveiled in the winter of 2011 and it was to be completed in two years; however, the deadline dragged on leading to cost escalation from Rs 78 crore to Rs 117 crore.
After the project missing many deadlines, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal recently announced that it would be thrown open to devotees on Diwali. However, this is far from the truth as a major portion of the work, being executed in the basement, is nowhere near completion.
The 8,000 square yards plaza top, having two arch-shaped entrances, is expected to be opened for devotees on Diwali, while work in the basement will carry on.
The basement when finished will have an audio-visual information centre for visitors giving information on the Sikhism, the shrine and the Holy City, besides other tourism-related details.
It will also have modern facilities for pilgrims and visitors. It will have a VIP parking facility, a conference room fixed with modern gadgets, internet cafes, railway ticket booking kiosks, waiting halls and various other facilities.