Tunnel-like structures excavated at Golden Temple Complex
The construction of a new “jora ghar” for devotees to deposit their footwear at the Golden Temple complex was stopped after Sikh activists clashed with workers on hearing about historical tunnel-like structures being unearthed while excavating the site in Amritsar on Thursday.
In view of the surge in the number of devotees, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) decided to construct a big “jora ghar” on the Akal Takht secretariat side of the complex and assinged the work to Kar Sewa, a voluntary organisation headed by Baba Kashmir Singh Bhuri Wale.
As Kar Sewa volunteers were excavating the site to construct the building’s basement, they found tunnel-like structures made of small bricks — that were reportedly used centuries ago — at a depth of about 25 feet. Considering them to be ordinary structures with no religious or historical value, both SGPC and volunteers decided to carry on with the work.
However, as the news along with visuals of the site was shared on social media, members of Sikh Sadbhawna Dal, led by former Golden Temple hazuri ragi (gurbani musician) Bhai Baldev Singh Wadala, reached the site and demanded that the work be stopped in order to conserve the historical structure.
This led to heated arguments and a scuffle between the two groups. As the land is owned by Punjab Urban Development Authority, subdivisional magistrate Vikas Hira reached the site along with police and stopped the work till further orders.
Archaeological expert to examine site: SDM
“After tunnel-like structures were found during the excavation, the work has been stopped for now. The site will be examined by an archaeological expert. A joint meeting of Sikh bodies and government officials will be held. Sentiments of Sikh bodies will be kept in mind while taking the next decision,” said the SDM.
Meanwhile, police have been deployed at the site to ensure no work is carried out on the portion of the land where the structures were found.
“All historical structures deserve to be preserved with respect. I don’t oppose the new construction, but it can also be done by keeping the old structures found during excavation intact,” said Wadala.
Requesting all parties not to create a controversy over the issue, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said: “The building found underground is very beautiful. Amritsar deputy commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khaira has said that he has sent a message to the archaeological department in this regard and its team will visit the site on Friday. Even the SGPC will get the structure examined by historians, and if found historical, it will be preserved.”
Prof Balvinder Singh, former head of Guru Ramdas School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University, and adviser, Indian Heritage Cities Network, said similar structures were found near Gurdwara Lohgarh a few years ago, but were ignored.
“It might be some tunnel linking to the summer palace in Rambagh where Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to stay during his visit to Amritsar. It could also have a link with Akhara Sangal Wala as it is quite lower than the road level. A serious and sincere effort is required to explore and preserve such heritage,” he said.