Amritsar’s Golden Temple to glow brighter with 160 kg more gold
Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, is set to shine brighter with 160-kg gold worth Rs 50 crore being plated on the domes of its four deodis (entrances). This will be in addition to the gold-platedHarmandar Sahib in the middle of the sarovar (holy tank), the domes of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, and darshani deodi (entrance to the sanctum sanctorum).
Diljit Singh Bedi, the spokesperson and additional secretary of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee that manages the historic gurdwaras, including Golden Temple, says the SGPC has decided to enhance the beauty of the shrine by gold-plating the four deodis (entrances), which symbolise that the doors of Golden Temple are open for all.
“An estimated 40 kg of gold will be used on each of the domes of the four deodis. Gold-plating of the maindeodi near Ghanta Ghar is underway since April through kar sewa (voluntarily service). Work on the rest will be taken up after the gold-plating of the first entrance is completed,” Bedi says.
Golden era and after
It was 192 years ago that Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler, donated Rs 16.39 lakh for ‘sone di sewa’. Mohammad Khan was the first craftsman to overlay the sanctum with gold foil. Besides Ranjit Singh’s successors, his queens and other prominent Sikhs also donated money for ‘sewa’. A total amount of Rs 64.11 lakh was spent at that time, as per the book, Twarikh Sri Amritsar.
After Operation Bluestar in 1984, Sikh organisations decided to repair and renovate the Golden Temple. Sikh organisations, including the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and Gurdwara Soho Road, Birmingham, UK, undertook the task of coating the shrine with fresh plates of gold. Work started in February 1995 and was completed in April 1999.
Devotion and donation
The main deodi has a bigger dome in the centre and is flanked by four smaller ones. These domes are being covered with gold-plated sheets called patras, originally made of copper. “40 kg of gold is expected to be used on each but that may go up by 10 kg,” says Baba Kashmir Singh Bhuriwale, the head of the ‘kar sewa’ organisation.
He says the gold used to cover the patras is donated by the sangat (devotees). “Sri Harmandar Sahib is a very sacred place for the Sikhs. The Gurbani has underlined its significance as: ‘Ditthe sabhe thav, nahi tudh jehea (I have seen all the places, but failed to find one as beautiful as you)’. So, the sangat is always ready to donate and sacrifice everything for its sanctity and beauty. They feel blessed to get an opportunity to donate something to the shrine. Devotees in the country and abroad contribute gold mostly in the form of jewellery. Some donate cash for the gold.”
The money for this purpose is donated at a cabin set up by the kar sewa organisation on the shrine’s premises. The gold-plated patras are made at the kar sewa organisation’s head office on Tarn Taran road.
Copper to gold
The jewellery donated for the gold-plating is usually 22 carats so it is purified to 24 carats. The pure gold is then melted and shaped into a bar. The malleable metal is pressed into flat ribbons of precise thickness.
“Each strip of ribbon is cut into small pieces. These are beaten into ultra-thin gold foil, which is stored in layers of paper. Ninety-five foils are made of the gold, weighing 15 gm each,” says Balbir Singh, who oversees the work of gold-plating.
The finished copper patra is cleaned with sand, tamarind and a mixture of acid and mercury. It turns bright silver. Twenty successive layers of gold foil are then laid down on the copper.
Even as the layers of gold are applied, the sheets remain silver-coloured. The sheets turn bright yellow only when they are heated to remove the mercury and four more layers of foil are added. Polishing brings out a brilliant golden glow.
“Ten craftsmen and helpers are engaged in gold-plating. The sheets are finally fitted on the domes by another set of workers,” says Harkamal Kumar, one of the craftsmen.