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Taking Golden Temple home: Visit turns lens on replica industry in Amritsar

The replica presented to Queen Elizabeth II  during her visit to the Golden Temple in 1997 was made by Dr Sukhpal Singh, 68, a homeopath.

punjab Updated: Feb 20, 2018 09:25 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Golden Temple,Golden Temple replica,Golden Temple miniatures
Factory owners Avtar Singh and Bhupinder Singh showing models of Golden Temple at their workshop where the miniatures are made in several sizes and with features such as music players and lighting effects, in Amritsar on Monday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Apart from honouring Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a siropa (robe of honour) as per Sikh tradition, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will also give him a gold-plated replica of the Golden Temple when he visits the shrine here on Wednesday.

This brings into focus the cottage industry of such miniatures, though some are imported from China too. Roop Singh, chief secretary of the SGPC, said replicas will be given also to dignitaries with him. The one to be presented along with a shawl and gold-plated kirpan (ceremonial dagger) to the Canadian PM has been “bought from the market here for Rs 50,000”.

Dr Sukhpal Singh, 68, a homeopath, is considered a pioneer. “My father, Sewak Singh, was a contemporary of artist Sobha Singh. I learnt the art from him and am trying to keep it alive,” he told HT on Monday. “Earlier I made paintings too, following in the footsteps of my father. I started crafting the Golden Temple miniatures in 1976, when the 400th foundation day of the shrine was celebrated on a large scale.”

Six women and two men work at their firm in the walled city area near Chatiwind Gate. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

The replica presented to QueenElizabethII during her visit in 1997 was made by him.

Sikh scholar Satbir Singh, the then head of Sikh History Research Board of the SGPC, inspired him, he said. “I made the first model of Sri Harmandar Sahib (central shrine at the Golden Temple complex) that measured 6 feet by 12 feet. I have made thousands of models supplied across the world,” he said, working from his home along Circular Road here.

A Delhi-based firm started industrial production, as did the Chinese later, said Kuljit Singh, a shopkeeper near the shrine, adding, “The retail prices start from Rs 100 and go up to Rs 1 lakh as per material used.”

Manufacturer Avtar Singh said, “We first used to supply models made by the Delhi firm. Then, the models made in China also came to the market, which are of higher quality, hence expensive.”

“People were looted in the name of Golden Temple. We have now started crafting models of quality that’s better than those that come from China,” said Bhupinder Singh, Avtar’s partner in the business since 2011.

“To craft an exact replica, we first measured the length, height and breadth properly. We also observed the architecture and other things minutely, such as the numbers of small domes, doors and windows. We design the models in perfect aspect ratio,” said Avtar.

“People were looted in the name of Golden Temple. We have now started crafting models of quality that’s better than those that come from China,” said Bhupinder Singh. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Six women and two men work at their firm in the walled city area near Chatiwind Gate. Some of the models have built-in light and sound systems with USB support. “The basic structure is made of acrylic sheet, which is unbreakable. Besides, plastic and gold-plated copper sheet are used,” Avtar explained, “We get the base moulded from other places. At our factory, we assemble the parts. So far, we have introduced 14 concepts or designs of the replicas of Golden Temple.”

Besides the SGPC and other institutions, owners of gift centres too purchase the replicas from these firms. The model with the smallest size in the market is 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches. “We can expand the size as per demand. Normally, 4-by-6 feet is the largest,” said Satnam Singh, a worker at Avtar and Bupinder’s workshop.

First Published: Feb 20, 2018 09:25 IST