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Art Of Gold


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
by Jagmeeta Thind Joy

These lines best describe the most sacred place of Sikh pilgrimage — the Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple — which sees an endless stream of devotees and visitors from around the world each day. For most people who visit here, sheer presence at the holy site is a deeply moving experience. But few would have stood there to reflect upon the beauty of the exquisite surface decorations within the complex. But Dr Simrita Singh, an assistant professor of art and design and head of the fashion design department at Northern India Institute of Fashion Technology (NIIFT), Mohali, is one among them.

Having grown up in Amritsar, the city of the Golden Temple, Singh has not only been a devotee, but also an ardent admirer of the artwork on the glittering marble and gold edifice. Be it the delicate lacy creepers in Gach and Kach work (gold and mirror work) or the intricate designs of posies and wild creatures in pietra dura and frescoes or even the resplendent gold work of chattris and the dome — nothing has missed her keen roving eye.

It was a conversation on the subject with her teacher-turned-mentor Dr Alka Pande, former director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Panjab University, Chandigarh, a few years ago, and a visit to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, that took Singh back to the Golden Temple with a mission - to study and document the surface decorations in the complex.

“The Golden Temple represents Sikh architecture in all its distinctive features. It testifies to the fact that Sikhs had acquired enough skills to be able to adopt patterns and motifs suiting their own taste, philosophy and way of living. The upper half of the building’s exterior is covered with golden plates and the lower half is sheathed in marble, while the interiors are profusely decorated with fresco paintings and filigree embellishments. This place is without doubt, the acme of Sikh architecture,” says Singh.

Singh feels that the temple is also a perfect example of religious tolerance. “During his reign, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had created an atmosphere of religious tolerance wherein Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, even French and British were appointed to high offices. No wonder then that the artists and craftsmen who worked on the Golden Temple building were also drawn from all these communities,” she explains.



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