Move to sell gate built by Guru

There is only one city gate built by a Sikh Guru still standing in Punjab. It is in Sri Hargobindpur Sahib on the banks of the Beas. Although once the city had five gates, today only Lahori Gate is intact. With a 370-year-old history, the gate was got constructed by Guru Hargobind. It is now facing a threat because of the Hargobindpur Sahib Municipal Committee’s real estate development programme.

Guru Arjun Dev first founded Sri Hargobindpur at this site on the Beas after the birth of his son. The town was then developed as a result of the sixth Guru’s efforts to promote social and civic values. Having visited the region in the 1630s, Guru Hargobind envisioned a city that would promote cultural integration. The town’s original form is now being slowly eroded by illegal construction. The natural beauty of this historic place is threatened by unguided building activity.

For many years spaces inside the gate have been used as shops selling everything from jewellery to vegetables to hosiery. These shopkeepers, and outside the gate itself, pay rent to the municipality at varying rates. At a recent meeting of the officials concerned, the prices were fixed for the sale of these shops to the occupants. Otherwise also the gate is in bad shape. Repairs have not been carried out to the structure for the past several years.

Conservation architect Gurmeet Rai, who has been doing preservation work in Sri Hargobindpur Sahib for over a year, suggests that if the district administration, through the local development authorities, is going to promote such real estate deals as revenue generating initiatives, then guidelines for the execution of these sales must consider the nature of the buildings and environment that affected by this.’ The indiscriminate sale and development of public property can produce ready and much needed cash for local development, but may also result in the loss of historic sites such as Lahori Gate.

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