Stone by stone, they restored gurudwara to bag UNESCO award

Nestled within the Lakhpat fort, the gurudwara is built at a place which, it is believed, founder of Sikh faith Guru Nanak visited on his way to and from Mecca. Subsequently, the place served as a seat of the Udaasi sect. It is one of the few old buildings still surviving.

With no Sikh family in the village, the award of distinction bestowed by UNESCO for conserving a gurudwara comes as a gift for local residents who participated in the restoration project.

The award comprises a scroll and a trophy which goes to Delhi-based Cultural Resources Conservation Initiative (CRCI) which took the initiative to restore the historic shrine, according to Gurmeet Rai, CRCI consultant.

However, ‘it lost its charm after the cyclone and the earthquake,’ says Gurmeet Rai who, along with some other conservation experts, took up the restoration work about one-and-a-half years ago.

The Archaeological Survey of India, the State Department of Archaeology, United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Volunteers supported the work which took about seven months to complete.

‘We had to begin from scratch. From finding the typical colour of sandstone which was used 400-years ago to making combination of paints and finding even shells to fix in some areas, it was diffic ult but the residents helped us trace the history, says Rai.

Conservators across the globe send their entries for the award and just three are selected. Rai says, ‘Apart from the salt-laden air and harsh climate, insensitive interventions had also damaged and violated the essence of the historic structures here, including the gurudwara. This was fortunately declared protected by the State Department of Archaeology in 1992 to stall its further deterioration.’ But even then, restoration was the need of the hour, says conservation architect Ajaydeep Singh, who decided to work on a relationship between the historic structure and its social context. CRCI started informing and training the local people about consolidation and repair works using traditional material and techniques. Gurmeet recollects, ‘A dialogue was initiated with the community to make them aware of the special nature of these historic buildings and to continue looking after the building after it was restored.’

For work on the project, apart from the local people, the CRCI brought skilled masons from Punjab who had previous experience in conservation work, said Lakhpat sarpanch Bhuraben Randhwa.

Now, a few Sikhs from a trust set up by the nearby local Sikh community take care of the gurudwara. President of the Shree Guru Nanak Durbar Nanha Singh said, ‘After the restoration, people from various communities pour in as the place is also the seat of the Udaasi sect.’

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