Laser show to replace fireworks at Golden Temple

FireIn an effort to check pollution around the Golden Temple, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee plans to replace the temple’s legendary aatishbazi (fireworks) with a laser light-and-sound show.

On Diwali and Gurpurabs, lakhs of people throng the temple to enjoy the fireworks. A Punjabi adage eulogises the Diwali celebrations of Amritsar: Dal roti ghar di, Diwali Amritsar di (home cooked food and Amritsar’s Diwali have no parallels). Gigantic firecrackers are burst by specialists designated as aatishbaz, who are hired by the SGPC just for this job. Each show lasts four-five hours and fireworks worth lakhs of rupees are burst on a single evening.

This show may be a visual delight for onlookers, but it does irreparable damage to the architectural marvel that the Golden Temple is. “Firecrackers emit toxic gases such as sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, which are extremely corrosive in nature.

This show takes away a bit of the gold every time. Laser is a form of energy, which gets dissipated and is not dangerous. Trouble is, we are so attached to fireworks that nothing less than hawais and anaars will do for us. So, the laser show will have to be simulated well with sound effects to make it appear close to the real thing,” says Prof A.K. Thukral from the Department of Environmental and Botanical Sciences at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

“By now, aatishbazi has become an inalienable part of the Golden Temple’s festivities. Being a long-time observer of the damage pollution has done to the temple, I strongly advocate making positive changes in keeping with our tradition. So a light and sound show is the t plausible option. We will begin our feasibility study in a few days,” says SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.

“The gold isn’t solid, but electroplated, and thus, delicate. The frescoes inside the sanctum sanctorum are done with vegetable dyes, thereby making them extremely vulnerable to fading away with corrosive gases. The white marble is getting yellowed. These features add to the beauty of the shrine but also make it prone to irreparable wear and tear,” says Dr P.S. Mahoora, head of department of architecture at the university.

Early this year, a team from the Central Pollution Control Board visited the Golden Temple to compare its case with Agra’s Taj Mahal. The team found that the levels of toxic gases and suspended particulate matter (SPM) around the temple were far less than that of the Taj Mahal. Interestingly, the Golden Temple receives more visitors on any given day than the Taj Mahal. The team suggested that after further investigation, vehicular traffic might have to be restricted in a radius of 500 metres from the Golden Temple, as is the case with the Taj Mahal.

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