Sikh temple project sparks dispute over copying holy sites

June 12, 2009

golden-temple

(Photo: Sikhs pray at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, 17 Sept 2001/Rajesh Bhambi)

Are some holy sites so holy or so unique that they shouldn’t be copied? Should monuments like the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican or the Western Wall in Jerusalem have a kind of copyright so nobody can replicate them elsewhere?

It seems unlikely that believers of any faith would undertake such a project, if for no other reason that most holy sites are quite complex, with artwork that would be very expensive to reproduce. But some Sikhs in India are building what looks like a copy of the Golden Temple, their religion’s holiest shrine, in Sangrur, 265 miles (427 km) southeast of the temple in Amritsar. The project has sparked off a debate in the Sikh community and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which maintains gurdwaras in India’s Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh states, has protested against it and called on the religion’s five high priests to intervene. The Sikhs building the new gurdwara deny they’re copying the famous temple, simply giving a facelift to their dilapidated gurdwara.

As Mumbai’s DNA daily put it: “Imitation is sometimes not the most acceptable form of flattery.”

Here’s an IBN-CNN video on the dispute, accompanied by a written report with more background.

15 comments

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To me, a person who has only visited Darbar Sahib twice in my life, the gurdwara under construction @ mustana clearly an replica of Darbar Sahib; therefore, the construction of this gurdwara must be stopped immediately. In my opinion, the Mustuana gurdwara must be torn down immediately.

Posted by Jay Singh | Report as abusive

These type of activities sparks tension in Punjab…
Sikhs are constructing this Gurudwara, it’s the followers of some dera who are constructing this Gurudwara…It’s only mission is to create tension again in Punjab…How would Sikhs even think of creating an exact replica of the Gurudwara which is considered as the holiest shrine in Sikhism and whose foundation was laid in the time of our GURU.
There are many deras here in Punjab,who try to create tension every now and then…
Have You guys looked at the violence in Punjab recently which was due to some Sant’s death in Austria…
Although the mob was in no way associated to Sikhism,still some channels posted it as “Sikhon main ubaal!”.
Those people were Ramdasiyes goddamn…

But the fact is that Sikhs don’t have/they don’t want to have their own “Some type of media…”

Thanx…

Posted by Bhupinder Singh | Report as abusive

As far as I remember I heard about this issue 10 years ago, yes the same place Sangrur and in particular site location is Mastuana sahib. You news people need something to fill your papers up to the extent that you don’t even hesitate to reinvigorate a dead issue which does not have any implication to people’s life at all, until you make it so.

Posted by Amandeep Singh | Report as abusive

Tom:

@Are some holy sites so holy or so unique that they shouldn’t be copied? Should monuments like the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican or the Western Wall in Jerusalem have a kind of copyright so nobody can replicate them elsewhere?

–why replicate? One can understand the need to have a replica, if the replica is far away from the original temple. In this story, the places are merely 100miles away. So it is stupid. If one wants to make in UK or USA etc, it is understandable.

To make replica or not may depend upon the consequences, not merely the legality. If the consequences are death of hundred people in the stupid violence, they should stop it.

But my big question to you: Has SGPC asked for the map of the new temple? Architects and Engineers should have the maps of 2 temples side by side and they should report if it is not a copy or a near copy. is that the case?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Amandeep Singh, do you think the media should ignore everything that was already said once before, even if it was years ago? What if others never heard about the issue? And anyway, it doesn’t seem to be such a dead issue if the SGPC has protested about the project now.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Tom:

Just to rephrase my question how does SGPC know it is a replica or not–any proper report based on comarison of original Golden Temple and the new temple by archiects and engineers? I just know about Golden Temple where I have been 20 times.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Rajeev, I don’t see the need to copy any holy building — part of the nature of a holy building should be its uniqueness, very often linked to the location. As for the SGPC, I don’t know the details of how it might determine whether this building is a copy or not. There have been media reports in India that the SGPC will hold a meeting of Sikh leaders and religious organisations on June 20 to decide the issue. Let’s see what they say.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Tom:

Thanks.

Part of the problem is making statements by the Sikh leaders in the absence of credible proof. This just is irresponsible. All parties or persons should just shut up and say “NO comments until proper comparison is made”.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

When something unique is replicated, the original loses its importance.

Posted by Avinash | Report as abusive

For the attention of Tom Henegham:
I agree you with you & disagree with Amandeep. This is not a dead issue & Reuters as done well to report it. I am based in London & never knew about this story. On a personal level the real shrine should never copied & cannot be as it is sacred & has the Gurus blessing. I believe there are other forces at play here that want to divide the Sikh community.

Posted by Jag | Report as abusive

Sikhs are forgetting that the original message of our Gurus was inner purification. Why get upset over this;let there be a thousand replicas of the Golden temple–it will only bring more people back to Sikhi.

I do agree we need more prayer places but why create any controvercial structure which can hurt feelings of any community.We have seen enough voilence in Punjab and we all have suffered tremendously in the hands of wrong elements.We must remake Punjab a Jewl,and in my opinion the uniqueness of ”Shree Darbarsahab” or other holy shrines which are secread, must be maintained at all cost .One can create unique design by use of latest technology but don’t play with the sentiments of people.
Dinesh Gangola,USA

Posted by Dinesh Gangola | Report as abusive

Sikhs are forgetting that the original message of our Gurus was inner purification. Why get upset over this;let there be a thousand replicas of the Golden temple–it will only bring more people back to Sikhi.

- Posted by Mahinder Singh

Agree with Mahinder, no dilution of rigious ferver by constructing a replica; in fact, if replica is the only one largely encouraged all over the world so much better for a religion.

In Hinduism there a simply too many different types of temple architectures.( Iam a Hindu)

how much ever anyone may try but bo one can replicate the peace and tranquility of Golden Temple . you can copy the building or structure but hgow will you grant it the boon of bestowing peace and tranquility upon its visitors .

Books on Golden Temple and Sikhism

How much hard anyone may try but they cannot copy the peace and tranquility that the original Golden Temple Imparts to the mind .

Online Books On Sikh History