India’s cultural diversity and its many contributors have given a part of them to this country. Every food you eat, a road you take, or a story you read is a combination of one’s cultural inheritance. We may not always be aware of all of these cultures and what uniquely sets them apart, but there are ways to educate ourselves. One of these ways, and a rather immersive one, is that of visiting museums dedicated to the heritage and history of particular cultures.
The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum in the city of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab is one such leading example. Giving us a detailed insight into the origins and cultural history of Sikhism and its significance in India, the museum is a beautiful in-person resource. It intends to do justice to the past 500 years of the Khalsa, the community that believes Sikhism to be its faith and the lessons of the Khalsa Gurus.
The museum is as immersive as it gets. With tapestries from local craftsmen, one of the largest hand-painted murals, dynamic galleries, technological methods and more, the Virasat-e-Khalsa is a mesmerising experience.
The architecture of the Virasat-e-Khalsa is also a marvel in itself. Designed by Moshe Safdie Architects, the museum is simply a visual treat. Divided into two main functional wings, the establishment is parted by a ravine in the middle, and the two buildings are then connected via a bridge over this. The peaks of the buildings stand out like sand cliffs but also emanate the characteristics of a fortressed complex. Regional architecture was respected by way of inculcating its practices into the making of the museum. The structure makes generous use of local sandstone and stainless steel rooftops to tackle Punjab’s (often) harsh weather. The lack of natural light in the evenings is taken care of by the wondrous reflection of installed lights, both on the water and more strategically placed in various other locations.
What feels like one of the most intricate, well-thought-out, and interactive museums exists right in the heart of Punjab, but is not spoken of enough. Just the exterior is not all there is to appreciate. Everything it holds is the narration of a long-standing history of an entire culture, faith, and community. It is an attempt to preserve the beginnings of one of India’s cultures - one that is nothing but our pride and joy.
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