A small town in Punjab boasts of a museum designed by the world famous architect Moshe Safdie, in collaboration with the Anandpur Sahib foundation. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Holocaust museum in Israel are some of the architect’s earlier projects, this museum being another feather in his cap.
The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum in Anandpur Sahib tells us the history of Sikhism through 3D installations and pop-up graphics. However, there are no artifacts or objects on display. The emphasis is on story telling through the use of new age media. Indeed, a conscious attempt towards preserving the rich oral traditions of our country.
Moving to the architecture, the exterior is typical of Moshe’s sensibilities – green spaces and dramatic curves. Not only that, the building also has two sections separated by an artificial lake. The building housing the museum consists of three blocks. One shaped like a boat, the second structured like a flower, and the third with a crescent-shaped design and petal-like projections on its roof. The big building in the west has a room where 400 people can sit. It also has a place with lots of books and magazines about Sikhism.
The amazing journey starts at the ‘Panj Pani’ area, known as the Boat Building. When you go inside, you’ll see a big painting made by legendary artist Orijit Sen. This painting goes all around you and tells the story of Punjab’s past and present from every side. Once you’re done looking at that section, you get an Audio Guide that you can listen to. You can choose the language you want. This guide is smart – it knows which part you’re in and starts telling you about it. As you move forward, you’ll notice the well-known Ik-Onkar symbol. It leads you to a cool installation of lights that look like crystals.
Not only does the museum symbolise a modern take on the traditional, but it also honours the tradition it is rooted in. The museum lies in the same site where Guru Gobind Singh formed the Khalsa Panth in the 17th century. Since its inauguration in 2011, the museum has drawn notable visitors like Charles, Camilla Parker, and former Canadian PM Stephen Harper. Each gallery has a distinct look. The murals inside the first exhibit depict scenes from Punjab folklore, and are the largest in the world, spanning three floors.
The next time you are in Chandigarh, drive down to Anandpur Sahib and spend some time at the museum.
Also read: Golden Moments In Amritsar, Punjab
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