THE VALMIKI community has been trying to establish an independent identity via the Valmiki Tirath Dham temple, museum and panorama. While the SAD-BJP government is all set to oblige the community by inaugurating the new Valmiki Tirath Dham in Amritsar on December 1, community leaders have been demanding that corrections be made in the Rs 200-crore project to ensure that it has no reflection of the dominating cultures but based on history as perceived by the community.
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The community leaders have been keeping an eye on every detail of the Punjab government’s Valmiki Tirath Dham project. For instance, the idol of Bhagwan Valmiki, designed and made in Gwalior, was reconstructed as expressions of the first one were not liked by the religious leaders.
Apart from Valmiki Tirath Development Board, a special committee for the museum and panorama was constituted by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and he himself presided over its meeting on November 4. Some members of the committee even objected to the museum’s design and panorama developed by the architecture department of Guru Nanak Dev University.
Raj Kumar Atikaye, member of the Panorama Committee, said, “Panorama and museum are very important to us. It would be the first attempt to focus on the life of Bhagwan Valmiki. We had rejected the theme suggested by the Guru Nanak Dev University architecture department at the first meeting of the committee in 2014. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had presided over the meeting of the panorama committee recently in Chandigarh on November 4. We were surprised that GNDU again came up with the same design despite the fact that religious leader of the community, Darshan Ratan Ravana, the founder and head of Adi Dharam Samaj, had provided an alternative and history-based theme for the panorama and museum. I told the Chief Minister that what GNDU is trying to develop may backfire politically. CM is very kind to the community and he is trying to win its heart by developing this Dham. What is the use of spending this Rs 200 crore spending because any distortion of history will hurt our sentiments. The CM has told officials to make corrections in design.”
Known for his radical preaching, Darshan Ratan Ravana said, “Population of the Valmiki community is 11 crore in India and we have been looking at the Valmiki Tirath Dham to become example and inspiration to design community temples and institutes in future. We have yet to decide on the flag. We have asked the government to ensure installation of the community symbol on all the domes. Earlier, they had given it a traditional look like other temples. The design of the Valmiki temple is also unique and we have been planning on the code of conduct for daily prayers. We will not allow any human worship at the temple.”
“Earlier, the idol had to be changed. The first one failed to highlight the personality of Bhagwan Valmiki. So, we asked them to construct a new one with pen in hand. Total cost of the idol is Rs 45 lakh and gold of Rs 20 lakh has been used to make it,” said Atikaye.
A GNDU professor of architecture said, “They did not want the structure of Valmiki Temple to look like neither a Hindu temple nor a gurdwara. So, we have designed something that is different and new. They wanted a structure which they can copy to build Valmiki temples elsewhere in the country.”
About the design of the panorama and the museum, he said, “We have been working on the panorama. They had objected to the use of a scene from Ramayana and some other features. So, the panorama will take some more time to complete.”