Virasat-E-Khalsa,the new museum of Sikh history at Sri Anandpur Sahib,is increasingly being regarded as a place of worship by thousands of Sikhs who visit it daily.
The museum celebrates the 500-year-old Sikh heritage and chronicles the events that led to the birth of Sikhism. The symbolic representation of the 10 Sikh Gurus has elevated the museum in the eyes of the tourists here mostly Sikhs who come visiting from the country or abroad.
The museum,which was thrown open to the public in November last year,is open from 8 am to 8 pm. Around 8,000 tourists daily visit this complex spread over 65 acres.
A large number of visitors are seen entering the Khalsa Heritage Complex barefoot and with covered heads. Though musuem authorities gently tell tourists that they dont have to enter barefoot,but devotion takes precedence over any such advisory.
Chief Executive Officer of Anandpur Sahib Foundation,Dr Karamjit Singh Sra,said: A guard near the pass windows suggested that we should have carpets on the walkway,leading from the parking area to the museum building. He said the days are getting hot and visitors face trouble walking barefoot. When I told him to request people to keep their shoes on,he said a large percentage of visitors leave their footwear in their vehicles before they reach the pass windows.
Tejinder Singh,a senior official at the Complex,has often witnessed visitors entering the museum as if they are going into a gurdwara heads bowed and with folded hands. At the Ik Onkar gallery,visitors often bow in worship. And at the display of the thick black iron plate outside,which symbolises the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur,they kneel and touch their forehead to the ground. For them,it is not just a museum. It is the tale of their Gurus brought alive before them, he said.
The mood here is not all seriousness though. At Panj Paani the first gallery which plays the eight-minute track of Jasbir Jassi singing Challa,the quintessential Punjabi folksong tourists often break into impromptu bhangra. Of the 25 multi-media galleries planned here,15 have been made in the first phase of the project.
The Complex also boasts of an expansive water body,where visitors often throw coins. About a month ago,the management drained the water from the pond to release fresh water. The coins collected added up to around Rs 6,000.
Moreover,there is no entry fee for the Virasat-e-Khalsa. The museum does not have a concrete revenue generation plan yet and is financed by the state government.
A number of NRIs who have visited the place have suggested that a donation box should be kept for visitors,since many of them want to contribute to the upkeep of the monument.