The Takhat Shri Harmandir Saheb Gurdwara at Patna Saheb, the most revered shrine for Sikhs after the Golden Temple in Amritsar, gets a much needed facelift just before devotees arrive to take part in Guru Gobind Singh's 350th birth anniversary celebrations.
M I Khan gives us a glimpse.
The exquisite art work and fine marble is unmissable as one enters the hallowed doors of the Takht Sri Harmandirji Sahib Gurdwara at Patna Saheb, Bihar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among the thousands of devotees who will pay obeisance at the sanctum santorum of Guru Gobind Singh, to commemorate the 350th birth anniversary of the 10th Sikh Guru, from Friday, December 30.
Preparations for the Prakash Parv, as the day is observed by the faithful, had begun long ago.
While no structural changes have been brought about to the gurdwara complex, the interiors have undergone massive reconstruction.
"There is a shine of gold all around the sanctum sanctorum -- from the ceiling to the walls, doors, arches... to even a pedestal fan near the palanquin (again gold-plated) where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept," granthi Jaswant Singh told this correspondent
Another granthi, Dhayan Singh quickly adds that the Sachch khand -- as the sanctum sanctorum is referred to -- has 22 carat gold and silver-plated door panels.
"The gilding on the inverted U-shaped structure in front of the sanctorum was done by artists from Jaipur and Ghaziabad," Dhayan Singh says, proudly as he hands out the prasad (halwa made in pure ghee) to a worshipper.
Over 500,000 devotees are expected to visit Patna for the week-long event.
Patna Sahib is where Guru Gobind Singh was born on December 22, 1666.
The first renovation, according to a Takhat Saheb booklet, took place in 1837 under Maharaja Ranjit Singh's instructions.
After an earthquake in 1934, the sangat again got it repaired.
The foundation of the present five-storied building was laid in 1948 and the work was completed in 1957 at an expenditure of Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million).
The granthis ask visitors to admire the spruced-up interiors.
Says Amarjit Singh, a resident of Bhatinda, Punjab, "When I visited a few years ago, there was nothing like this. Guruji's birthplace has undergone surprise transformation with gold and precious stones."
According to Sardar Avtar Singh Makkar, chief of the Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib management committee, the 3,000 square feet ceiling of the sanctum sanctorum in the darbar hall has been embellished with Manovat art, a mural art found in Junagadh fort and the Golden Temple.
"Dozens of trained artisans from Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh worked for over three years (mid-2013 to November 2016). It was delicate work using multiple colours," Makkar says.
Besides the gold work, the costly marble cladding with semi-precious stones on the outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum have caught the visitors' attention.
Vinod Singh, another granthi, says the stone sheets are special and of rare quality brought fom Australia, Brazil and Canada.
The cost of undertaking such a massive revamp is estimated at Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion), most of which was reportedly borne by a British devotee, Bhai Mohinder Singh.
How grand will the Prakash Parv be?
- Three tent cities have been constructed over 62 acres at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan, 12 acres at Kangaan Ghat, and over 65 acres at Malaichak Bypass by the state.
- District officials estimate that over 60,000 devotees will be provided accommodation in these tent cities.
- Three huge langar halls that can accommodate nearly 10,000 guests at a time have come up at Gandhi Maidan.
- At least 10,000 sewadars from across the country have arrived to serve round the clock.
- Around 1,500 police personnel and 250 officers have been deputed to supervise security arrangements. Around 120 CCTV cameras have been installed.
- Devotees, who fail to secure accomodation, will be provided accommodation in over 70 schools and other locations.
- A six-bed hospital and an ICU unit has been set up. Six ambulances and 11 fire tenders will be in service round the clock.
- The Bihar government has announced a three-day holiday during the celebrations.