On Thursday, a controversy erupted when a tunnel-like structure was discovered during the excavation work near the Golden Temple in Amritsar which brought Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SCPC) under scanner, for not having a policy on the heritage buildings.

This has caused a dispute between the Sikh activists and a group of construction volunteers outside the Golden Temple, near the Akal Takht Secretariat, while the latter were trying to refill the concrete underground into the tunnel-like structures found when they were digging up the area. Though the activists wanted to discover what was inside it the SGPC initially didn’t stop the work but later their mind shifted.

On Friday, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said, “Excavations at the upcoming Jora Ghar site in the past few days have revealed some antique-looking room-like structures which are made of small (Nanakshahi) bricks. The opinion of experts on its antiquity and historicity is being sought. The SGPC has discussed the matter with experts from Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) and is seeking the services of other experts and historians. The deputy commissioner (DC) of Amritsar has also been asked to look into the matter through the Archaeological Survey of India.”

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“There is no protocol in place about what to do if we found any old structure that could be part of Sikh history. So when old structures emerged outside the Golden Temple during digging then construction men on spot just tried to bury them. It was like standard procedure,” said an SGPC official.

During the 18th century, a lot of destruction was noticed at the hands of the invaders in Amritsar, even the Golden Temple faced a lot of destructions during their rule. Sikhs would come together and gather the damaged structure in haste. The outsiders even established a clock tower outside the religious monument and leveled many other buildings.

Clash over tunnel-like structures excavated near Golden Temple | India  News,The Indian Express

Many buildings were demolished by the SGPC, so that the area of Parikarma may be widened in 1955. Operations such as the Blue star and Galliara projects were held to take off the structures that were built by the British.

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The chief secretary of SGPC, Harjinder Singh Dhami stated that the employees were not the ones who passed out the information of the old heritage buildings that were found during the process of digging. He further added that the controversy grew when the people digging the area didn’t inform about the tunnel SGPC.

Akal Takht in Amritsar - History, Timings, Entry fees, Ticket

No directions were issued by the heritage department which is under the SGPC. A letter was given to Bibi Jagir Kaur by the Amritsar Vikas Manch which was to preserve the tunnel-like structures on Thursday near the Akal Takhat Sahib.

Harjap Singh Aujla, an engineer, Patron Amritsar Vikas Manch told, “As per studies, no wooden logs or wooden bars were used in roofs of the buildings, before three centuries ago. The roofs were constructed using the technique of ‘arches’, in which only trapezium-shaped bricks and specially prepared binding material was used. From this point of view, the buildings found at the excavated site seem to have been built using such centuries-old techniques. The final inferences would be made by experts, but the excavated buildings bring to mind a time of turmoil for the Sikhs, centuries ago. They might have constructed underground dwellings when they had to fight with the invaders to protect Sri Harmandir Sahib,”

Tunnel found in Shri Akal Takht Sahib, Tunnel found during excavation near  Shri Akal Takht Sahib in Amritsar, Tunnel found in Golden Temple

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Principal Kulwant Singh Ankhi stated, “If experts name these buildings as basement of the ‘bungas’, these are of great historical and religious importance as they are part of the daily ‘ardaas’ (prayer). ‘Chaunkian, jhande bunga jugo jug atal’ is the part of the daily ardas performed in every gurdwara and after each religious function. Chaunki refers to a session of kirtan, jhande refers to Nishan Sahib and bunga means a dwelling place.”

He further added, “These centuries-old underground heritage buildings must be preserved and opened to devotees, historians, and travelers after proper and technical restoration. Being a unique attraction, these would be instrumental in boosting the tourism industry in the holy city.”

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