THE DESIGN - The
process from Conception to Realization
The Gurdwara, the house of
prayer of the Sikhs, is recognized throughout the world not only as a prominent
symbol of the Sikh faith but also for its distinct style of architecture.
Although certain gurdwaras adapt an architectural identity similar to the style
prevalent in the country in which they are built, on the whole - they are
unified in terms of architectural characteristics. The gurdwara at Hemkunt,
however, is singularly unique. Its location in the lofty Himalayas, at a height
of 15,210 ft., makes it the only gurdwara to be built at such an altitude.
Its design, which was done keeping in mind the location and climate, makes
it the only pentagonal gurdwara in the world. Further, the gurdwara at
Hemkunt- the tapasthan of Dusht Daman - imparts it a high degree of respect.
The gurdwara at
Hemkunt symbolizes yet another aspect... that of human effort , dedication and single
-minded courage. It stands as an epitome of the human spirit that battles
against obstructions to achieve its objective. The objective, here, was the
building of this gurdwara and the obstructions were the undulating terrain and
the harsh climate, and the human spirit - that of all the people behind the
project. This chapter is an attempt to unravel the story of the effort that went
behind the building of the Gurdwara at Hemkunt.
The design process involved
detailed site and climatic surveys and rigorous analysis for the requirements
were indeed tough parameters. The architect, Mr. Manmohan Singh Siali, rose to
the occasion and delivered a design that conformed not only to the dictates of
the site and climate but also to the religion itself. The resultant design was a
harmonious blend of crucial factors. The success of the design can also be
attributed to the far-sightedness of Gen. Harkirat Singh who was instrumental in
suggesting several design factors with respect to the future.
SEQUENCE OF CONSTRUCTION
Putting up of the steel
structure was the initial step as it would involve both a considerable amount of
time and skill. After a certain stage, though, the steel and R.C.C. modes of
construction were simultaneous.
The transport of the steel plates required for the foundation of the structure
was an interesting task by itself. The foundation plates, measuring 6' by 4' and
weighing upto 1 tonne each, were noticed by Colonel M.S. Sethi, Task Force
Commander of B.R.T.P., who realized the challenge that the size of the plates
would pose on the latter course of the traverse. The heavy load of the
plates had to be borne manually for nearly a distance of 15 kms. and from a
height of 4800 ft. upto a height of 15210ft. And that too, over a narrow and
difficult bridle track which was composed of steep slopes, occurrence of steps,
hair pin bends and rickety timber bridges. Col. Sethi devised a design based on
the improvisation of a zing of the bends - that 'L' shaped angle irons which were
to be bolted to the plates on both the lateral sides while keeping the
plates in vertical position. Two long G.I. steel pipes (one on each side of the
plate) were tied to the extended portion of the 'L' of the angle irons. This
arrangement permitted 8 to 10 men on either side of the plate to put their
shoulders to pipes raising the plate from the ground by about 18 inches and
moving ahead, enabling the carriage of the five plates to their destination,
much needed to be installed as the foundation plates to the steel structure. A
reserve of another twenty men followed behind for replacement after short
haulages. The task was completed in about ten days time.
MOCKUPS OF THE STRUCTURE
Based on the concept, the
structural plans were drawn up by Mr. C.P. Ghosh - an engineer from M.E.S. and
Prof. K.A. Patel from the School of Planning and Architecture. The tedious
journey from Gobind Dham to Hemkunt decided the criteria for the design of the
structure. A detailed study was done to adapt the sizes of the structural
members and the transportation of material in accordance with the terrain. Since
the lengths of the turns (Zings) varied from 3-6 m., therefore, the sections were
worked out in such a way that their lengths did not exceed 2-2.5 m. This would
ensure easy negotiation around the bends. Keeping this in mind, a contractor
from Delhi was commissioned to manufacture their. In order to have a near
perfect assemblage of these sections at Hemkunt, a mock-up of the steel
structure was erected at Gurdwara Rakabgunj in Delhi. The sections were then
manufacture them, duly numbered and then taken to Hemkunt.
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE
contributions of some revolutionary men made the project of Hemkunt Gurdwara
It was through their steering efforts, amongst others, that allowed
the translations of
the project from mind to paper and thereafter, to the site itself. The
Architect, S. Manmohan Singh Siali.
Major General Harkirat
A man of rare vision, the late
Major General Singh had made remarkable contributions in diverse fields. His
contributions made him renowned not only in the Defence organization but also in
various civil organizations.
In the year 1933, Gen. Harkirat
Singh was granted the King's Commission in Madras Sappers from the Royal
Military Academy, Wool wish U.K. After having served at various parts of the
world and India and after the Second World War, he was appointed as the Chief
Engineer of the Southern Command in 1947. Subsequently, he served as the Chief
Engineer of the Western Command (in 1950) and yet again as the Chief Engineer of
the Southern Command. In between, he successfully commanded an Infantry Brigade,
thus distinguishing himself as an outstanding engineer and an eminent soldier.
During his three tenures as Command Chief Engineer ,he played a leading role in
the post - War reorganization of the Corps of Engineers and execution of a
large number of construction projects for the Army , Navy and Air-Force. Later,
he was appointed as the Commander of the College of Military Engineering and was one of the main pillars
in the growth of this premier institution of the Corps. Being an outstanding
Engineer, he was elected President of the Institute of Engineers (India) for two
consecutive terms. Later, he was bestowed with the honorary membership of the
Institute. Of all his outstanding achievements, perhaps the most crucial was
his compilation of the very first National Building Code which covered the
entire gamut of administrative, financial, construction and technical aspects.
The monumental publication was his personal handiwork and has been adopted by
major construction departments of the Central and State Governments.
In recognition of his crusading
zeal valuable contribution in the field of standardization ,the General was
awarded the Moudgil prize in 1970. He was a man for all seasons-always
enthusiastic, ever encouraging and endearing himself to all and sundry through
his large hearted virtues. The General was a person who epitomized the saying of
'living life to fullest'. A remarkable man with a varied spectrum of talents and
achievements, he was undoubtedly tallest
figures of the Corps of Engineers.
Sardar Sahib Singh and his nephew Gursharan
Singh can both be credited for the construction of gurdwara Hemkunt Sahib. One
of the partners in the Messrs. Sahib Singh, Harbhajan Singh & Gursharan Singh,
the former was in his late seventies when he offered his firm's services
for the building of the gurdwara.
Born at Nankana Sahib, Pakistan in 1898, Sahib
Singh graduated from Punjab Engineering college, Chandigarh. Their combined
knowledge shaped the unique structure of the gurdwara in the given formidable
S. Gursharan Singh
With his vast experience in construction, Sahib
Singh systematically mobilized his resources and prepared a plan of action for
the building activities due to occur. He selected a staff of qualified personnel
overcome and activities speeded up. His experience as a builder enabled him to
establish a very good rapport with the architect. Amongst the two modes of
construction of R.C.C. and steel, the complex steel structure was put up under
Gursharan Singh displayed his competency as a civil engineer by organizing the execution of the complicated form of the roof as well as the
layout and foundation of the structure. Corrugated aluminum sheets were then
chosen as the most apt material to roof the structure.
Dr. S. Inderjit Singh (1911-1998)
"The devotee has finally
succeeded in his mission! In life he served Him- In death he remembered
A legend of his time, Dr.
Inderjit Singh was referred to as an outstanding banker, philanthropist,
educationist and above all- a selfless human being. Born and brought up in a
devoted Hindu family, he was an eminent scholar and social worker. Throughout
his lifetime, he served the cause of Sikh faith and nation at large. His father
was a highly respected personality and had full faith in the teaching of the
Guru Granth Sahib.
S. Inderjit Singh's life. He
served selfless and performed conscientiously in all spheres of his life. He
lived in simplicity, was straight forward and clear in his life. He
excelled in the virtues of honesty, devotion and optimism. A renowned
humanitarian, he drew inspiration from the spiritual teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. Dr. Inderjit Singh was the
Chairman of the Punjab & Sind Bank and later, the promoter of the Bank of
He led the Punjab & Sind Bank from a mere few branches to a staggering
figure of 100 branches and with a budget of 1000 crores, which indeed can be
claimed as a miracle. He was known to be a great banker and a financial wizard.
Dr. Inderjit Singh was a great admirer of the Gursikh way of life and its
history and he projected this through the media of calendars and
pamphlets. He was the president of Gurdwara Hemkunt Management Trust from
1997-1998 and wisely managed the financial matters of the Trust.