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Sikh shrine treads tremor-proof path

- Marble from Makrana, intricate golden work & parking facility to make gurdwara special for visitors

Work is on to renovate the Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib, one of the most visited tourist spots in the city, and make it resistant to earthquakes.

The shrine is the second-most revered shrine for the Sikh community after the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Now, it is following in the footsteps of the Swaminarayan Temple, an earthquake-resistant shrine in US built for $100 million. The renovation work is important for the Patna temple because the city falls in the seismic zone 5.

Engineers and experts working on the Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib’s renovation are using around 1,000 tonnes of steel to make the sacred structure in Patna City strong enough to withstand an earthquake. The project started late last year.

Sources said Mahinder Singh, the jatthedar (head priest) of a gurdwara in Birmingham, is funding the project. He visited the gurdwara early last year and decided to provide around Rs 60 crore for the renovation.

The Swaminarayan Temple, one of the biggest Hindu temples, is among the very few earthquake-proof shrines in the world. Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha built the temple with around 35,000 pieces of meticulously hand-carved Italian Carrara marble and Indian pink stone.

Structural engineer B.B. Choudhary, who was involved in the construction of Akshardham temple, Delhi, has been hired to implement the Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib work.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2017, the 350th prakash parv (birth anniversary) of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh guru. The renovation also entails construction of an underground parking facility for around 160 vehicles.

Indrajeet Singh, the project director, said: “Apart from using around 1000 tonnes of steel, we are also using 5,000 cubic metres concrete and more than 1 lakh sqft marble to make the structure earthquake-resistant. We are using the Makrana marble, which has gone into the construction of the Taj Mahal and Golden Temple. Both the structures have withstood all types of weather and are still standing strong. This marble is the reason for that.”

Technology is also being brought in to make the structure earthquake-proof.

The concrete used is approved only after proper lab testing for quality. “We are conducting the cube test on the concrete at a Delhi laboratory. Of the many tests applied, this is of utmost importance as it tells us of the concrete’s characteristics,” said Singh.

A cube test checks the quality of the concrete used in a project.

Singh also said: “We are using a software that tells us how much steel and how much columns have to be added to make the structure earthquake resistant. If the amount of steel used in a particular portion of the structure is not correct, the software tells us about it. Today, there are many technologies that help us make a structure earthquake resistant. Renowned engineers are using this technology and we are proud to adapt the same technology here.”

The intricate golden work carved on the walls of the Golden Temple — Manobat — is also being replicated at the Patna City shrine.

“Artists from Rajasthan have been hired for the work, as they are skilled in this. It’s not easy to carve out the gold work on the ceilings. As many as 10 processes are involved in the work and every day, workers can only carve out 6 inch or so gold work on the walls,” Singh added.

However, not all is hunky-dory in the renovation — the renovation has several challenges before it too.

Initially, when engineers started work on the project, congestion was a big issue. The area around the gurdwara, spread across 2 acres, has close sets of houses. When structures were being broken down for the renovation, the houses were also undergoing damage. So, now the engineers are maintaining a distance from the houses so that they are not damaged.

Singh said automatic water sprinklers are also being installed at the Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib to fight blazes in case of an outbreak.

Among the other attractions of the renovation work is the underground parking facility.

Daljeet Singh, superintendent, Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib renovation project, said: “At present, the Bangla Sahib gurdwara and Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Delhi have parking facilities, but not the Golden Temple. So, Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib would be among the few gurdwaras in the country to have a parking facility.”