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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 PROJECT

The contributions of some revolutionary men made the project of Hemkunt Gurdwara come alive.

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 Singh

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.

S.Sahib Singh

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 surroundings.

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 his guidance.

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 Him"

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 Punjab.

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.
 

 

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