To commemorate the Tercentenary year of the Birth of the Khalsa in 1999, the Virasat-e-Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib is an inspiring tribute to the heroic and poignant saga of the Sikhs and the Punjab. The building is designed by internationally acclaimed architect, Moshe Safdie.
We were given spaces as high as 18 metres and galleries of large volumes. We had no artefacts, memorabilia, antiques and similar items to go with. But given the extraordinary historical, emotive, spiritual, cultural content available, we decided to make it a dynamic, storytelling museum. By developing a language fitting with the architecture, we made it into a hand made museum. A severe lack of visual content led our extensive research to history depicted through art and folk stories, apart from documented history. Recreating history through artistic representation and craft techniques, the solution was unique as we stayed true to the form and style of the 15th century and later periods in each of the galleries telling the early stories of the Sikhs and the birth of the Khalsa. Film was used to animate stories, staying true to styles of relevant periods. Using available talent in India of both contemporary and folk art and craft, we created a unique Indian language which at the same time, remained true to Punjab.
Carefully inserting very savvy technology we emphasized emotional impact. Communication was resolved with sensor-activated audio guides and took visitors through story-telling environments within various immersive experiences. In the very first gallery, a non-linear experience using art, technology and music has no equal anywhere.
Visitors are primarily from rural populations and oral traditions, as well as urban residents, participating in an emotional experience of their story and not just an intellectual one. The success of our museum design is evident from the huge footfalls: 20,00,000 visitors in the very first year, and over 52,00,000 in the last three and a half years. For a remote location like Anandpur Sahib, this outstanding response is eventually due to good aesthetics and our innovative design in telling the story of Sikhism and the birth of the Khalsa.
Phase 2 of the continuing story of Sikhism at the Virasat-e-Khalsa museum is close to completion. The final total area of 68,000 square feet will rank it among the top museums of the world.