It was a long journey through the history of the Punjab, before the internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, initiated the design process for the Virasat-e-Khalsa. He drew inspiration from the historic Golden Temple and the rich heritage of Anandpur Sahib — its hills, natural valleys and streams, the Anandgarh Fort and the glorious Gurdwara Keshgarh Sahib. The site for the Complex was selected for its direct relationship to all these features. In Moshe Safdie's own words, "a building cannot be experienced as independent of the land in which it is rooted."

The site generated the plan.
The Complex has been conceived as two functionally integrated sets of buildings. The Western complex forms the gateway for the town. It houses functions that respond directly to the needs of the people — changing exhibit galleries; a two-level research and reference library centred around a great reading room open to vistas of water gardens, to house rare archival materials, books, journals as well as audio visual resources; and a 428-seat auditorium to host seminars and cultural events.

A 165-metre bridge from the Western complex provides pedestrian access to the Eastern complex, the Virasat-e-Khalsa Museum that comprises permanent exhibit galleries on 500 years of Sikh heritage along with museum facilities to rival any world-class museum. A series of reflecting pools create a seven-acre water body between the two complexes. Arcaded walkways and gardens on either side gently cascade towards the serene pools. Public facilities and a cafeteria are located at the base of the bridge overlooking this vista. The finest craftsmanship is being employed to create a Complex worthy of Sikh aspirations and traditions. In the future new facilities may be added to make the Virasat-e-Khalsa the world's foremost, comprehensive Sikh heritage centre. The Museum complex re-interprets recurring themes of Sikh and regional architecture.

The buildings consist of a series of tower-like shafts — cylindrical, square and triangular in shape that rises out of the sand cliffs. Sheathed with hand-chiselled Gwalior sandstone of the same colour as the hills, they evoke the fortress architecture of Punjab and Northern India. Rhythmic columnar arcades, which traditionally contain the Gurdwara courtyards and ceremonial pools, weave together the tower-like shafts and terraces towards the valley in a series of hanging gardens, which gently descend towards the water — a journey towards spiritual cleansing.

The theme of the Earth and Sky, mass and lightness, depth and ascension, represented by the sandstone towers and reflective silver roofs, is further echoed within the museum galleries.

As a counterpoint to the rich tradition of domes which crown sacred Sikh buildings, the roofs of the Khalsa Museum are carved out in concave shapes like great receptors facing the sky. Sheathed with silvery stainless steel, they reflect the sun and light towards the Gurdwara and the Fort — the town basks in the glory of the light emanating from the Museum. At night, these roofs would be floodlit and form a visual triangular axis with the illuminated Fort and Gurdwara domes.

The roof geometry projected in the skyline reveals the plan of the individual floors. One cluster, with five flower-like petals evokes the lotus, projecting skywards. A second crescent-shaped cluster creates a symphony of shapes against the skyline, dominated by a vertical sword-like triangular spire that hovers above the roofline. Below, at the centre of the historic museum is a large multi-level exhibit space, shaped like a ship, rising dramatically from the water below. Its bow faces downstream towards the sacred buildings of the town, creating the allusion of dynamic movement.

Timelessness, according to Moshe Safdie, is perhaps the most meaningful quality one can ascribe to a building. This Museum shall stand apart forever — unique, mystical and eternal.

Principal Architect Moshe Safdie
Moshe Safdie & Associates, Boston, USA
Associate Architect Ashok Dhawan, New Delhi, India
Museum Design AB Design Habit, New Delhi
Project Head for Concept Design Amardeep Behl
Building Construction Larsen & Toubro Limited, India

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