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Sikh architecture
Map of the Harmandir Sahib Complex, Click to enlarge

Sikh architecture is a style of architecture that was developed under the Sikh Confederacy and Sikh Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries in the Punjab region. Due to its progressive style, it is constantly evolving into many newly developing branches with new contemporary styles. Although Sikh architecture was initially developed within Sikhism its style has been used in many non-religious buildings due to its beauty. 300 years ago, Sikh architecture was distinguished for its many curves and straight lines; Keshgarh Sahib and the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) are prime examples.


Architectural sketch depicting a dome design by Gian Singh Naqqash from page 279 of his book, Vishkarma Darpan, ca.1926

Sikh Architecture is heavily influenced by Mughal and Islamic styles. The onion dome, frescoes, in-lay work, and multi-foil arches, are Mughal influences, more specially from Shah Jahan's period, whereas chattris, oriel windows, bracket supported eaves at the string-course, and ornamented friezes are derived from elements of Rajput architecture.

Exterior of the Gurdwara Baba Atal, located in Amritsar, India.

Apart from religious buildings, Sikh architecture includes secular forts, bungas (residential places), palaces, and colleges. The religious structure is called gurdwara (a place where the Guru dwells). The word gurdwara is a compound of guru (guide or master) and dwara (gateway or seat). So, it has an architectural connotation. Sikh gurdwaras are generally commemorative buildings connected with the ten gurus in some way, or with places and events of historical significance. Some examples are Gurdwara Dera Sahib (halting place), in Batala in Gurdaspur district. It was erected in memory of the brief stay of Guru Nanak along with his companions on the occasion of his marriage. Gurdwara Shahid Ganj (Martyr's Memorial) in Muktsar in Faridkot district commemorates the cremation spot of Sikhs who were killed in a battle between Guru Gobind Singh and the Mughals in 1705. Gurdwara Shish Mahal (hall of mirrors) in Kiratpur in Ropar district was made where Guru Har Kisan was born.

There are over 500 historical gurdwaras.[citation needed]


Many priceless Sikh heritage sites (including their architecture) have been destroyed or altered beyond recognition under the guise of "kar seva" renovations by various institutions and groups in recent-times,[1][2][3][4][5][6] especially vulnerable are Sikh heritage sites in both India and Pakistan according to one scholar, who states it is due to "...the lack of will on the part of the authorities concerned to preserve them".[7] An example of these haphazard and destructive renovations is an incident involving the top section of the historical Darshani Deori (gateway) at the Gurdwara Tarn Taran Sahib complex, which was demolished by Kar Seva groups in March 2019.[8][9][10][11] Many groups are rushing to digitize what historical architecture and structures remains for posterity before they are lost, such as Panjab Digital Library.[12] In July 2021, the SGPC launched a project to archive and document the heritage structures of the community and have set up the old doors of the Golden Temple as museum display when they were replaced.[13][14][15] However, around the same time the SGPC denied the importance of a historical Sikh structure discovered underground near the Golden Temple complex, which experts at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) deemed as 'historic'.[16] Also, the SGPC made plans to raze a historical building known as Guru Ram Das Sarai, even in the face of criticism of the decision by experts.[17][18] As many as ninety percent of Sikh heritage monuments have been destroyed in Punjab in the name of renovation and kar seva.[19] Many historical Sikh structures that were destroyed by Kar Seva renovations include original houses of the Sikh gurus and their relatives.[20]

According to the Sikh historian, Harjinder Singh Dilgeer:[20]

Though kar seva babas had been renovating gurudwaras ever since anyone can remember, it was after Operation Bluestar, when the Sikh community donated generously for the massive rebuilding of the Golden Temple premises, that 'babas' began to appreciate the money-making opportunities such rebuilding threw up. The trend then spread across Punjab and in the last two decades, old heritage structures began to be demolished and replaced by garish, opulent marble gurudwaras. These pseudo-babas are armed with so much money but they spend it foolishly on rebuilding instead of restoration, because they are absolutely ignorant about the historical value of these old monuments. Somewhere along the line, the original, unpretentious Sikh architecture has begun to be perceived as something to be ashamed of. Our Gurus were simple, down-to-earth men of the soil, and their buildings reflect the simplicity and harmony which Sikhism is all about.

— Harjinder Singh Dilgeer, Sikh historian

Shahid Shabbir is a Pakistani who has documented countless Sikh heritage sites (most often neglected, dilapidated, or abandoned) located in his country, including their extant artwork and architecture.[21][22] Sikh architecture remains a seldomly studied or researched subject.[23]


See also


  1. ^ Singh, Gurnam (2021-04-21). "Who's really destroying Sikh heritage?". Asia Samachar. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  2. ^ Singh, I. P.; Rana, Yudhvir (August 23, 2021). "Sikhs wake up late to the loss of religious heritage". The Times of India. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  3. ^ "Stop 'kar seva': SAD-A to SGPC". The Times of India. TNN. Apr 15, 2003. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  4. ^ "Sikhs aghast with tearing down of historic Sikh site in name of 'kar seva'". Asia Samachar Team. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ "UPDATE: Kar Seva's Baba Jagtar Singh Evicted from Sri Tarn Taran Sahib". Sikh24 Editors. 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ IP Singh (Oct 7, 2018). "Heritage under the hammer". The Times of India. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  7. ^ "Sikh heritage sites in India, Pak facing ruin, says scholar". Tribuneindia News Service. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  8. ^ Yudhvir Rana (Mar 31, 2019). "Karsewa group demolish historical darshani deori". The Times of India. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  9. ^ "Historic Tarn Taran gurdwara's 'darshani deori' razed, row erupts". Hindustan Times. 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  10. ^ "10 months on, no progress on restoration of Darshani Deori in Tarn Taran gurdwara". Hindustan Times. 2020-01-25. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  11. ^ Kaur, Mejindarpal (2019-04-05). "Stop the Destruction of Sikh Heritage". United Sikhs. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  12. ^ Sethi, Chitleen K. (2018-12-19). "In Punjab, a library's silent digital revolution is preserving the state's heritage". ThePrint. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  13. ^ "Beleaguered over Destruction of Heritage, SGPC Plans to Initiate Sikh Archives Project". Sikh24 Punjab Bureau. 2021-07-31. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Paul, G.S. "200-year-old doors of Golden Temple's 'Darshani Deori' on display". Tribuneindia News Service. Tribune News Service. Retrieved 2023-01-08.
  15. ^ "Jathedar dispels rumours on Darshani Deori doors". Tribuneindia News Service. Tribune News Service. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ "SGPC Continues to Deny Historic Importance of Old Structure Found at Darbar Sahib". Sikh24 Editors. 2021-07-31. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  17. ^ "SGPC Revives Plan of Razing Darbar Sahib Sarai Where Sikhs Were Martyred During '84 Holocaust". Sikh24 Editors. 2021-07-20. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ "SGPC plans to demolish Guru Ram Dass Sarai near Darbar Sahib; Sikh groups obejct". Sikh Siyasat News. Sikh Siyasat Bureau. 2016-06-29. Retrieved 2023-01-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  19. ^ Glover, William J. "Shiny new buildings: rebuilding historic sikh gurdwaras in Indian Punjab." Future Anterior, vol. 9, no. 1, summer 2012, pp. 32+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 8 Jan. 2023.
  20. ^ a b Dogra, Chander Suta (3 May 2016). "Have You the Eyes for It?". SikhNet (republished, originally published by Outlook Magazine). Retrieved 21 September 2023.
  21. ^ Aslam, Irfan (28 May 2019). "Narowal haveli has nothing to do with Baba Guru Nanak". Dawn. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  22. ^ Singh, Inderjeet (18 September 2015). "Research Into Sikh Heritage in Pakistan – Shahid Shabbir (aka Baba Ji)". Sikh Net. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  23. ^ Kang, Kanwarjit Singh (1988). "16. The Sikh Shrines of Anandpur Sahib". Punjab Art and Culture. Atma Ram & Sons. p. 82. ISBN 9788170430964.


Further reading