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To counter hatred, Sikh crafts replicas of global shrines

Saturday April 09, 2011 12:16:00 PM, IANS

Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh): Shaken by the 1984 riots against his community, a 62-year-old Sikh artist has been trying to bring people of different faiths under one roof. He does this by showing replicas of prominent shrines from 42 countries crafted by him.

For over 20 years, Gurmail Singh, a resident of Govind Nagar here, has been making the replicas from wood, thermacol and vibrant coloured papers and displaying them at exhibitions in various states.

"It's really heartening to see Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs sharing a common platform during the exhibitions," Singh, who is an employee at a local gurdwara, told IANS.

"I just cannot put my feelings into words when members of different religions approach and appreciate me for spreading communal harmony through the replicas," he added.

Singh possesses 400 replicas of different religious sites in Japan, Sri Lanka, Rome, India, Pakistan and other countries.

"Of all the replicas, there are some that always draw a huge crowd in every exhibition," Singh said.

"They include the replicas of the Saint Peter's Basilica, one of the world's oldest churches in Rome, Gurdwara Panja Sahib and Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, religious sites in Makkah and Madinah, Church of St. Paul in Hong Kong, Buddhist temples in Japan," he said.

"Till now I have put my replicas on display in over 100 exhibitions organised in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan," he added.

It takes 10-15 days for Singh to complete one replica that usually measures four-six feet.

"The main challenge involved in the art lies in drawing the shrine on a thermacol and then cutting it and placing it on wooden blocks in order to give the replica a three-dimensional view," Singh said.

"I have never been to most of the sites whose replicas you will find with me. I collected their pictures from magazines and newspapers and thereafter made the replicas," he added.

Asked what prompted him to take up the unique art, Singh said: "During the anti-Sikh riots we were based in Haryana, where a mob torched our small house and a clothes shop that was the only source of income for my family."

"Luckily no one in my family was killed in the attack, but we had to go through many hardships during the period...For several nights we slept empty stomach as we did not have anything with us," he said.

"We had to spend a nomadic life for several days before we got a shelter in a gurdwara in Ludhiana," Singh said.

He said after being affected by the riots, he wanted to counter hatred and do something for spreading brotherhood and peace and therefore decided to unite people by making the replicas of various religious sites.

Later, in 1992, Singh along with his family moved to Saharanpur to serve at a gurdwara.

Impressed with Singh's art, locals raised funds to help in organising exhibitions.

"He (Singh) is doing a wonderful job to bring the people of different religions on a common platform," said Shishu Bindarpal, who owns a garments shop in Saharanpur.

M.A. Qanwar, a teacher in a private school, said: "Singh's efforts will definitely go a long way in propagating the message of communal harmony. His efforts must serve as an inspiration to the younger generation to work for peace in their own way."

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at





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