Bani Singh

The Khalsa Heritage Museum, India: A Work in Progress


A museum encapsulating 500 years of the tumultuous history of the Sikhs is being built at the historical site of Anandpur Sahib in India. The architect, Moshe Safdie, has designed the museum known as the Khalsa Heritage complex while the content, artefact exhibits, and installations have been entrusted to the National Institute of Design and their team of consultants.

This talk will describe the design concept and the process used in selecting the content for the museum’s narrative. While weaving together the history and the legends with the rich poetry and music of the land, the biggest challenges have been about representing the religious and sacred symbols of a living tradition using appropriate and invisible technology so that it does not overpower viewers, and effectively communicating with a wide spectrum of people that will range from the international traveler to visitors from other parts of India and the Sikhs from rural and urban Punjab.

Finally, the talk will consider the insights that 500 years of history thrown on the present and that provide an opportunity to reflect on how the present is formed by the past, and how geographical boundaries can shape mindscapes. Such a talk will present new perspectives on a little-known South Asian religion and visual culture and the challenges of re-presenting complex cultural and historical matters in a museum setting. It relates directly to central issues in the fields of museum studies, art history, visual culture, design and the arts, as well as South Asian history and religion – all areas of distinguished study and research at our university.