On the occasion of the fifth centenary of Guru Nanak’s birthday, Dr. V. V. Giri, the then President of India came to Amritsar to inaugurate the most modern lighting system which was to electrify the main building of the Harmandar Sahib and other adjoining sacred buildings and premises. He said while performing the switching on ceremony, ‘The inner spiritual light which emanates from the Harmandar Sahib is far splendid than the one which the newly installed system would provide.’ His remarks are most appropriate.
The Golden Temple illuminates one’s soul and the mechanical devices provide light to meet the human necessity. This necessity to electrify the Harmandar Complex was felt by some devotees of the Golden Temple more than one hundred years ago. The objective was to present a glittering view of the holy shrine at night as was available through the natural light of the Sun during the day. Besides, the illumination through artificial light would help the devotees visiting the temple at night or those who come to bless themselves with the Hukamnama and prayers in the wee hours of the morning to have a better and more clear view of the holy shrine. But the task of electrification of the holy place was by no means an easy affair.
It was Sir Sunder Singh Majithia who proposed on January 26, 1896 that the work of electrifying the Harmandar Sahib be undertaken. This move was resented by many and it therefore stirred up a controversial discussion through the columns of the Khalsa news paper. Whenever those who favoured the electrification of the holy place advanced arguments in support of their proposal, some Granthis of the Golden Temple, members of the Singh Sabha of Lahore and prominent persons of Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Nanded advanced their counter arguments.
Their main argument was that we Easterns need not blindly follow the Western people and not turn our back upon well established traditions which upheld the age old practices and rituals. They further said that proposal of electrification would lead to the spiritual pollution of the atmosphere of the holy temple and denigrate the ritual practices which have been in vogue for centuries. According to them the electricity would spoil the peace, serenity and piety of the environments.
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