PATNA: From widening the streets to sprucing up Ganga riverfront, Patna City region and the iconic Sikh shrine nestled in its womb are undergoing a massive facelift as a large number of pilgrims are expected here during the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh.
Patna Sahib, the birthplace of the tenth Sikh Guru, is considered one of the holiest places by Sikhs around the world, besides being a major tourism attraction for people from all communities.
Bihar government has drawn up plans for grand celebrations in January 2017 to mark the historic occasion and is gearing up to put its best foot forward.
As people from several parts of India, and outside including Canada, the UK, the US, Australia are expected to converge here, a temporary tent city has been planned and the Patna Sahib shrine is racing against time to finish the new constructions on its premises.
"A temporary tent city spanning over 75 acres has been proposed to be set up on the banks of Ganga near Kangan Ghat. The area has already been earmarked. All facilities including toilets, lighting, water would be provided to pilgrims there," a top government official said.
Commissioner, Patna Division, Anand Kishor said, "On the 350th birth anniversary, all roads will lead to Patna. And, we want to be fully ready to welcome this huge rush of pilgrims.
It is not about one event, but Bihar's image itself."
"The countdown has begun and timelines have been defined.
All projects would be completed in time-bound manner. Inter -departmental conflicts have been resolved and 7-8 committees and sub-committees have been set up to smoothly execute the big plan," Kishor told PTI.
Old streets like Guru Gobind Singh Path are being widened and new roads are being constructed in Patna City, the old region of Patna, endowed with narrow lanes and alleys and heritage buildings, falling on the eastern side of the present capital. Ganga ghats in the city are also being redeveloped.
Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna in 1666 to Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru and Mata Gujri. The current shrine of Patna Sahib or Takht Sri Harmandirji Saheb, signifying the birth of Guru Gobind Singh was built in the 1950s over the remains of the structure erected by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the late 1830s which were damaged in the deadly 1934 earthquake.
The original house that stood there at the time of the birth and the subsequent structure that came up in the 19th century were considerably damaged in a devastating fire. At the time of his birth, Sikh devotees had undertaken long journeys to see him.
The gurudwara management committee is also undertaking huge constructions in its campus, as most of the old guest house complex has been dismantled and a new structure is coming up in its place, which will include provisions for parking to accommodate the massive rush expected in January.
New structures have also come up in the campus surrounding Gurudwara Bal Leela where young Guru Gobind Singh used to play. A multi-storeyed building has been completed in its adjoining campus replacing the old building that once served as a warehouse.
Road construction work is going on in full swing and the Patna Commissioner said, "All new roads are to be completed by May. There are 40-50 such streets."
The Commissioner holds regular meeting with all other stakeholders including the District Magistrate, Patna Police administration, Tourism Department, Railways officials to chalk out "both short-term and long-term measures" to make the event a "grand success."
"All police officials including the Senior SP have been briefed to ensure foolproof security. We will be installing 200 CCTV cameras to monitor the situation," Kishor said.
"Sanitation and beautification drive is also being taken up and Patna Municipal Corporation has been instructed to ensure cleanliness in the streets and premises around the gurudwara.
"Besides, we will be beautifying the city areas with street lamps and other lighting. People coming here should experience a wonderful Patna and great Bihar," he said.
Bihar government, besides the religious congregation, is also looking to tap the immense tourism potential of this mega event and had earlier even hired Delhi-based Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (INTACH) to prepare a micro-plan for tourism-related assessment of Patna Sahib area.
"We had made a study of the area, which is the old region of Patna, with layers of several centuries of history and heritage. The area has winding lanes and narrow roads, including the main road, the Ashok Raj Path that goes in front of the shrine and therefore had suggested a few measures to decongest the area," a senior INTACH official told PTI.
"We had suggested disembarking of pilgrims at Patna Sahib station instead of Patna Junction so as to avoid travelling the busy Ashok Raj Path and then ferrying those pilgrims to Patna Ghat, from where a river promenade would lead them to Chimney Ghat. A fresh road from Chimney Ghat would lead straight to Patna Sahib without any hassles," he said.
"But, owing to conflict of interests due to multiplicity of agencies, nothing moved forward in that direction," he added.
Patna City is one of the oldest inhabited regions of the country and railways came to it in early 1860s (Patna Station).
The railway station was renamed as Patna Sahib in the 90s in honour of the Guru Gobind Singh. The current main railway station of the city, Patna Junction, falling in the western region of the capital, came up in the 1930s.