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Personal testimony and grateful reflection.


As I approached the causeway to Harimander Sahib (Court of the Lord), the crown jewel of the Golden Temple complex I was overwhelmed by the thought that all outstanding heritage sites: relics, archaeological treasures, and architectural monuments belong to all people. As great and magnificent visual symbols of mankind's journey through the ages; they are the heart and soul of our civilization and a connecting bridge to diverse cultures, people, inspirations, and human aspirations.

As if to affirm this transcendent intercultural moment, I encountered hundred of non-Sikhs and non-Indians from other faith traditions visiting the holiest shrine of the Sikh faith, the magnificent sixteenth century Indo-Sarsenic masterpiece at Amritsar, Punjab-the colorful western "gateway" to Indian civilization. Bathed in serene and shimmering elegance in mid-day sun, from under the Temple's golden domes, the message of Oneness, Equality, Human Dignity, and Sanctity of all faith reverberated in universal spiritual embrace.

The foundation stone of the famous Harimander Sahib at Amritsar was laid by a venerated Moslem Sufi Saint Hazrat Mian Mir at the request of the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev. In a magnanimous affirmation of the spirit and commandments of this fifteenth-century monotheistic Sikh faith the writings of several Moslem and Hindu saints of various castes and revealed writings of Sikh Gurus are enshrined in the sacred Adi Grunth. Guru Arjan Dev compiled the original Guru Grunth Sahib and installed it at the sacred Temple in 1604.

Each pilgrim arrives here to offer prayers or make petitions for cherished hopes and concerns or express gratitude for blessings already received. Some estimates suggest that a million people from around the world visit the Golden Temple complex each week

In this hallowed place, my mind and spirit surrendered in grateful salutation to the : majesty and splendor of other "cathedrals of spirit", testimony of defiance and sacrifices of martyrs for righteous causes; anguish of Tibetans, Jews, American Indians, Sikhs and others over destroyed heritage and continued injustice; peaceful reflections of the beautiful Lotus Temple of Bahais at New Delhi, sacred pagodas, pavilions and shrines that celebrate and grace our civilizations with a rich tapestry of emotions, traditions, experiences, cultural textures and rhythms and offer us a glimpse of Divine amidst the temporal distractions. My time and spirit stood still as I meditated on the moment.

Countless unexplored and neglected heritage sites scattered throughout the human landscape capture the very essence of our cultural, visual, and spiritual universe. They are important mirrors and milestones of our collective wisdom, creative innovations, and landmark attractions. These sites need identification, designation as protected sites, legislative and financial support, and committed partnerships for preservation, restoration, and aesthetic integration into the community cultural and architectural fabric.

Safeguarding our threatened recent and ancient history, celebrated architecture, and heritage sites: our collective cultural frontier with responsible action and intervention and assuring a universal and safe access is a challenge with unimagined promise.

Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh,
Amritsar, Punjab India

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