What draws crowds to Virasat-e-Khalsa?


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Perched near the historic fort and gurdwara at Anandpur Sahib, the museum is drawing a large share of pilgrims (both barefoot and shod) and schoolchildren, along with a sprinkling of overseas VIPs like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Generous opening hours from 8 am to 8 pm still haven’t eased the congestion. According to official figures, 34 lakh visitors have turned up at the museum since its initial group of galleries opened to the public 22 months ago. Such numbers would be the envy of more established museums like the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, which attracts just 50,000 visitors annually. And given its accent on art history, Virasat-e-Khalsa clearly stands apart from swamped sites like Akshardham, the Swaminarayan Hindu shrine and exhibition space in Delhi that was consciously modelled on a Disney theme park. So far, however, Virasat-e-Khalsa, which also stands out for its iconic concave architecture, has generated remarkably little buzz outside Punjab. Even a Sikh travel agent based in Delhi couldn’t describe it. To date, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not found the time to visit. Some observers believe that the museum deserves far more attention – both from the general public and the art world.

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