The glittering dome of the resplendent Golden Temple can be seen from quite a distance. As you near it, the dazzling elegance of the Golden Temple overwhelms you. The last time I had been to the Golden Temple was over two decades ago when I toured around India on a motorcycle. It was an extraordinary experience for me. The beauty of the Golden Temple is breathtaking. The history, the wars, the oppression by invaders, the freedom struggle and the resistance offered by our gallant people are stunning and remarkable. The valourous acts and sacrifices of the great Sikh Gurus and their followers are truly exceptional.
A few weeks ago, my very good friend Shri Manjit Singh who lives in the same city as I do, invited me on a pilgrimage to Gurudwaras in Punjab. In fact I had been longing to go to the Golden Temple again. I gladly agreed and left on the tour of Gurudwaras in Punjab.
This post is dedicated to the brave Sikh people who made the most unbelievable sacrifices ever and to those who follow the teachings of the great Sikh Gurus until this day. Through their teachings, noble service and their extremely courageous deeds, the Divine Sikh Gurus contributed greatly in keeping ‘Dharma’ or righteousness’ alive.
My friend Shri Manjit Singh planned and organised the short pilgrimage to various Gurudwaras in Punjab. I truly appreciate him for his vast knowledge about the various Gurudwaras he took me to.
Sikh history is indeed highly eventful, vast and extensive. It would take much longer to discuss the subject in detail. This post is about the Gurudwaras we visited during our brief tour which we started on 31.03.2016.
Degh Tegh Fateh – ਦੇਗ ਤੇਗ਼ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ
Wahe Guruji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guruji ki Fateh.
‘Degh Tegh Fateh’ – ਦੇਗ ਤੇਗ਼ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ is a powerful slogan of the Sikhs. The word ‘Degh’ (ਦੇਗ) means a large cooking cauldron and ‘Tegh’ (ਤੇਗ਼) means a sword. ‘Degh Tegh Fateh’ (ਦੇਗ ਤੇਗ਼ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ) means ‘Victory to charity and arms’. The ‘Khanda’ depicts the Sikh doctrine ‘Deg Tegh Fateh’ in the form of an emblem. The emblem consists of three weapons and a circle which is called the Khanda. There are two ‘Kirpans’ and the ‘Chakkar’ which is a circle. It is the military emblem of the Sikhs. It is the main part of the design of the ‘Nishan Sahib,’ which is the triangular flag of the Sikhs. The Khanda symbolises the religious obligation of a Sikh to provide food or ‘Langar’ and also protection to the weak and the needy, irrespective of nationality, religion, gender, skin colour, creed or community.
The Sikh Gurus
|1st Guru||Guru Nanak Ji||(1469 to 1539)|
|2nd Guru||Guru Angad Ji||(1504 to 1552)|
|3rd Guru||Guru Amar Das Ji||(1479 to 1574)|
|4th Guru||Guru Ram Das Ji||(1534 to 1581)|
|5th Guru||Guru Arjan Ji||(1563 to 1606)|
|6th Guru||Guru Hargobind Ji||(1595 to 1644)|
|7th Guru||Guru Har Rai Ji||(1630 to 1661)|
|8th Guru||Guru Harkrishan Ji||(1656 to 1664)|
|9th Guru||Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji||(1621 to 1675)|
|10th Guru||Guru Gobind Singh Ji||(1666 to 1708)|
|11th and the eternal living Guru||Guru Granth Sahib Ji||07.10.1708 unto eternity|
It was a time when most parts of Bharat Varsh (India) had already fallen in the hands of barbaric invaders. Millions of innnocent natives who were not willing to convert to foreign religions were killed in the most gruesome ways possible.
Bharat Varsh has always been known to be a land of knowledge, art, culture, philosophy, treasures, natural beauty and other such special qualities. It is the land of the Vedas, Yoga and of great epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Bharat Varsh, a wealthy land blessed with nature’s bounty was obviously the prime target of most greedy rulers.
The deep philosophy that binds the people of Bharat Varsh right until today has no name. However it is refered to as the Sanatana Dharma which means the Eternal Way of Life. Dharma or righteousness is the main pillar of this philosophy. The Sanatana Dharma is widely known as ‘Hinduism’. The terms ‘Hind,’ ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindustan’ have their roots in Persian and Greek references to Bharat Varsh and her identity.
Marauders from other continents heard about this amazing land of milk and honey and they came one after the other to loot, plunder, destroy its social fabric and to conquer it. The indigenous people of this land who were known for their culture, warmth and hospitality, never attacked or conquered any country. The people of this great land have never been belligerent or war mongering. This nature and attitude which is intrinsically woven into the pysche of the people of Bharat Varsh, turned out to be a weakness as they were not prepared for such vicious attacks by the ruthless invading barbarians.
India was systematically attacked by foreign invaders such of Alexander, the Arabs, the Turks, the Tughlaks, the Mughals, the Portuguese and the British. They murdered, tortured and maimed millions and millions of people of Bharat Varsh. They spared only those who agreed to convert to their religion. They entered Bharat Varsh from the North. The Marathas, Rajputs, Sikhs, and the Bundelas fought bravely and relentlessly. Guru Gobind Singh Ji spent his entire life fighting the brutal regime of Aurangzeb. This great Guru created the ‘Khalsa’, an army of ‘Saint Soldiers’ who would carry Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message of peace and universal brotherhood.
Islamisation of Kashmir began in the 13th century. Those who were not willing to convert were brutally murdered by the invaders. Moghuls ruled Kashmir between 1586 to 1781 after which it was a part of the Afghan Durrani Empire between 1747 and 1819. Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris were converted to the religion of the invaders and those who refused to obey them were mercilessly slaughtered.
In the year 1526, Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat. That was the beginning of the Moghul empire in Bharat Varsh.
We move on to the year 1606, when Jehangir, one of the sons of Akbar and grandfather of Aurangzeb, developed great hatred towards Sikhs. This was due to the fact that Guru Arjan Dev Ji was growing more and more influential among the people. He could easily convince people to follow his teachings. Jehangir considered Guru Arjan Dev Ji to be a great threat as he was not willing to convert to the his religion. He therefore ordered the execution of the Guru. When the Sikh population came to know of the death sentence issued by Jehangir, they joined together and managed to talk Jehangir into commuting the death sentence into a very heavy fine. A rich Sikh man was prepared to pay the fine and get Guru Arjan Dev Ji released. Guru Arjan Dev Ji refused all kinds of help from his followers and friends and also disagreed to the deal of paying the fine in exchange for his release.
This infuriated Jehangir and he had the Guru executed by seating him on a hot metal plate with hot sand being poured on him.
The Moghul rulers brutally tortured Indians. Due to the resistance offered by Sikh Gurus, their men, women and children were targetted. However they bravely opposed the evil invaders. The brave Sikhs never gave in and they did not buckle under pressure like most others who converted to the foreign religion. They went through untold sufferings and yet they did not budge from the path laid down to them by their own Divine Gurus. Their valour, courage and preparedness for sacrifice for the cause of Bharat Varsh are unparallelled.
One of the most respected martyrs among Sikhs is Baba Deep Singh Ji. Everyone who has heard of him knows about his grand sacrifice and valour. His story is probably one of its kind. Baba Deep Singh Ji was born in a simple Jatt Sikh family. He was a committed follower of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and on the Baisakhi day in the year 1699, he was taken into the Khalsa by none other than Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself.
He spent many years as a close companion of Guru Sahib and he learned the skills of warfare. Baba Deep Singh Ji later on learned the Gurumukhi script and contributed greatly in the task of making copies of the Guru Granth Sahib. Baba Deep Singh Ji gave his whole life for the Khalsa and he worked diligently towards protecting people by being an ideal Sikh of the Khalsa. Many years went by and he soon turned 75.
It was the time of the invader Ahmed Shah Durrani. He became very powerful after the assasination of Nader Shah. He had already attacked the northern part of India three times. He returned for the fourth time but this time with a vengeance to plunder whatever he could find. He and his men stole great treasures and also took along with them men, women and children. They were heading towards Kabul. At that time the army of Baba Deep Singh Ji was camped at Kurukshetra. They came to know of Durrani’s movements and attacked him and his army. They recovered most of the treasure and freed the men, women and children who were taken as captives by the invaders.
Durrani was seething with rage when he arrived in Lahore. He ordered his men to destroy Harimandir Sahib, (The Golden Temple). He commanded his men to dump parts of slaughtered cows into the Sacred Tank of the Harimandir Sahib. Babaji came to know that Taimur Shah, one of Ahmed Shah’s sons and Jahan Khan had disrepected the Darbar Sahib.
Baba Deep Singh Ji took the desecration of the holy place very personally and he took the responsibility upon himself. He was 75 years old then. Baba Ji collected all his energy and addressed a huge gathering of Sikhs at Damdama Sahib. He swore to rebuild the Harimandir Sahib. Right at that spot, he collected a group of over 500 followers who were ready to stand by him and fight for the cause. Baba Ji boldly said, ‘May my head fall at the Darbar Sahib,’ and continued travelling from village to village. He was nearing Amritsar and he paused at Tarn Taran Sahib. He was pleased to see that he had over 5000 thousand people following him. They had spears, knives and even hatchets.
Baba Ji was a great person highly committed to whatever he said. He had sworn to take revenge for the desecration of Harimandir Sahib which is the most holy place for Sikhs. A very severe battle ensued. The battle is known as the Battle of Gohalwar. The war was fierce and bloody. On the 11th of November 1757, Baba Deep Singh Ji was beheaded. Baba Ji fell to the ground and his soul was about to leave his body. That is when another Sikh next to him reminded him of his vow to sacrifice his head at the sacred tank of Darbar Sahib (Harimandir). The most miraculous thing happened and Baba Ji could actually hear the other Sikh reminding him about his vow! He held his severed head in his left hand and with his right hand swung his sword menacingly and reached Darbar Sahib. He slumped to the ground and just as he had vowed, his head fell at Darbar Sahib. The exact spot where Baba Ji’s severed head fell to the ground close to Darbar Sahib, is marked and people offer their respects to the super human Baba Deep Singh Ji. I stopped there for a while and was overwhelmed with emotion for the great deed of this great man. At the age of 75, he carried a doubled edged sword which weighed over 18 Kg and that is the sword he used to kill numerous evil plunderers.
The term ‘Gurudwara’ means (Guru + Dwar) ‘Door to the Guru’. Knowledge can obtained only through a Guru or teacher.
List of Gurudwaras we visited :
- Harimandir Sahib
- Baba Bakala Sahib
- Manji Sahib
- Bhor Sahib
- Darbar Sahib
- Sheesh Mahal Sahib
- Khalsapanth Seham Sahib
- Malri Sahib – Nakodar
- Ber Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi)
- Sant Ghat Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi)
- Antaryatma Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi)
- Shri Hatt Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi)
- Goindwal Sahib
- Baoli Sahib
- Tarn Taran Sahib
- Khadur Sahib
- Anandpur Sahib
- Harimandir Sahib – The Golden temple
This is holiest Gurudwara for those following the Sikh Dharma. The term Harimandir which usually pronounced as ‘Harmandir’ means the Temple of God. The Magnificent Golden Temple is located in the city of Amritsar. This city was founded by the fourth Guru Ram Das Ji in the year 1574.
The term Amritsar (Amrit + Sar or Sarovar) means ‘Tank of the Nectar of Immortality’ which was constructed by Guru Ram Das Ji under the instruction of the third Guru Amar Das Ji.
The fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, designed the Harimandir Sahib and had it constructed in the middle of the sacred tank. The Adi Granth Sahib which the most Holy Scripture of Sikhism is kept at Harimandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib.
Guru Har Gobind Ji the sixth Guru, established the Akal Takht at Harimandir Sahib. Akal Takht means (Akal = Timeless One + Takht = Seat of Power).
Guru Sahib was also known as Sacchaa Paadshah which means True Emperor.
When he became the sixth Guru, he was only eleven. His Guruship began on 30 May 1606 after the execution of his father Guru Arjan Dev Ji by the Moghul emperor Jehangir. Guru Har Gobind Ji was the one who initiated a military tradition within Sikhism in order to resist Islamic persecution and protecting the freedom of religion.
The Akal Takht is one of the Panj Takht or the five seats of Power of the Sikh religion.
The Panj Takht or the five Seats of Power are:
- Akal Takht Sahib
- Takht Shri Damdama Sahib
- Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib
- Takht Sri Hazur Sahib
- Takht Sri Patna Sahib
The Golden Temple is open to all, of course with a set of simple rules that visitors need to follow. The entire temple complex is maintained extremely well. It is clean and very well organised. The Golden Temple complex houses a Langar which is one of the world’s largest community kitchens with its own organic garden for vegetables. Thousands of people have food there everyday. There is no restriction of entry as it is free for all.
The concept of Langar was started by the Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh Guru, with Rupees twenty that his father had given him as an investment to start some business. This tradition has continued until this day and every Gurudwara has a ‘Guru ka Langar’ (Guru’s Langar) where people can have free food. Hundreds of thousands of people have food in Langars all around the world.
2. Baba Bakala Sahib
Guru Har Krishan Ji also known as Bal Guru, was only five years old when he became Guru following the death of his father Guru Har Rai Ji. His Guruship lasted for less than three years as he died to an epidemic even before he completed eight years of age.
A learned man or a Pandit from the region who was sceptical about making such a young boy a Guru, came up with a plan. He challenged the young Guru to translate the verses in Sanskrit from the Bhagavad Gita. Guru Har Krishan Ji called for an illiterate man who was also not at all intelligent. Guru Ji pointed a stick on the illiterate man’s head as a blessing and the man started preaching from the Gita. His Sanskrit was perfect. The place where the miracle took place is in Panjokhra near Ambala in Haryana.
Just before breathing his last, the young Guru Har Krishan Ji uttered the words, ‘Baba Bakala.’ His death was the first incident where a Sikh Guru did not appoint his successor before leaving the world. People believed that the words ‘Baba Bakala’ could mean that the next Guru could be found in the village of Bakala near Amritsar.
The Sikhs were quite worried as they did not have the next Guru and also because many imposters were claiming to be the next Guru.
At that time, a trader named Makhan Shah Lubana was returning to his place by boat with a lot of merchandise that he had purchased. His boat was caught up in a severe storm and he feared that the boat would capsize and that he would die. The trader sincerely prayed to Guru Nanak Ji and vowed to donate 500 Dinars for charity if he landed at some nearby port.
Makhan Shah Lubana was saved and his boat landed close to Baba Bakala thanks to the grace of Guru Nanak Ji. He was overwhelmed with gratitude to the Guru for having saved him and his cargo and he rushed to donate the 500 Dinars. However, when he reached Baba Bakala, he found that there were many people claiming to be the new Guru of the Sikhs. He had an idea to find out the real Guru. He gave 2 Dinars to each man claiming to be a Guru thinking that an imposter would be happy with the 2 Dinars but the real Guru would know about his actual vow. Even after distributing 2 Dinars to each of those men, he did not find the real Guru.
Makhan Shah was in a dilemma. That is when someone told him of a person who lived and meditated all alone in the same village. The trader went to the person. He placed 2 Dinars at his feet. The person looked at him and said, ‘ May God Bless you. Why are you offering only 2 Dinars when you had promised 500 Dinars? A Guru does not need anything but it is the duty of every Sikh to keep his word to the Guru.’
This person was Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the son of Guru Har Gobind Ji.
Makhan Shah knew that he had found the next Guru and he wanted to inform the people. The great Guru tried telling him not to do so saying that he would blacken his face which meant that he would be dishonoured. Makhan Shah was so elated that he did not treat it as a curse but he took it as a blessing.
He applied ash on his face and climbed upon the rootop. From there he shouted out loud, ‘Guru Ladho re!’ which in his language of the Labanas meant, ‘Found the Guru.’
We went to this beautiful Gurudwara on our way to the village where we intended to stay that night.
3. Manji Sahib.
The Guru Granth Shib is seated in this room with a glass covered domed pavillion. This is exactly the place Guru where Tegh Bahadurji was shot at by a person called Shihan the Masand. The shooter was sent by Dhir Mal, a nephew of the Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. Dhir Mal was one of the people who pretended to be the next Guru. Luckily the bullet hit Guru Sahib’s turban without seriously affecting him.
4. Bhora Sahib
This is a nine-storyed octagonal buidling with a gilded dome topped by an ornamental pinnacle. This building has a basement room which is called ‘Bhora’ in Punjabi. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji lived here and meditated for 26 years, 9 months and 3 days. This place was inherited by his son Guru Gobind Singh Ji and later on by the Sahibzadas, the sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. There is a room in the basement where Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji would go for his solitary meditation. It was from this place that he saved the trader Makhan Shah Lubana and the place where Makhan Shah found Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.
There is a one and a half square metre platform in the basement now and the Holy Gruru Grant Sahib is seated on it.
5. Gurudwara Darbar Sahib
This was Guru Tegh Bahadur’s Darbar where he was formally recognised as Guru. It has a congregation hall, with a square sanctum in the middle of it. The dome on top of the sanctum has an ornamental pinnacle.
6. Gurudwara Sheesh Mahal
This is the place where Mata Ganga Ji, the Grandmother of Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the Mother of Shri Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji and the wife of Shri Guru Arjun Dev Ji left for their heavenly abode.
7. Khalsa Panth Seham Sahib
This is a Gurudwara in the village of Seham where my friend Shri Manjit Singh was born. He grew up there and lived in the village until the age of 22 before he left for Europe. The Gurudwara was built by the Sikhs of the village. It is a large and spacious Gurudwara which can easily accomodate large numbers of people.
8. Malri Sahib (Nakodar)
Gurudwara Shri Malri Sahib is located in a village called Malri. Shri Guru Arjan Dev Ji visited this place on his way to the village of Mao for his own marriage. Guru Arjan Dev Ji met Baba Mal Ji at this place. Baba Mal Ji was suffering from severe body aches.
He offered Guru Arjan Dev Ji a pair of ‘Juti’ (footwear) and he requested Guru Sahib to bless him so that he could be relieved from his illness. Guru Arjan Dev Ji blessed him and also said that any sick person who visited this place seven times, would be cured of their disease. This Gurudwara is a well known place and thousands of people come from even far off places to take divine blessings and be cured of their illnesses.
This town is situated in the district of Kapurthala about 35 Km from Amritsar. Guru Nanak Ji lived in this town for any years before leaving on his tours called ‘Udasis’ to spread the truth. Guru Nanak Ji worked in this town as the manager of a shop.
This town has many Gurudwaras which are connected to many events in the life of Guru Nanak Ji.
One of my former students, Dheeraj, lives in Kapurthala. He accompanied me along with my friend Manjit Singh to the Gurudwaras in Sultanpur.
We visited the following Gurudwaras in Sultanpur Lodhi:
9. Ber Sahib
This is the main Gurudwara in the town of Sultanpur and it is situated on the bank of river Kali Bein. Guru Nanak Ji used to sit under a ‘Ber’ tree there to meditate.
Guru Nanak Ji would bathe in the Bein river before meditating. Guru Sahib lived in this place for 14 years, 9 months and 13 days. This river is hardly about 30 metres from the place where he meditated.
10. Sant Ghat
Guru Sahib once dived into the Bein river and simply disappeared. His followers were deeply worried and were wondering what had happened to the great Guru. He reappeared after three days at a place nearby.
The place where he reappeared is called Gurudwara Sant Ghat because that is where he meditated to the ‘Timeless One’ after which he began his lifelong mission of teaching the Sikh Dharm.
11. Antaryatma Sahib
It was in this place that people knew about Guru Nanak Ji’s mind reading capabilities. There was an incident when Muslims asked Guru Nanak Dev if he was the Guru of Hindus or of Muslims. Guru Nanak Dev replied that he treated everyone alike and that he was a common Guru to all. Then the Muslims asked him to offer Namaaz because he treated everyone alike. Guru Sahib went along with them.
The Muslims started to offer Namaaz. However Guru Nanak Dev continued to stand straight. After they offered Namaaz, the Muslims angrily asked him why he didn’t offer prayers. The great Guru replied, ” You too did not offer prayers,” The Nawab retorted saying that they did offer their prayers. Guru Sahib said, “Your heart had wandered away thinking of getting horses from Kandahar. You were physically present here and so was I. However you were not present here mentally.” The Nawab said, “In that case you should have offered your prayers along with the priest.”
Guru Nanak Ji replied, ” He was present physically but he was thinking of the new born female calf at home and was worried that she may fall into the well.” That was it and everybody bowed to down before Guru Sahib and touched his feet out of respect. They agreed that Guru Nanak Ji was a Saint with Divine Powers.
12. Hatt Sahib
It was at this place where Guru Nanak Ji worked as a manager of the provision store of Nawab Daulat Khan Lodhi. He used thirteen polished stones as weights for weighing scales. In this Gurudwara, the weights that were used by Guru Nanak Ji are kept on display.
Guru Nanak Ji worked very efficiently as the manager of the store. The minstrel (Dhadhi) Mardana came with his friends to join Guru Sahib. Guru Nanak Ji introduced them to the Nawab who gave them jobs in his administrative set up.
One day at work, Guru Nanak Ji was weighing provisions for a customer. He began to count in Punjabi, ” One, two, three, four…twelve, thirteen.” The word for thirteen in Punjabi is ‘tera’ which also means ‘Yours’. When Guru Nanak Ji uttered the word ‘Tera’, he became ecstatic. He continued weighing the merchandise saying, “Tera, tera, tera, tera..” What Guru Sahib meant when he said, “Tera” was ” I am Yours, O God.” He weighed the provisions and gave all that he weighed to his customers free of cost. His customers were delighted because they got all they wanted for free!
Guru Nanak Ji was accused of giving things away for free and he was asked to pay a charge as a fine. The Nawab wanted to know why Guru Sahib did that and he ordered an inquiry. Those who were against Guru Sahib did their best to find a fault with him. However they found the accounts to be correct. Once this was proved, Guru Nanak Ji quit his job with the Nawab and began his divine mission.
13. Goindwal Sahib
Gurudwara Goindwal Sahib is located in the Tarn Taran distrct and is about 23 Km from Tarn Taran Sahib. Guru Amar Das Ji, the third Guru stayed for 33 years and he preached the Sikh Dharma.
14. Baoli Sahib (Goindwal Sahib)
‘Baoli’ Sahib is a stepped well. It has 84 steps signifying the 84000 cyles of life and death until the attainment of salvation or Mukti. Guru Amar Das Ji met Guru Ram Das Ji in this town. Guru Ram Das Ji then became the next Guru of the Sikh Dharm.
Guru Angad Dev Ji the second Sikh Guru, requested Bhai Amar Das stay in Goindwal. At that time, Bhai Amar Das would carry water from the river Beas to Khadur. This water was for Guru Angad Dev Ji’s morning bath. When Bhai Amar Das carried the water, he would recite “Japji Sahib”, the morning prayer of the Sikhs. Guru Amar Das used to pause to take rest under a tree a couple of miles from Goindwal. As a mark of respect for Guru Amar Das ji, the Gurudwara Damdama Sahib has been built right at that place.
15. Tarn Taran Sahib
This is great and magnificent Gurudwara situated in the city of Tarn Taran. It was established by Guru Arjan Dev Ji the the fifth Guru of Sikhism. The tank or Sarovar around the Gurudwara is the largest among all Sarovars. This Gurudwara was founded in the year 1590 by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. This place is also revered for another important event. Baba Deep Singh Ji had come to this place in 1757. He made a mark on the ground and asked the people if they would join him in fighting against the Moghul empire. There is a large hall here with paintings depicting the entire history of Sikhism. It is an amazing experience to study the paintings which takes visitors on a voyage through history.
16. Khadur Sahib
This Gurudwara is situated about 38 Km from Amritsar and about 20 Km from Tarn Taran. This is the place where Guru Angad Ji the second Guru of Sikhism lived for 13 years.
The grand Gurdwara at Khaddi Sahib was constructed in memory of Guru Amar Das. There used to be a loom of a cloth weaver at the spot where the Gurudwara now stands. One dark night Guru Amar Das stumbled into the weaver’s pit, while carrying a pitcher of water on his head. He was fetching water from the river Beas at a distance of 10 km, for his Guru, Guru Angad Dev. Despite his fall, he succeeded in saving the water filled pitcher.
The noise of the fall awakened the weaver who suspected a thief. When the weaver’s wife heard a voice uttering ‘Japji’ she told her husband that it was no thief but the poor, homeless Amar, the aged servant of Guru Angad. When the incident came to the notice of Guru Angad, he was pleased to remark, “Amar Das was not homeless and lowly but he was highly blessed. He shall be the home of the homeless, and honour of the unhonoured, the strength of the strengthless, the support of the unsupported, the shelter of the shelterless, the protector of the unprotected, and the emancipator of captives.” Guru Angad then formally held a ceremony and appointed Guru Amar Das as his successor, the third Guru Nanak.
17. Anandpur Sahib
My friend Manjit Singh received the sad news about the demise of one of his cousins who lived in Australia and therefore he could not accompany me to Anandpur Sahib. I had to leave alone.
I went to Chandigarh and visited Aneesh who was one of my students in a management college in Bangalore many years ago. He took me along with his family to visit Anandpur Sahib. It was a great spiritual experience for me to visit the historical and beautiful Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib. Our visit to the hall outside of the Gurudwara, with paintings depicting major incidents in the past was another profound experience. The images of the horrifying atrocties carried out by invaders on the people of Bharat Varsh stayed in my mind.
Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib
This is one of the Panj Takht or the five seats of power of Sikhism. It is a beautiful place from where one can see the lower spurs of the Himalayas. It was in this city that the head of ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated when it was brought to Anandpur Sahib by Bhai Jaita from Delhi, after the Guru was beheaded on the orders of Aurangzeb . The public execution took place on the 11th of November 1675 in Chandni Chowk in Delhi.
Anandpur Sahib is also the place where the Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh the tenth Guru. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh baptised the first five Sikhs called the Panj Pyares, the five beloved ones in 1699. The ‘Panj Pyare’ had offered him their heads to uphold Dharma, thus creating the nucleus of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is an army of Saint soldiers whose main duty is to spread Guru Nanak Ji’s message of peace and brotherhood.
People came to Guru Gobind Singh Ji and reported him about the atrocities done by brutal Muslim tyrants. The cruel people would not allow Sikhs to visit holy places in Anandpur and elsewhere. They would violently kill innocent people inculding Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh Ji patiently listened to the people and assured them that very soon, there would be guardians for people everywhere. The Guru sent word to all Sikhs from all over and asked them to assemble at the Anandpur fair. Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked people to come to the fair with uncut hair.
There were thousands of followers of the Guru gathered in Anandpur on that day. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was dressed in bright colours and he had a sword hanging on his left side. Sikh minstrels or ‘Dhadhis’ sang powerful and highly motivating songs.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji looked at almost each person in the crowd. He then climbed a platform, drew his sword and in a booming voice said, “Is there anyone who is willing to give me his head to prove his faith in me? I want a head!”
The people were shocked and they looked at their beloved Guru in disbelief. One Sikh from Lahore stood up. His name was Daya Ram. He said with folded hands, ” My Lord, you may take my head.” Guru Gobind Singh Ji held his arm and took him into the tent. In a few seconds, there was a thud sound and blood flowed from the place where Guru Sahib had taken Daya Ram.
The Guru walked out of the tent back to the crowd with his sword dripping with fresh blood. His booming voice went again, ” Is there anyone else who is willing to give me his head?” The Guru repeated three times and another brave Sikh stood up. It was Dharam Das a farmer from Delhi. The Guru took Dharam Das into the tent and again, blood flowed out of the tent.
He came out for the second time and asked in a fierce voice again, ” Who else is willing to give me his head? I am not satisfied and I want more.”
People were scared and many people slipped away. Most of them felt that the Guru had lost his mind and even ran to the Guru’s mother to tell her about what was happening. The third person to offer his head was Mokham Chand from Dwarka. The Guru did with him exactly what he did with the other two. The people who were there were trembling with fear and wondered when the Guru would stop asking for heads.
The fourth one to offer his head was Sahib Chand from Bihar. He was followed by Himmat Rai. The people who still remained there were in a state of shock as they saw the blood flowing on the ground coming out of the tent. Guru Gobind Singh Ji took a bit longer when he led Himmat Rai into the tent.
Suddenly the Guru came out of the tent but to the surpise of all the people gathered there, he brough the five Sikhs along with him. They were dressed in smart saffron uniforms and they carried swords just as the Guru did.
The Guru seated them on the platform. When the gathering saw them alive they all cheered and shouted “Sat Sri Akal.” Those who had escaped for fear of being called by the Guru to be beheaded, returned to the gathering.
The Guru spoke to the Sikhs:
“My brothers, I have made you the same as I am. There is no difference between you and me. You have passed my toughest test with honour. You are my five beloved ones.”
Guru Gobind Singh Ji created the Khalsa Panth. He fondly embraced the 5 Sikhs and called them the foundation of the Khalsa Panth or the army of saint soldiers. He baptised the five Sikhs and said that all Sikhs who would be baptised would turn from jackals to lions meaning that they would change from being cowards to ‘Singhs’.
The Guru and his five beloved ones or the ‘Panj Pyare’, sat around an iron bowl in which he put pure water. His wife added some sugar to it. He stirred the water with a Khanda or double edged sword, while the five Sikhs recited the sacred verses. This is how Guru Sahib prepared Amrit or Holy Nectar.
He asked the five Sikhs to repeat after him the Sikh greeting, ” “Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.” Guru Sahib baptised them by sprinkling Amrit on each one of them.
After completing the baptising, Guru Sahib changed the names of the ‘Panj Pyare’ as follows:
- Daya Ram to Daya Singh
- Dharam Das to Dharam Singh,
- Mohkam Chand to Mohkam Singh
- Sahib Chand to Sahib Singh
- Himmat Rai to Himmat Singh
With great awe, sincere respect and deep appreciation for the unimaginable deeds by great Sikh men, women an children, I completed my tour and returned home.
Thus ended my brief tour across Punjab. Visiting the beautiful Gurudwaras was a remarkable experience.
The entire Sikh history is awe inspiring and deeply moving. The sacrifices they made for the cause of protecting Dharma are incomparable. The contribution of the Sikh community to India and to mankind in general is exceptional. They truly are proud children of the soil.
Bole so Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.