Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gurudwara Guptsar Sahib, Manmad, Maharashtra

Gurudwara Guptsar Sahib is located at Manmad in Nasik District of Maharashtra. It is a 240 km drive from Mumbai and about 80 kms from Nasik.

The Gurudwara Sahib is located close to the Manmad railway station which is a major junction for many trains connecting Delhi to Shri Hazur Sahib in Nanded and Pilgrims use to take a break at Manmad and also participate in the 24 hr Langar in this Gurudwara.

The historical connection of Manmad is to the tenth Guru, Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who during his stay at Nanded, secured the release of two Maratha chiefs- Bala Rao and Rustom Rao from the Satara Fort and brought them to Manmad.

Baba Nidhan Singh started karseva for construction of this Gurudwara in 1931. A hidden well was found with sweet water, because of which the Gurudwara was named Gurudwara Guptsar Sahib.

A large two-storeyed entrance gated leads to the courtyard. To the left is the large diwan hall with walls decorated with multicoloured glass pieces and reflective mirrors arranged in geometrical patterns.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, Punjab

Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib (or the birth place of the Khalsa) is located at Anandpur Sahib in Ropar District of Punjab (at a distance of about 90kms from Chandigarh).

Keshgarh Sahib is where the first Khalsa as the Saint Soldier was initiated by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji on Baisakhi day in 1699. The tenth Guru baptised the Panj Pyaras (the five beloved ones) and laid the foundation of the Khalsa Panth here.

The ninth Guru Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib founded this town in 1965 and named it Chakk Nanaki (after his mother). It was later in 1689 that Guru Gobind Singh Ji named it Anandpur Sahib (meaning the holy city of bliss).

The Takht Sahib is a square hall with a balcony in front overlooking a spacious courtyard on a lower level. In the middle of the inner domed room are placed some weapons preserved as sacred relics.

The space being limited on the top of the hill, the sarovar is on the plain ground west of the Takht Sahib.

Although the town is small but on the occassion of Hola Mohalla every year in the month of March it booms into boisterous activities and recaptures its old glory and splendor.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gurudwara Hemkunt Sahib, Uttaranchal

Gurudwara Shri Hemkunt Sahib is the highest Gurudwara in the world – at a height of 15210 ft (4636 mtrs) above sea level. 550kms drive and 20km climb from Delhi, Shri Hemkunt Sahib is accessible only in the summer months – from June till September each year. Heavy snows make the passage impossible for rest of the year.

The drive from Rishikesh to Gobind Ghat (on the Badrinath route) is picturesque crossing various Prayags (Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karanprayag, Nandprayag) to reach Joshimath and then Gobind Ghat.

From Gobind Ghat one has to climb up either on foot or on a horseback. The first part of the walk is from Gobind Ghat to Gobind Dham (also known as Ghangaria) which is around 13 kms. The initial 10 kms is not very steep though the final 3 kms get much steeper. Most of those on foot take night’s halt at Gobind Dham and proceed towards Hemkunt Sahib the following day.

The second part of the walk from Gobind Dham to Hemkunt Sahib is about 7 kms and is more steep than the previous climb. After around 6 kms plus, one has a choice to trek further else climb over a 1000 steps to the Gurudwara Sahib.

The Gurudwara Sahib building now is a two storey building; Upper story which was completed in 1993 is where Guru Granth Sahib ji’s Prakash is done now. Right in front of the Gurudwara Sahib is the Langar Hall and right behind is the Hem kund (or the lake of ice).

Pilgrims usually take a dip (or more) in the freezing cold water of the Hem Kund (part of the lake is frozen even when the Gurudwara is opened in June) before visiting the Gurudwara.

The location at which the Gurudwara is now situated was described by Guru Gobind Singh ji in his composition ‘Bachitra Natak’
Ab mai apni katha bakhano
Tap sadhat jhi bidh muh ano
Hemkunt parbat hai jaha
Saptsring Sobat hai taha
Saptsring tih naam kahava
Pandaraj jah jog kamava
Tah ham adhik tapasia sadhi
Mahakal kal ka aradhi
In this verse, taken from chapter six of ‘Bachitra Natak’ Guru Gobind Singh Ji talks about his previous incarnation (as Dusht Daman). The verse describes a place high in the Himalayas with a lake of ice and surrounded by seven peaks, as the same place where King Pandu had been – this was the place where he did intense meditation till he achieved Union with God. From here, the Guru was summoned by God to be reborn into the world to teach the people the true path.

Search for the place which fits description given in Bachitra Natak started in late 19th century. Several scholars including Pandit Tara Singh Narotam in 19th century and Bhai Vir Singh researched and described the possible locations. In 1933 Sant Sohan Singh, a retired granthi from the Indian army working in a Gurudwara in Tehri Garhwal set out to search for this place. When he came across this place, which fit the description – he spoke to various authorities who at first did not listen to him. He then went to Bhai Vir Singh who then committed himself to the cause of developing Hemkunt Sahib and asked Sant Sohan Singh to start a small construction.

Sant Sohan Singh was joined in this task by Havaldar Modan Singh, and in 1937 Guru Granth Sahib was installed in the hut on the lake. A new Gurudwara was constructed in late 1960s, and improvements have been ongoing. The upper story where Guru Granth Sahib Ji is now installed was completed in 1993 and Guru Granth Sahib installed in June 1994.

Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib, Bidar, Karnataka

Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib is located at Bidar in Karnataka, at a distance of about 200 kms from Nanded and 140 kms from Hyderabad.

Guru Nanak Devji along with his disciple Mardana visited Bidar during his second Udasi (1510-1514) around 1512 AD.

During his visit, the Muslims living nearby as well as their Pir came and narrated their woeful condition due to the scarcity of drinking water in Bidar. The water in Bidar was very salty and not fit for drinking. Any wells dug had the same salty water. On hearing the plight and prayers of people, Guruji uttered ‘Sat Kartar’ and touched his wooden sandal and removed a stone – and from there clean sweet drinking water started gushing out. Since then sweet drinking water is continuously flowing from this spring for the last 500 years.

A large beautiful Gurudwara is constructed close to the spring, known as Gurudwara Nanak Jhira (Jhira means a spring of water).

Adjacent to the main Darbar Hall are a big Diwan Hall and Langar Hall and right in front of the Gurudwara stairs is a sarovar in which the water of the spring has been directed for pilgrims to have a holy dip.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh

Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib is located about 40 kms from Kullu, via Bhuntar in Himachal Pradesh at a height of approx 5800 ft.

The Gurudwara Sahib is located on the banks of Parvati river (with freezing cold water) and is famous for its hot boiling sulphur springs revered by many who come for a dip in the curing waters.

Guru Nanak Devi Ji visited this place along with his disciples Bala and Mardana. Mardana felt hungry and told Guruji that he has atta (flour) but no means to cook. Guruji asked him to remove a rock and a hot water spring appeared from beneath.

Guruji asked Bhai Mardana to put the rotis into the spring. When the rotis started sinking, Guruji told him to pray and offer the first one to the Almighty in his prayer. Mardana prayed and the cooked rotis came floating.

Till date an extensive Langar is prepared in this Gurudwara using these very hot springs.

Gurudwara Data Bandhi Chhod, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Located inside the Gwalior Fort Premises, Gurudwara Data Bandhi Chhod was built in 1970 in memory of the sixth Guru Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.

Guruji was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the Gwalior Fort and upon his release, insisted that 52 other prisoners (Rajas imprisoned in the same fort) be freed as well. Instructions were given that whoever holds Guru’s robe will be freed. Guruji wore a special robe and the captives held this robe to freedom. This earned ths Guru the title of Data Bandhi Chhod.

The magnificent Gurudwara complex is spread over six acres area. Guru ka Langar with its vast dining hall and staff accommodation is in an adjoining compound. Some residential rooms for pilgrims were constructed recently little before the entrance to the Gurudwara Sahib.

Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab

The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib or Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar (about 450 kms from Delhi) is amongst the most significant shrine of Sikhs.

While the origin of the site dates back to the third Guru - Sri Guru Amar Das Ji, the excavation work for the water tank was carried out by the fourth Guru - Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in 1577 AD. The township around the water tank became known as Amritsar (from Amrit Sarovar or Pool of the nectar of immortality).

The temple itself was conceived and built during the fifth Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by Hazrat Mian Mir Ji of Lahore in December 1588. The building work completed in 1604, and Guru Arjan Dev installed the Guru Granth Sahib Ji in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budhaji as its first Granthi.

Golden Temple has gates/ entrance on all four sides which signifies accessibility to any person without any distinction of caste, creed, sex or religion. Sri Harmandir Sahib is built on a square platform (67ft by 67ft) in the centre of the Sarovar.

Facing Sri Harmandir Sahib, in the Golden Temple Complex is Akal Takht (Akal means the Timeless One, and Takht means 'seat')– built by the sixth Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind in 1609. Sikh congregations in those days were held at the Akal Takht and the commandments for the community were and are still issued from here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Leh, J&K

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is located about 25 kms from Leh (in J&K) on the Leh-Kargil road. The Gurudwara commemorates Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s stay at this place in 1517 on his way from Kailash Mansarovar/Tibet to Punjab via the Kashmir Valley.

The Gurudwara Sahib itself was constructed in 1964 and extended in the 70s and is maintained by the Army. The place is revered by the local lamas as well as the Sikh Sangat.

According to a local legend, while Lama Nanak was on his way back from his pilgrimage to Punjab/Srinagar via Ladakh, the locals asked his help against a wicked demon who used to trouble the inhabitants. The Guru settled down below the hill where the demon lived and blessed people with sermons and became popular in the area. The demon got into a rage and rolled a large boulder (pathar) from the hill towards meditating Guruji. When the boulder came down and touched Guruji’s body it became wax and an imprint of Guruji’s body got formed on one side of the boulder.

A Nishan Sahib now stands atop this very hill, right in front of the Gurudwara.