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Famous Gurdwaras: Punjab

Saturday , 20 February 2016

A peek into history and the key facets of Punjab’s most famous gurdwaras

Punjab is known as ‘the land of five rivers’, namely Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Jhelum. It is primarily an agricultural state, with its fertile soil and abundant water sources. It is also the land of the Sikhs – a fearless community, well known for their magnanimity. Let’s take a look at some of their revered and holiest religious shrines – gurdwaras in the state.

Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar

It is popularly known as Darbar Sahib or the Golden Temple. In December 1588, Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru, asked a Muslim Sufi saint, Hazrat Mian Mir Ji of Lahore to lay the foundation stone of the shrine. In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev enshrined the Adi Granth (Holy Scripture) here. However, it was in the early 19th century, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s orders, that the upper floors of the shrine were covered in gold leaf, thereby giving it its present name.

Although the gurdwara is open from 2 AM to 10 PM, the best time to visit is early morning. The shrine is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed, gender or faith. Pilgrims take a dip in the temple tank – also known as Amrit Sarovar, which surrounds the gurdwara. There is a long causeway – also known as Guru’s Bridge – which joins the temple to the west side of the Amrit Sarovar.

The Akal Takht (throne of the timeless one) is directly opposite the ceremonial entrance of Harmandir Sahib, and is considered a symbol of God’s authority on earth. Every evening, the Adi Granth is brought here, with utmost reverence.

The interior of Harmandir Sahib is decorated with gold and silver, adorned with ivory mosaics, and intricately carved wood panels. The Adi Granth rests on a throne beneath a silk canopy. Visitors consider their trip to the shrine incomplete without dropping by at the Guru ka Langar. (common kitchen that overlooks the eastern entrance to the temple complex) Fresh vegetarian food is served here free of cost, to visitors from all walks of life. The Jubi Tree, in the northwest corner of the compound, is said to have special powers. It was planted 450 years ago, by the temple’s first high priest.

Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib, Amritsar

This shrine is also located in Amritsar, though its popularity is overshadowed by that of the Golden Temple, yet it’s worth a visit. It was built to commemorate the passing away of Baba Atal Rai, the son of Guru Hargobind (the sixth Sikh guru). It has nine storeys to commemorate the nine years, of Baba Atal Rai’s short life. Legend has it that Baba Atal Rai was reprimanded by his father, for reviving a dead child. Guru Hargobind did not believe in frittering away divine powers by performing miracles and, in response to the reproach, Baba Atal Rai renounced the world and left for his heavenly abode.

Built between 1778 and 1784, this shrine is unique as it is octagonal in shape. It is 40 m high, and is the tallest building in Amritsar. The noteworthy features include brass plates embossed with themes from Sikh and Hindu culture, on the outer doors. Beautiful murals and paintings adorn the walls, depicting the life of Guru Nanak.

Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib

Anandpur Sahib is a city located in Ropar district of Punjab. Hence, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib is also known among locals, as Gurdwara Anandpur Sahib. This city was founded by Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, in 1665. The gleaming white gurdwara is a seat of temporal authority of Sikhism (one of the five takhts) and marks the birth of the Khalsa movement by Guru Gobind Singh three centuries ago. The fortifications are witness to the years of struggle and oppression that led to a movement, that would support the poor and discard dogma.

Every year, in March, visitors flock to the shrine to celebrate Hola Mohalla (a Sikh festival). The festivities also include displays of swordsmanship, and horsemanship.

Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Bathinda

Part of the five takhts of Sikhism, this gurdwara is of great historical importance. Located in Talwandi Sabo, 28 km from Bathinda, this is where Guru Gobind Singh, penned the scripture which came to be known as Damdami Bir (Sri Guru Granth Sahib).

Damdama translates as a ‘place of rest’. It is here that Guru Gobind Singh rested after a battle in Muktsar, hence the name. He stayed here, for more than nine months, in 1706. Every year, the magnificent gurdwara, draws lakhs of visitors for its Baisakhi celebrations in April.

Note: Visitors are required to cover their heads and remove their shoes before they step into a gurdwara. Langar is offered in all gurdwaras.

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