‘On this Guru Nanak Jayanti, we take a look at a few gurdwaras across the country. By Aarti Kapur Singh’
Be it the legendary Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. The bustling Patna Sahib that is situated in a quaint market in Patna.Pathar Sahib, which stands against the stunning backdrop of Ladakh’s dramatic landscape. Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Abchal Nagar Sahib in Nanded, that is located on the banks of River Godavari or Hemkund Sahib in Chamoli, built next to a glacial lake… every gurdwara in the country is distinct in its architecture, surroundings and glorious heritage. Sanctuaries of faith and solitude, these gurdwaras attract not just the faithful but also tourists. The delicious langar (community kitchen meal) that gurdwaras serve just adds to the experience. Guru Nanak Jayanti, also called Guru Nanak Gurpurab or Guru Nanak’s Prakash Utsav, a festival that commemorates the birth of Sikhism’s first guru, Guru Nanak, is being marked on November 12 this year and on this occasion, we travel to a few gurdwaras across the country.
Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab
Also known as Sri Darbar Sahib and more popularly as Golden Temple, this iconic gurdwara, the most sacred of Sikh shrines, is built on a platform in the centre of a tank (sarovar). The gurdwara is a stunning image in white and gold, dramatically reflected in the waters surrounding it. The main building of the Golden Temple, situated in the middle of the sarovar, is connected by a 202-ft-long causeway or bridge, which is mostly filled with devotees, who wait patiently for their turn to step inside and pray. Hymns fill the air, as colourful fish frolic in the tank. Cusped arches, high doorways and intricate decorations make the Golden Temple.
Tip: Plan your trip to Golden Temple in a way that you can taste the langar meal. It is said that the langar at Golden Temple is one of the largest of its kind in the world, serving almost 75,000 meals every day and more during festivals.
Hemkund Sahib, Chamoli, Uttarakhand
Nestled on the banks of a glacial lake at an elevation of 4,329 m, the Hemkund Sahib gurdwara is set against a stunning Himalayan landscape. High snow-capped peaks, collectively called Hemkund Parvat, surround the star-shaped gurdwara, which remains blanketed in snow for months. But when the snow is cleared, a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists can be seen trekking upto the gurdwara, crossing smaller glaciers, rocky green meadows and gurgling streams. It’s a steep trek of around six km from Ghangaria to the gurdwara but as one climbs higher, one is rewarded with sweeping views of the Himalayan landscape and of icy slopes peeping through curtains of mist.
The gurdwara is said to have derived its name from the lake Hemkund, which literally translates to a “lake of snow”, an accurate description of the freezing water. Given the altitude of its location, devotees and visitors to the gurdwara are offered blankets for warmth and comfort.
Tip: The best time to visit the Hemkund Sahib is between July and October/November (please check exact dates before visiting) as during the rest of the year it is covered in snow. One can plan a trip to the neighbouring Valley of Flowers as well.
Takht Sri Patna Sahib, Patna, Bihar
A sanctuary of peace amidst the hustle of its busy neighbourhood, the Takht Sri Patna Sahib gurdwara also known as Harmandar Sahib, is one of the Panj Takhts or five High Seats of Authority of Sikhism. Nestled in a market area, in the older part of Bihar’s capital, this gurdwara is revered as the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh. It is said this was the place where the Guru spent his childhood. Many significant relics and artefacts related to Guru Gobind Singh are preserved here. Historians say it was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The current shrine of Patna Sahib was built in the 1950s. A striking white marble dome marks the main shrine building. Veeri off the main highway, the road to the gurdwara passes through farms and residential areas, before turning into a quaint alley. Looking at the buildings in its vicinity, one can guess the neighbourhood’s age and heritage!
Tip: The gurdwara complex has a museum with illustrated panels depicting the life of Guru Gobind Singh.
Hazur Sahib, Nanded, Maharashtra
Hazur Sahib also known as Takht Sri Hazur Sahib Abchal Nagar Sahib, is one of the Panj Takhts. Located on the banks of River Godavari in Nanded, Maharashtra, it is said this is the place where Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last. The main building is Angitha Sahib, where Guru Gobind Singh was cremated. Built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the gurdwara is resplendent in its architecture with elaborately decorated interiors. Majestic in gold and white, the gurdwara stands on the banks of the river, attracting pilgrims and tourists from across the world. Climb the flight of stairs leading up from the river and sit for a while inside, soaking in the serene atmosphere of the gurdwara. The city has several other gurdwaras as well.
Tip: Nanded is home to several gurdwaras, including the Hira Ghat Sahib, Mata Sahib, Mal Tekri Sahib, Baba Banda Bahadur Ghat Sahib and Nagina Ghat Sahib.
Nanak Jhira Sahib, Bidar, Karnataka
Considered to be one of the holiest gurdwaras in India, the Nanak Jhira Sahib is nestled in a picturesque valley and has a water spring running through it. According to a legend, once Guru Nanak was staying on the outskirts of Bidar with one of his disciples. A draught was prevailing that time in the area and it is said to bring relief to the people, the Guru chanted a hymn and removed some stones and rubble from the spot he was resting with his wooden sandal. And from that spot sprouted a spring that flows till today. Devotees believe that the stream (jhira) is God’s answer to the Guru’s prayers. A small Amrit Kund (tank) constructed in white marble accumulates the water flowing from this fountain. Within the compound, a plaque narrates the story of the spring. It says: “… the people of Bidar who came for His [Guru Nanak] darshan requested him to bless them with sweet water as the water in Bidar was salty. Sri Guru Nanak Devji remembered God and touched the hillock with his right foot and a spring of sweet water started flowing from this place and since April 1512, it is flowing continuously till date…”
Tip: The gurdwara compound also houses a museum that displays historical events of Sikhism in the form of paintings and pictures.