In the land of diverse blossoming cultures & religious beliefs, the Gurudwara Sahibs in India are integral to Sikhism – with over 200 of these scared shrines scattered across the country they are symbolic of peace, congruity & shared respect for all religions & have come to be some of the cleanest & most organised places of worship. Here are a few of these, including the Panj Takhts among others…
SHRI HARMANDIR SAHIB, AMRITSAR
Also known as the famed Golden Temple drawing devotees & tourists from all over the world, the Harimandir Sahib also houses the first & the most significant one of the Panj Takhts, the Akal Takht among others – aliving symbol of spiritual and historical traditions, the construction of the temple & its complex marking the symbol of a new faith, that of Sikhism.
It draws its name from the layers of gold that cover the shrine, as initiated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to protect the establishment & thus giving it its modern name “Golden Temple”. Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level the temple houses four gates with its unique blend of Hindu & Islamic architecture symbolizing the acceptance extended to people from all walks of life& teaching the lesson of egalitarianism, humility& brotherhood. The complex includes a number of memorials & monuments like the Sikh Museum, the Ramgarhia Bunga among others, marking the commemoration of the past events in Sikh history.
The foundation of the Amrit Sarovar, the temple & other buildings in the complex under the aegis of Guru Arjan Sahib in 1588 have come to be a significant achievement in the history of Sikhism & become an unparalleled establishment as a place of pilgrimage & that of great social, political & religious importance.
SHRI HEMKUND SAHIB, CHAMOLI
Also considered as one of the fifth dhams of the revered Hindu shrines, Shri Hemkund Sahib situated on the banks of the glacial lake Hemkund amidst the lofty Himalayan ranges surrounded by enthralling beauty &landscapes is known for its unique star-shaped architecture designed keeping in view the weather and altitude of the place, placed over 4000 metres above the sea level – the highest gurudwara in the world. It stands out as one of the most exotic shrines & pilgrimage centres where the tenth guru of the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh is said to have meditated according to the holy Granth Sahib, redefining spirituality&drawing devotees from all over the world every summer.
As Hindu mythology suggests the shrine was earlier known as Lokpal literally meaning “the Sustainer”, also having considered once to be the meditational grounds of Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s brother as is a temple adorned on the shore of the lake dedicated to his worship.
SHRI HAZUR SAHIB, NANDED
Situated on the banks of the Godavari, Takht Shri Hazoor Sahib is the place where Guru Gobind Singh lived the last years of his life preaching, & left for heavenly abode. It lies in Nanded, Maharashtra famous for its many gurudwaras, also known as Takht Sachkhand (the seat of the Region of Truth), standing on the same place where the Guru was cremated known as Angitha Sahib, along with a monument in his memory. Built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 1830s, it houses many sacred scriptures – Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth & other relics.
Artistically ornamented in the style of Harmandir Sahib, the Angitha Sahib is adorned with golden plates, while the gilded dome of the gurudwara is made of gold plated copper while the inner sanctum is lined with marble displaying the works of Pietà Dura, Stucco and Tukari.The complex houses another shrine known as Bunga Mai Bhago ji where Guru Granth Sahib is seated, with other gurudwaras in the vicinity being - Nagina Ghat , Banda Ghat, Sangat Sahib, Baoli Sahib, Mal Tekdi, Shikar Ghat, Hira Ghat and Mata Sahib among others.
SHRI PAONTA SAHIB, SIRMOUR
One that lies on the banks of the Yamuna is Shri Paonta Sahib Gurudwara built in the memory of the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, the same place where the “Dasam Granth” is said to have been written by Guru Gobind himself. A place revered in high esteems by the Sikhs, it holds great religious & historical significance, its name derived as told by the many legends in reference to the ornament worn by Gobind Singh Ji on his foot while bathing in the river & thus the word “Paon” meaning foot came to be named as the Paonta Sahib.
It houses a Palki made of pure gold, as donated by the devotees & also a museum displaying antiques and weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh during his stay in Paonta Sahib. It was Guru Gobind Ji himself that laid the foundation of the holy city that has come to be called by the name of the Gurudwara itself. Other major attractions within the complex include Shri Talab Asthan where salaries are disbursed and Shri Dastan Asthan where turban draping competitions are held. One can also pay visits to the historical temple of Yamuna ji &Gurudwara Shri Kavi Darbar Sahib among others.
SHRI DUKHNIWARAN SAHIB, PATIALA
Located in a small village called Lehal near Patiala, Gurudwara Dukhniwaran Sahib is one of the most beautiful Gurudwaras in the country, revered yet again for its holy waters being blessed by Guru Teg Bahadur Ji to cure the spread of a mysterious disease ailing the people of the region. Thus came the name Dukhnivaran, where the sickness in the Village subsided & gurudev eradicated the suffering, eradicator of suffering, while the devotees take dips in the healing waters of the Sarovar, while the complex spans acres of land. The shrine is adorned with mirror work & stuccos on the interiors while the architecture leaves one spellbound throughout.
SHRI KESHGARH SAHIB, ANANDPUR
Founded by Guru Teg Bharadur Ji in 1664, also known by the name of Anandpur Sahib literally meaning “the city of bliss”, is one of the five Takhts of Sikhism & the birthplace of the Khalsa founded under the leadership of the tenth guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, that lies on the banks of the Sutlej. It is yet another gurudwara of historical significance, where Gobind Singh ji initiated the ‘Panje Pyaare’ and laid the foundation of ‘Khalsa panth’ in a special congregation on the Baisakhi in 1699.
It houses many significant buildings like Gurudwara Shri Sis Ganj erected overthe site where the severed head of Guru Teg Bhadur Sahib was cremated, Gurudwara Sri Keshgarh Sahib standing at the place where the five brave followers of Guru Gobind Singh offered their heads as sacrifice for the Khalsa Panth, a museum displaying weaponry & relics among others.
Anandpur Sahib also hosts the Hola Mohalla festival around the month of March, a tradition established by Shri Guru Gobind Singh, for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles.
SHRI BANGLA SAHIB, DELHI
As the name goes, Gurudwara Shri Bangla Sahib was originally a “bungalow” or a palace belonging to Raja Jai Singh in the heart of the city of Delhi, that came to be commemorated for the stay of the eighth guru, Guru Har Kishan who came to visit the King and cured the people suffering from smallpox and cholera epidemic with the water from the sarovar that is believed to possess medicinal properties even to this day. The shrine build in 1783, stands in all its glory symbolic of the ideals of brotherhood &service to mankind, upholding the spiritual ideals of Sikhism offering a sanctuary away from the hardships of life to this tranquil & peaceful abode.
The complex houses the main prayer hall with the Granth Sahib, the holy water tank in the middle, a library, a museum, a hospital, a school and an art gallery, along with the premises for the Langar. It is a sight to behold, with its majestic golden dome, the flagpole symbolizing the essence of Sikhism and the premises all constructed in marble.
SHRI MANIKARAN SAHIB, KULLU
Nestled in the midst of the Parvati valley along the banks of river Parvati lies Gurudwara Shri Manikaran Sahib at about 1760 metres above the sea level, built in commemoration of Guru Nanak’s visit to the place. As the legend goes, it was him who let the hot springs flow as he blessed the waters by lifting a rock, which are also said to have curative powers. Along the banks are other temples like that of Lord Rama, Krishna, Vishnu and goddess Bhagwati, the place having become a much revered religious centre for both the Hindus & the Sikhs drawing lakhs of devotees who come here seeking sanctity & take a dip in the holy waters of the river. It is the fusion of cold waters & the hot springs that amaze everyone, along with the curative powers of the streams.
SHRI DAMDAMA SAHIB, BHATINDA
Recognised as the fifth seat of the authority of Sikhs, Gurudwara Shri Damdama Sahib it owes it name as significant to have been the resting place for Guru Gobind Singh, who breathed a sigh of relief & relaxed in Talwandi Sabo after fighting a battle & also came to be frequently visited by Guru Teg Bahadur ji. Situated in the village of Talwandi Sabo near Bhatinda, Punjab, it holds not just religious importance but historical significance – known for Guru Gobind Singh Ji the most revered Guru & spiritual guide of the Sikhs to have compiled the sacred scripture of the Adi Granth – Shri Guru Granth Sahib also known as the Damdama Sahib Bir in the year 1705. The place came to be blessed as Guru-Ki-Kanshi as it was made a center of the Sikh learning, having been transformed into abode of the Khalsa and became a second Anandpur.
The Gurudwara is also famous to have been hosting the Jor Mela & the much enthusiastic celebration of the Baisakhi festival.
SHRI PATNA SAHIB, PATNA
Built in the remembrance of being the birthplace of the tenth guru of the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh Ji Shri Patna Sahib is also famed to be one of the five takhts of the Sikhs, lying on the banks of the Ganga, in the city of Patna, Bihar.
Built by maharaja Ranjit Singh stands the sacred shrine known as Takht Shri Harmandar Sahib also graced by visits from Guru Nanak dev ji as well as Guru Tegh Bahadur, significant as withholding the essence of Sikhism in the east, along with other gurudwaras in the city like Gurudwara Guru ka Bagh, Gurudwara Ghai Ghat, Gurudwara Handi Sahib, Gurudwara Gobind Ghat, Gurudwara Bal Lila Maini etc., all of these significant on one way or another to have been graced by the blessings of the gurus.
The holy shrine also houses many significant relics like the Panghura Saheb - a small cradle covered with gold plates used by Sri Guru Gobind Singhji Maharaj when he was a boy, a small "Saif" (Sword) of Sri Guru Gobind Singhji Maharaj & books like the Guru Granth sahib, another one containing "Hukumnamas" of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadurji Maharaj and Sri Guru Gobind Singhji Maharaj and their pictures, writings etc. among others.
In the words of Mullah Ahmed Bukhari, "Over the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikhs have raised a public edifice, made it a place of power and strength, and call it 'Harmandir'. It is also called 'Sangat' and is held in great esteem and veneration"...
BABA ATAL RAI SAHIB, AMRITSAR
Located in the vicinity of the Golden temple, Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib stands its ground originally enshrining the remains of Baba Atal Rai the son of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind - the nine-storied shrine being the tallest building on Amritsar built between 1778 and 1784 in commemoration of signifying the nine years of Baba Atal Rai's life.
The interiors house the holy Guru Granth sahib while the temple is adorned with life scenes & miniature works depicting Guru Nanak's life along with other Hindu & Sikh themes.
The Gurdwara is known for its langar where food is served continuously at all hours throughout the day as volunteered by the Gursikhs & other devotees. It is in prayer & gratitude to Baba Atal that the devotees chant his name in the saying “Baba Atal Pakiyan Pakaiyan Ghal”…
GURUDWARA PATHER SAHIB, LEH
Such is the beauty of diverse cultures of the land, infusing in one other that in the land of the Buddhists stands an impression of the faith of Sikhism - Gurudwara Pathar Sahib built in 1517 to commemorate Guru Nanak Devji's visit to the place attached with many a stories to mark its significance, also revered greatly by Buddhists. It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev reached Leh via Sikkim, Nepal, Tibet and Yarkhand & travelling back to Punjab & it was on his stay as per many different legends that he recused the people from the terror of a demon & came to be worshipped by the locals.
Situated about 25 miles away from Leh on the Leh-Kargil at about 12000 ft above the sea level, the gurudwara houses a rock said to have the imprints of the Guru’s shoulders, head & body revered by the Sikhs & the locals as their lama, having been built & currently maintained by the Indian army. It draws thousands of devotees every year, nestled in the midst of the spectacular desert surrounded by the lofty peaks & rugged terrains.
SHRI BAOLI SAHIB, MOHALI
Gurudwara Shri Baoli Sahib is yet another unique gurudwara, built upon a baoli or step well located in in the Dhakoli Village, Zirakpur in district Mohali. It holds special significance to the fact that it is said to be blessed by Guru Gobind Ji as he was visiting the place while the people seeking his blessings requested him to restore the water in the village & help the people, guruji obliged and thus restored the water supply by shooting an arrow into the ground & a Baoli sprang up from the very place on which the gurudwara later came to be constructed upon. It draws worshippers on every Amavas who take a dip in the holy waters.
The Well of 84 Steps which was constructed in the 16th century by Guru Amar Das for the welfare & needs of the people, which came to become an important religious center of the area. Spanning about 8 meters deep the entrance of the structure is adorned with frescoes depicting life scenes & themes of the life of Guru Amar Das, while each step of the well comes to signify the multiple life forms & existences of humans & it is to escape these multiple births the devotees chant the hymn of Japji at every step in hope of attaining salvation.
SIS GANJ SAHIB, DELHI
Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib is yet another shrine among the nine gurudwaras of historical significance in Delhi situated in Chandni Chowk, erected in 1783 to commemorate the martyrdom of the ninth Guru of the Sikhs Guru Teg Bahadur, as the name suggests, marking the site where he was beheaded by the orders of Aurangzeb for refusing to convert to Islam.
The gurudwara still houses the trunk of the tree under which Guruji was martyred, along with the Kotwali in the adjoining arena where he was imprisoned along with his disciples & tortured. The holy shrine draws devotees from all over the wrd who come to offer their prayers & pay their regards & seek blessings.
SHRI NANAK JHIRA SAHIB, BIDAR
Gurudwara Shri Nanak Jhira Sahib is a greatly revered shrine built in the year 1948, situated down south in Bidar, Karnataka, significant as it is said to have been visited by Guru Nanak Devji who blessed the land with ample of water where there was barely any & as the legend goes Guru Sahib touched his foot to a nearby hill rock to where a stream of clean water started gushing out, as is still preserved & consumed by the devotees & locals of the area.
The Darbar Sahib of the shrine houses a beautiful Palki made of Marble, along with the Diwan Hall & Langar Hall lying adjacent to it, while the gurudwara faces the Sarovar where the holy water of the Nanak Jhira flows in.
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