Punjab is synonymous to Sikhism and Sikhism is synonymous to Gurudwara. Having done a two trip across Punjab, I went to many Gurudwaras. In fact almost every other day I would visit a Gurudwara in Punjab and have langar for lunch. I love everything about visiting a Gurudwara. Be it listening to the Gurbani, watching the selfless service being done by the people, reading about the history of the place, the huge holy tanks within the temple, the serenity of the place, Guru ki prasad, just everything.. And having moved across different cities, gurudwara and museums, I got this immense fascination to Sikhism. The religion that is so clear in its terms. A religion that eliminates discrimination, promotes equality. A religion that was born out of bravery. A religion that strongly holds on to its values and stood over time! Every Gurudwara in Punjab has a story behind it, be it how Sikhism was formed or how the martyrs braved to keep up the religion. Here are the top five Gurudwaras that I loved during my visit to Punjab and the history behind them.
1. Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib – Anandpur Sahib:
Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib is one of the five important Takhts for the Sikhs. Takht means a throne or seat of authority where all the political and military strategy of Sikhs used to be discussed. It is one of the most holy places for the Sikhs. It is located in the Anandpur Sahib district.
History: Shri Keshgarh Sahib is the birth place of Khalsa, a way of identifying or differentiating the Sikhs. All the while from the first guru, Guru Nanak, the preaching was to eliminate the discrimination among the people and form a uniform body that promotes equality. Over course of time many forces tried to dissolve this body and wars were fought by these brave men to protect their principles, values, towns and places of worship. However with no clear way to differentiate between the way Sikhs looked and the men they fought against there rose several confusion. To avoid all these Khalsa was formed who are the Sikh warriors, the pure loyal followers of the Guru. It was initiated by the last living guru, Guru Gobind Singh on the day of Vaisakhi. From then on came the addressing of men as ‘Singh’ and women as ‘Kaur’. The dress code and code of conduct was also established along with forming Khalsa. The five K’s tradition – Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (wooden comb that will be inside the turban), Kara (the bracelet), Kirpan (the sword) and the Kacchera (shorts) is followed till date by many Sikhs. If you think about it, it is a very convenient dress code for the warriors. you won’t be able to cut hair when you are away for long, you need sword to fight and comfortable shorts to ride horses and move about. Every year during the day of Vaisakhi, Khalsa display their military skills in a festival called Holla Mohalla.
Why visit Keshgarh Sahib: Keshgarh Sahib being the birth place of Khalsa has many historical artifacts on display which originally belonged to Guru Gobind Singh. Anandpur itself is a pretty city situated on foot of Shivalik range of mountains with teal colored Sutlej flowing around. The Gurudwara is buzzing with people all round the year. The Gurudwara is located slightly uphill giving a panoramic view of the city from atop. After taking a quick darshan, I walked around the temple complex, look up at the domes of the pillar to see some interesting murals. I then moved down to the langar hall. All the big gurudwaras provide langar through out the day and so was Keshgarh Sahib. The other best thing to do here is visit the Virasat-E-Khalsa museum which is at a walk able distance from the gurudwara. The museum is a must visit as it not only has the complete history of Sikhism but it also covers about how Punjab has evolved into what it is today. You will need a minimum of 4 to 5 hours for the museum and a couple of hours for the Gurudwara.
How to Reach Keshgarh Sahib:
2. Gurudwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib – Patiala:
Patiala a prominent city now is buzzing with food streets and shopping streets. Nestled among those busy streets is the Gurudwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib.
History: It is believed that the ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur halted here on request by villagers. The village was once haunted by a mysterious disease and on request of the people the Guru decided to halt here under a banyan tree by the side of pond. The illness started to subside and people started to call the place where the Guru was seated as Dukh Nivaran. There is also an old handwritten document preserved in the Gurudwara which states this story. I was not able to see this personally. Till date it is believed that taking a dip in the holy tank will cure ailments and get you free of diseases.
Why Visit Gurudwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib: The first impression of the Gurudwara was a narrow way leading to it and I was wondering if I was just tick marking a place just because I was in Patiala. But once I passed the entry tower and moved into the Gurudwara it took my breath away. Compared to other Gurudwaras, this one was built in recent times of mid 1900s. The white marble blinds your eyes and if you turn to evade that, the huge holy pond glitters in the sun. The inside sanctum sanctorum is also big, you can sit inside and listen to the Kirtans. I came by the holy pond and people were taking a dip with utmost faith. Walking down the corridor I could see many sitting and just reciting prayers, some taking rest, all sorts of people. I walked to the other end of the holy pond and sat in peace. People were walking past me but still a sense of calmness just descended on me looking at the water and the Gurudwara across. I don’t know for how long I sat this way, it was just blissful. If you are in Patiala then please definitely spend some time here.
How to Reach Gurudwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib:
Patiala is very close to Chandigarh. Patiala also has many prominent places to see, so you can halt at Patiala and visit the Gurudwara
3. Gurudwara Fatehgarh Sahib – Sirhind:
Gurudwara Fatehgarh Sahib is located in the Fatehgarh Sahib district which is about 5km from Sirhind and about 40 to 50km from Patiala. Having base as Patiala and traveling here would be ideal.
History: Fatehgarh Sahib plays a prominent role in the history of Sikhism. While Sikhism was taking shape and Khalsa was established, the Mughals were not happy with a new community rising up. They were trying to convert everyone to Islam and many Sikhs lost their lives when being tried to convert to Islam. If you visit the Sikh museum in the Golden temple you can learn about the ordeal that Sikhs were put through. Many wars were fought by the Khalsa community with the Mughals to retain their land and pride. On one such war that was fought during the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the family gets scattered in the commotion. Guru Gobind Singh’s mother Mata Gujri and his two sons Fateh Singh and Zorawar Singh get separated. Though Mata Gujri is around with her grandsons, they soon get deceived by their cook and the Mughals capture them. When the Mughals force them to convert to Islamism and it doesn’t happen, they order the kids to be bricked alive. Unfortunately the kids chose death over giving up their faith. I heard two stories from here. One that the kids were bricked alive. Second the brick wall collapsed, they couldn’t be bricked alive so they were executed. The martyrdom of the kids at such young age (they were 9 and 7 years) is praised and people come here to pay their respects and get the blessings.
Why Visit Gurudwara Fategarh Sahib: Apart from it being a prominent sight there are couple of interesting things to see. The drive to Gurudwara is a beautiful one with Safeda trees rising up on either sides. The Gurudwara has three prominent places to visit. First the Gurudwara itself, it is very very crowded even on a weekday! Weekends all the villagers come over there like a festival and it is going to be more crowded. Second is the Bhora Sahib. It is in the underground below the Gurudwara where the kids were buried alive. More like a monument but to the side you can still see the wall. Third is the Thanda Bhurj. Tanda Bhurj also known as cold tower, built by the Mughals which was used like a summer retreat. It is built in such a way that the temperature inside is colder than the outside. Unfortunately the kids and their grandmother were kept in this Tanda Bhurj during the December winter chillness! This place is also more like paying homage but you can feel the slight chillness when you enter here. Also visit the langar for some sumptuous food.
There is a mosque called Roza Shariff right next to the Gurudwara with some beautiful murals and Mughal architecture to look at too.
How To Reach Gurudwara Fategarh Sahib:
Head from Patiala to Sirhind. And from Sirhind all roads lead to Fategarh Sahib.
4. Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran – Tarn Taran, Majha:
Tarn Taran is in Majha district or a short drive from Amritsar. This is one of the Gurudwaras that is not crowded in spite of being huge and beautiful. I was on a share auto while traveling in Amritsar and co passenger mentioned about the beauty of this place that I decided to go. It was the best decision I made.
History: Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran shortly known as Tarn Taran was founded by the fifth guru, Guru Shri Arjan Dev. It has one of the biggest holy tank in the world. Tarn Taran was the center during the Sikh insurgencies. In fact when Punjab was working to be declared as a separate nation during the partition, it was suggested that Tarn Taran be the capital. While history seems to talk so much about this temple and town, I found it as a calm place like that of a temple in the street corner that only the locality people flock to.
Why Visit Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran: Just to see that holy tank! And I mean it. It is the world’s biggest sarovar and it was built way back in 1700s. Can you imagine that? I couldn’t get the whole thing in one frame. It was like a river trapped in with few corners, it was not like a pond or tank. I was pressed with time that I couldn’t do a complete walk around the sarovar. Apart from the sarovar this also one Gurudwara which has gold plated on the walls of it. Not like the Golden temple but a portion of it, making it look so bright and glittery. The best thing however is the inside, the sanctum sanctorum. The interior walls and the ceiling have the best and best of the designs, stuccos, murals, paintings, like everything. I stood there watching at the interiors for a while. Such bright colors and they were very much intact that I have not seen in any other Gurudwara. The most beautiful Gurudwara of the lot that I had visited. Do watch the video to feel the enormity of the sarovar.
Tarn Taran can be combined with a visit to Sarai Amanat Khan.
How to Reach Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran:
Take a cab from Amritsar and visit the nearby places. For example my one day itinerary was Ram theerath, Sarai amanat khan, Tarn Taran, Phul Kanjari and Wagah border.
5. Sri Harmandir Sahib – Golden Temple, Amritsar:
The Golden Temple, Amritsar needs absolutely no introduction. It is the most revered place of worship for the Sikhs and the most popular Gurudwar and holy city that Indians flock to.
History: History says, the Golden temple was initially not a Golden Temple. Sri Harmandir Sahib also known as Darbar Sahib was originally designed and built by the fifth Sikh Guru. Amrtisar, the pool of nectar, was founded by the fourth guru called Guru Ram Das and the fifth Guru decided to build a temple in the middle of the holy tank. This Gurudwar was the first pilgrimage site built for the Sikhs, so that they can worship together. The foundation was laid by a Muslim saint and the Gurudwara was completed under the supervision of many prominent Sikh leaders. Over time, it was Maharaja Ranjit Singh who covered the temple with Gold and hence it gets the name Golden temple.
Why Visit Sri Harmandir Sahib, The Golden Temple: I can list a hundred reasons or may be more. But am gonna keep it simple and say “to get mesmerized”. Or should I say to get hypnotized in the charm of the place and just stay there. Being the most visited and crowded of all the Gurudwaras, the temple is one of its kind. Unlike others it is situated at ground level with doors on all side symbolizing this place is open for worship by all. Visiting the community kitchen where food is prepared to serve nearly a lakh people every day is a must. Try to get on to a heritage walk tour to experience the same.
I have written one huge blog on The Golden Temple, do check it out – Inside the Golden Temple
How to Reach Golden Temple:
That’s my list of favorite Gurudwars to visit and some interesting stories I came across while visiting them.
Here are some Dos and Dont’s while visiting Gurudwara:
1. Remove your slippers, shoes and hand it over the counter or place it in a shoe rack. Wash your feet and hands.
2. Always have your head covered with a piece of cloth. If you don’t have a scarf, the entrance of the Gurudwara usually loans them.
3. Dress appropriately as this is a holy place.
4. No photography allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum of any Gurudwara.
5. Do sit down to have langar meal at the Gurudwara.
6. When any prasad (food) is served to you, be it in langar or the Kada prasad at entrance; extend both your hands and bow your head. Never waste a meal.
And here is the yummy meal aka langar I had at various Gurudwara 🙂
Hope you found these stories interesting and informative. Happy Traveling 🙂