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Gurudwaras in Pakistan

Gurudwara Nankana Sahib

(Gurdwara Birth Place of Guru Nanak Dev ji)

khandaSikh history originates from Nankana Sahib. Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikh faith, was born here in 1469. The name of the place at that time was Rai Bhoi di Talwandi. The landlord contemporary of Guru Nanak Dev was Rai Bular, who himself became a devotee of the Guru. It was renamed Nankana after the Guru. It is located in what is called Nilianwali Bar (forest where nilgais abound), and is about 75 kilometers west-southwest of Lahore. Nankana Sahib is in Sheikhupura district and is connected to the district town by rail and road. There are several shrines connected with the memory of Guru Nanak Dee’s childhood and early youth here. Later Guru Arjan dev and Guru Hargobirid also visited Nankana Sahib and a Gurdwara was also raised subsequently in their honor. During the Sikh rule, these gurdwaras were richly endowed with liberal land grants (over 7,000 hectares). The management was in the hands of Udasi and Nirmala priests until the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee took over during the Gurdwara Reform Movement of 1920-25. The Gurdwaras had to be abandoned in the aftermath of the Partition in 1947. They are now looked after by the Government of Pakistan. Nankana Sahib is one of the three places which can be visited periodically by bands of Sikh pilgrims with the approval of the Government of Pakistan, the other two being Panja Sahib near Hasan Abdal and Lahore. Since 1947 the traditional Sikh ardaas (supplicatory prayer) has been supplemented by a single sentence:
“O Merciful and Bounteous God, ever helpful to your Panth, do grant to your Khalsa Ji the boon of seeing, serving and protecting Gurdwaras at Nankana Sahib and other places from which the Panth has been separated.”
In these simple words the community, a minute minority in the populous Indian sub-continent, expresses its loss, its grief, its pangs of separation from its venerable, sacred, historical shrines left behind when they left their homes and hearths in circumstances beyond their control. Also, at the same time, by these words the Sikhs reaffirm their faith in other tenets of their faith expressed in Guru Nanak Dev’s words:
“Union and separation have been created by my Lord, who having created Universe gave it pain and pleasure; but the Guru-oriented ones wearing the armour of faith are indifferent to pleasure and pain.” (A.G. 1032)
Following are the historical Gurudwaras at Nankana Sahib:

Gurudwara Janam Asthan:

This shrine representing the home of Baba Kalo and Mata Tripta, father and mother respectively of Guru Nanak Dev, where the Guru was born, was established by Baba Dharam Chand (1523-1618) son of Baba Lakhmi Das and grandson of Guru Nanak Dev. The shrine must have been established before the end of the sixteenth century because Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606) is believed to have visited it. Its present building comprising a square, domed sanctum with a rectangular pavilion attached to it within a vast walled compound was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839).
Several other buildings were added after the S.G.P.C. took over control on 21st February 1921, the day following the massacre of 150 to 200 Sikh pilgrims by assassins hired by Maharit Narain Das abetted by the British Commissioner of Lahore Division. The traditional fair to celebrate birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev continued with great eclat upto 1946, but since 1947 it has been a tame affair. In the beginning, the Pakistan government had permitted 15 Sikhs to stay at Nankana Sahib to carry out routine services at the shrine, but their number was reduced to a bare five in 1968 and still later to a solitary Granthi who maintains a token attendance with the help of some sahajdhari (unbaptised) Siridhi Sikhs. Thrice a year, on Baisakhi (April), death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (June) and birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev (November), Pakistan government allows Sikh jathas, a few hundred strong each, to visit this and other shrines at Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib and Lahore.
According to Waliullah Khan, Sikh Shrines in West Pakistan, there is a sacred relic, Chola Sahib, preserved here. It is a cloak with Quranic verses embroidered on it supposed to have been presented to Guru Nanak Dev by the ruler of Baghdad during the Guru’s visit to that city. If this is true (because our older sources do not make any mention of it), it is a fake relic, because Chola Sahib believed to be the real one is preserved at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of the Indian Punjab.

Nankana Sahib is a holy place where the founder of Sikh religion, the dispeller of darkness, the most enlightened global Guru, Guru Nanak Dev ji was born early in the morning to Mata Tripta Ji and Mehta Kalu Ji on 15th April, 1469 (Baisakh sudi 3, Samwat 1526).
Bhai Gurdas in his Var (Var 1/27) has equated this event with the sun that lights up the earth after a dark night :
Jeeu Kar suraj nikaleya, taare chhipe andher paloa. (Var 1/27)

According to Puratan Janam Sakhi, the trees starting dripping juice, many a pauper became rich, the diseased were blessed with health. The earth heaved a sigh of relief.

According to Janam Sakhis, when Daulta Dai, the maid nurse was offered money, she refused it on the plea that she had already been rewarded by the very glimpse of the holy baby. Guru Nanak gave his first message that he belong to God and would exert the people to worship His Name. Bhai Nand lal ji has well said that Guru Nanak was asked by the Almighty to turn the face of humanity towards Him.
The township of Nankana Sahib was earlier known as Raipur and later on as Rai-Bhoi-di-Talwandi but after the birth of Guru Nanak, it began to be known as Nankian Sahib/Nankana Sahib. It is situated at a distance 48 miles on the west from Lahore.
Guru Nanak dev ji passed his whole childhood and young age in Nankana Sahib. At the age of nine, when Pandit Hardyal asked the boy Nanak to put on Janeo, he refused to have the thread that discriminated amongst mankind. The Janeo which was made of the silk for a brahmin, of cotton for a khatri, of wool for a Vaish and which was strictly abondoned for Shudara. And again which is three folds for brahmin, two folds for Khatri and only one fold for Vaish. He asked the Pandit if he had the thread made of compassion the cotton, contentment the yarn, continence the knot and purity the twist, he was ready to wear it. The Pandit was dumb-founded :

Daeya kapah santokh soot jatu gandhi sat watt.
Eihu janeo jeea ka hai ta pande ghatt. (p. 471)

When he joined a school at Nankana Sahib, the Guru is said to have written fundamentals of education on the wooden takhti provided to him. He enlightened the people when he wrote simply the first alphabet of Persian script ‘alaf’ and conveyed the message of unity of Godhood.
Guru Nanak Dev got married on 21st , may 1487 to Bibi Sulakhani, Daghter of Mulchand Khatri of Batala. It was at Nankana Sahib that he met Bhai Mardana, who was his life long companion for 47 years, listening and singing Guru’s gospel. According to the Sikh history, Guru Nanak at the age of 22 years, in 1491 A.D. went into silence for days together. He did not eat a single morsel and utter a single word.
His father Kalu ji sent for a local physician / Vaid. The vaid found nothing wrong with the young Nanak and found himself in a quandary as to what to tell his father because Nanak was absolutely healthy. Guru Nanak said ,” I have no physical ailment. Thou, the simple physician, knows not the pangs arising from the heart”

Bhola vaid na jaaneie karak Kaleje maah. (P. 1279)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji stayed at his birthplace uptil 35 years of age and hereafter went to Sultanpur.
For a long time, this place remained in normal form. In A.D. 1613 (Samwat 1670), Guru Hargobind visited the birth place of Guru Nanak and entrusted the responsibility of looking after this place to Alamst, an ardent disciple of Baba Sri Chand. Since then Udasis, (the followers of Guru Nanak’s Son) looked after this place for a long time.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh got a magnificent building built there and at the behest of Baba Sahib Singh, the Maharaja gave 700 acres land as religious endowment to his holy shrine but the Udasis continued to maintain the place. They had the charge of this place during the times full of stress and strife for the Sikhs But with the passage of time, in early 20th century, these Udasis Mahants began to treat this revenue free jagir as their personal property and indulged in erotic and luxorious life. To get these historical Gurdwaras from the hands of these apostates the Gurdwara Prabandh Sudhar Movement was started. One peaceful Jatha that entered Gurdwara Janam Asthan was mercilessly hacked by the mercenaries of Mahant Narain Dass. Even the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib was made target of thier bullets. Many a people belonging to this jatha were tied to a Jand and burnt alive. The Martyred half-burnt bodies were thrown into the well.

This incident gave such an impetus to the Gurdwara Reform Movement that the Mahants had to handover the shrines to the Sikh Sangats. The magnificent building of this gurdwara alongwith the beautiful gardens, enthrals the onlookers and devotees. There is a big sarovar and a spacious inn which provides accomodation to the pilgrims. The historical Jand and the well are still existing, telling the tale of atrocities perpetuated by Mahant Narain Dass on simple-hearted and peace-loving Sikhs. According to Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, the auther of Gurshabd Ratnakar Mahan Kosh, this shrine had 18 thousand acres of land attached to it and a cash endowment of Rs. nine thousand eight hundred and ninety two also.

By the partition of the Indian sub-continent, the Sikhs not only lost many lives, wealth etc. but also thier most loved and revered shrines which went to the other side of the border. After this partition, a mention of Nankana Sahib Gurdwara in the daily ardasa or prayer has become a reguler feature. These Sikh shrines in Pakistan are managed by a Waqf Board and every year, Sikh Jathas visit these shrines on four different occasions.

At present there are 25-30 Sikh families residing in Nankana Sahib and as a result of this, daily service is performed and bani is recited. Bhai Partap Singh is functioning as the Granthi. At the occassion of Guru Nanak’s anniversary, about three thousand Sikh devotees from India visit Nankana Sahib. Sikhs from all over the world come there too.


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