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Anandpur Sahib Prepares For Its 350th Foundation Day

AMARJIT SINGH THIND

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a journey of love and devotion, not a pilgrimage.

1999 was a landmark year, as is 2015, but the journey of the devoted to Anandpur Sahib has never been a ritual. Nor will any one bound for its 350th Foundation Day celebrations return empty-handed.

Accompanying them home will be a certain degree of bliss (anand) that this White City exudes.

As Anandpur Sahib decks up for the big day, one is transported back to the Vaisakhi celebrations of 300 years of the birth of the Khalsa in April 1999.

To say that all roads then led to the holy city would be an understatement. It seemed that the whole of Sikhdom and sangat cutting across barriers wanted to be a part of the event and pay homage to the ‘home’ of the Khalsa.

Travelling to the venue -- the majestic sanctum sanctorum of Takht Keshgarh Sahib atop a hillock -- was akin to giving a test of your unquestioned belief. Devotees waited for hours, being pushed and shoved, and yet were unable to get inside the portals of the gurdwara. That did not deter them, or led to any resentment. If someone did shed a tear, it was one of joy in the electrifying atmosphere.

That 16 years have made a difference is evident all around. The city and its population have grown threefold and this reflects in the scale of preparations for the event as well. Organisers claim that this will be a lifetime experience and they are going about to make it true.

Residents remember how even in 1999 the whole city was painted white -- a sign of peace and serenity; only this time it’s being done on a grander scale. More than 500 workers have fanned across the city to meet the deadline of painting all the houses and business establishments by June 10.

The cost estimates vary between Rs 30 and 50 million.

Says JP Singh, a contractor entrusted with painting the houses in Ward 12, “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people requesting me to paint their house first as they fear that they will be left out before the big event.”

It’s a windfall for residents like Kulwant Singh, who has constructed a new house and now wants to shift before June 19.

“I am awaiting my turn and have spoken to the area contractor many times. Hopefully, my new house will get a coat very soon.”

City Council chief Mahinder Singh says more than 60 per cent of it has been completed.

ARMY OF VOLUNTEERS

IT graduate Beant Singh was too young to offer his services in 1999, but did not want to miss out this time.

“I really wanted to volunteer to make the event memorable and here I am,” he says.

Beant and a dozen-odd friends guide visitors and help the elderly and disabled to the numerous inns dotting the city. This sewa is invaluable since several people from across the country visiting the gurdwara en route to the shrines in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu or beyond cannot read or speak Punjabi.

Youngsters like Sukhwinder Singh, born after 1999, are no less eager to be a part.

“My friends and I perform sewa in the langar (community kitchen) and guide the elderly and those from other states to various inns,” he says proudly.

Religious devotion not only draws the devout to travel great distances, but also gives a lift to commerce. Hundreds of shopkeepers in and around the main complex are candid that they are fortunate to witness another great milestone.

Says one of them, Ram Singh, “Though the event is many days away, the rush is keeping us on our toes. Some of us are still enjoying the fruits of 1999. We can’t even guess how much business to expect.” 

There’s a steady flow of Muslims this time. Shopkeepers say they were pleasantly surprised to receive requests for literature and items to be offered at the gurdwara.

“I was told by one of the families that they were ardent followers of the first Sikh Master, Guru Nanak, and wanted to be early birds,” says a shopkeeper.

PREPARING FOR THE GATHERING

Langar is an integral part of any Sikh event. Those who travelled to the city in 1999 will remember being virtually whittled down by entreaties by volunteers to partake of community food. This time will be no different with 1,300 requests for langars and counting.

Nihangs or soldiers of Guru ki Fauj will provide the martial pomp and pageantry to the event. They will take out a procession, display their skills in horse riding and tent pegging and perform daredevil feats. Baba Sewa Singh of Gurdwara Shaheedan says all chiefs of the Nihang groups and their followers from Punjab and Nanded in Maharashtra are expected to be present.

While the five forts in the city are being given a facelift, an added attraction will be the place where the four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh were born, which is being beautified with marble and intricate filigree work by artisans from Agra and Makrana. The kar sewa workers have also stumbled upon an ancient baoli while removing the debris in this complex, which also houses the thharra (platform) where Guru Sahib (The Ninth Master, Tegh Bahadar) heard the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.

An interesting aspect is that a majority of workers engaged in this task are Muslims. They are happy to be a part of the event and are appreciative of the legendary hospitality of Punjabis. For devotees and visitors who were not here in 1999, the 70 feet tall Nishan-e-Khalsa (symbol of Khalsa order), weighing over 2,700 kg, would be a huge attraction along with the sprawling complex of Virasat-e- Khalsa Heritage Museum as they discover how unique is the Anandpur Sahib experience. One that will stay with them.

In the onward march of development, however, the first casualty is always the environment and in this case the scenic hillocks. Nestled among the lower Shivaliks, the site of Anandpur Sahib was originally chosen by the Gurus for its quaint charm and the fact that the Sutlej was just 3 km away and the Charan Ganga flowed adjacent to the new city.

Today, the latter has dried up and is used for holding fairs and martial events during religious days of the faith. And the hillocks have been razed to make way for new colonies, marring the natural charm of the place.

The road network was upgraded in 1999 and the residents take great pride in keeping the town clean commensurate with its exalted status as the birthplace of the Khalsa. However, many devotees feel that Anandpur Sahib has not got its due, in line with its standing in the annals of Sikh history.

On the religious tourism circuit, it lacks direct connectivity to other religious landmarks in the state, though a train has recently been started linking it with Amritsar.

ROOTED IN HISTORY

*    Anandpur Sahib was founded in 1665 by the Ninth Master, Guru Tegh Bahadar, when he bought a tract of land and began a new community there.

*    On the mound of Makhowal, Guru Sahib raised a new habitation. The ground was broken on June 19, 1665, by Baba Gurditta. The new village was named Chakk Nanaki after the Guru’s mother, Nanaki. The place later came to be known as Anandpur Sahib.

*    The city also has 11 gurdwaras connected with the life of the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, and five forts built by him, all of which are in good shape.

*    1999 marked 300 years of the birth of the Khalsa. It was Guru Gobind Singh who had blessed five men with Amrit at Anandpur Sahib on Vaisakhi Day 1699, thus creating the new Khalsa Order.

[Courtesy: Tribune. Edited for sikhchic.com]
June 8, 2015

 

Conversation about this article

1: Talwinder Singh (USA), June 08, 2015, 8:19 AM.

The author states that all five forts are in good shape. It is believed that the Anandgarh Sahib Fort as we know today was demolished and rebuilt during the British era or somewhere around that period. The original fort has a picture reference here: http://theliteraryjewels.com/cover-story-vol-2-issue-1/ The fort picture was sourced from the Punjab Digital Library. Can someone please help clarify this? It just seems surprising that we are giving another "face lift" to the forts as the article states.

2: Sarvjit Singh (Millis, Massachusetts, USA), June 08, 2015, 10:05 AM.

It would be lacking to not mention the new 'Virasat-e-Khalsa'. I was there three years ago, and I was overjoyed; it's very befitting of the surroundings and well suited to the site. I have been going to the Anandpur Sahib since late 70s, and have seen many changes. All of the attention is given to the main gurdwards and and the filthy nallahs flowing only few hundred meters behind in the city are ignored. I don't think any visitors go there. Anandpur Sahib has to be truly promoted in all aspects, not many people would know that that it used to have a sizeable number of former Brahmins who had become Sikhs; they were associated with the Gurus, especially the Ninth Master, such as Bhai Sati Das and Mati Das. Around the 1990s when the real estate values were climbing up all over North India, someone had suggested to my father to sell 10 acres of land near Mohali and upgrade to 100 acres in Anandpur Sahib. There was lots of speculation for developing Anandpur Sahib into a city like Amritsar but then it all fizzled away, like the rest of Punjab where the Govt announces development schemes only out of speculation and then innaugration posts are left to decay. That city and all the nearby gurdwaras are pavitar (sacred) for Sikhs, right from Bhatta Sahib onwards you can feel the Guru's energy. It was there Guru Sahib had composed the dohra, 'Netra Tung Ke Charan Tar.' We must ensure that Anandpur Sahib stays secure as our birthplace, and not be allowed to fade away like Nankana Sahib.

3: Harinder Singh (Punjab), June 08, 2015, 10:50 AM.

Let all houses have a Golden roof-top. It would then be called the "GOLDEN CITY."

4: Ujjagar Singh (London, United Kingdom), June 08, 2015, 3:47 PM.

I do not understand ... why can't those who are wealthy and can easily afford it, why don't they have their homes painted or white-washed at their own expense, instead of waiting for the state or municipality to do it? There would be more pride in the outcome -- in the hearts and minds of Sikhs everywhere -- if there was some personal stake and ownership by citizens in such ventures.

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