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Desperately Seeking Nanak ...
In Sri Lanka

by ARTIKA BAKSHI

 

 

 

Find me not in temples of stone; But in your heart, O’ devout!”

 

As per history and janamsakhis, Guru Nanak came to Sri Lanka during his Second Udaasi (journey).

The route taken was from Puri to Gantur to Kanchipuran to Tiruvannamalai to Tiruchchirupalli, and sailing all the way from there to Batticoloa.

My search for the ”charan padak”- the place where he set foot - took me to The Archaeological Survey of Sri Lanka.

There are no records of a place called Dibar, some seven odd miles from Batticoloa, where the Guru set foot for the first time in this island nation.

Conflicting reports off the internet pointed me towards Trincomalee, and I set off to search the land there. The east coast of Sri Lanka - the famed Shaivite kingdom where the Guru was welcomed by the Hindu ruler - welcomed me with a smile.

Torn by the recent civil war, this region shows marks of a painful and bloody era, that is now the latest addition to the history books. It tears my heart to see that this holy place, which supposedly marks the first step of Guru Nanak, the Prince of Peace, in the land of the Buddha - the preacher of ahimsa - bears so many marks of suffering, torture and destruction.

With no leads on the temple linking to the Udaasi Mutth, which is supposed to have the Mool Mantar written in the Sinhala script, I reach a dead end. In various conversations with people from the area.

I reluctantly come to the conclusion that tsunamis in the past and coastal erosion could have been responsible for erasing all links.

Some even point towards the strict religious sentiments of the Sinhala Kings or the destruction caused by the Portuguese invaders. What stand there today are two ancient temples dedicated to the deity, Shiva - the "Destroyer" of Hindu mythology.

Constant badgering of the personnel at the Archaeological Survey offices is also not helpful as no one knows of any stone inscription bearing the name “Nanakacharya” which was said to be at the Anuradhapura Museum.

The search takes me to Anuradhapura, one of the glorious ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. I pass towns and villages with their Christian churches, Hindu kovils, Buddhist viharas and Muslim mosques.

I remember the Guru’s teachings of a universal God. All living here in harmony and praying to this one God in their own ways. I draw a blank at Anuradhapura too and feel a bit disheartened.

My restless mind looking for footprints from the Guru’s journey across the ocean, and then it dawns on me that it is not in the temples of stone or ancient scriptures that I can find him, I can find him within me and within the hearts of so many Sindhi settlers from Pakistan, who migrated to Sri Lanka during the Partition of 1947- with images of Guru Nanak, and the presence of Guru Granth Sahib and the teachings in them.

Here, they were blessed by the Guru and started a life afresh with all the dedication and humility that symbolizes Guru Nanak. Every Year, on Guru Nanak's birth anniversary, a beautiful darbar is held at the Sindhi Community Centre on Galle Road in Colombo.

Kirtan by the sangat is followed by parshad in His memory, and then, langar.

 

The author was born and brought up in Amritsar, Punjab. Married to Maninder Singh Bakshi and a mother of 2 boys, she has been living in Sri Lanka since 2000. An MBA in International Banking and Finance, she is currently teaching in an International School in Sri Lanka.

April 12, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Kanwal Nain Singh (Lindsay, Ontario, Canada), April 12, 2012, 10:43 AM.

What a beautiful message, Artika! No use to go and find his foot prints. His true message is right within ourselves. But,alas, a few of us, even Sikhs, ever venture to discover it. Thank you for your thoughts.

2: Jaswinder Singh Sidhu  (Melbourne, Australia), April 12, 2012, 9:26 PM.

True outcome of your research and thoughts.

3: Jodh Singh Arora (Jericho, New York, U.S.A.), April 14, 2012, 4:16 AM.

Please read "Guru Nanak" by Dr. Tarlochan Singh, wherein he gives his research evidence about Guru Nanak's visit to Sri Lanka.

4: Artika Bakshi (Sri Lanka), April 19, 2012, 4:50 AM.

Thank you, all, for your kind comments. Will also try to get the above mentioned book on my next visit to India.

5: Captain Yashpal Singh (New Delhi. India), June 04, 2012, 8:57 AM.

I am a master mariner and sailing as captain in the merchant navy. My ship arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 28 May and since then I have been trying to find out about a gurdwara or Sikhs on the net. Today I happened to read your article and found it to be impressive. My ship is going to be here for about 3 weeks more for repairs and surveys. My wife, Jasvinder Kaur, is also on board with me. The local Colombo no. is +94775968846. Kindly contact me, if you are still in Sri Lanka.

6: Artika Bakshi (Sri Lanka), June 04, 2012, 7:30 PM.

For sure! Will call.

7: Jaswinder Singh (India), November 20, 2012, 11:27 PM.

Thanks, Artika, for your beautiful article. The message is also crystal clear. However, the footprint provides the historical evidence of such an important happening ... it needs to be preserved for the future generations. Those who respect, preserve and learn from their history remain ahead and are considered 'sapoot'. "babanian kahanian poot sapoot karen." Have you seen the area known as "Kurukkalmadam", 17 km south of Batticaloa? Also, check out http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Guru_Nanak_in_Sri_Lanka

8: Sukh  (United Kingdom), March 06, 2013, 5:24 AM.

Artika ji: I am visiting Sri Lanka in April and would love to visit the gurdwara. Where exactly is it?

9: Kuhananth (Batticalo, Kurukkalmadam, Sri Lanka), May 18, 2013, 1:50 AM.

We live in Kurukkalmadam and constitute its native population. Here's how our village came to be called "KURUKKALMADAM". Earlier, it was known as 'Gurunadhar' or 'Gurudhanagar'. This is a very beautiful and historical place. We believe that Guru Nanak stayed here for a long time around the 1500s. It is a very inspirational place. If you want more information about this: Email - kuhananth@gmail.com, or Call - +94715863650. Skype id: kuhananth. Address: KUHANANTH KARUNANANTHAN, THEETHAGULA VEETHY, KURUKKALMADAM, BATTICALOA 30192, SRI LANKA

10: G S Guglani (Amritsar, Punjab), June 04, 2013, 4:12 AM.

What a great way to bring people together searching history! I request that someone, please, put the location of the new evidence of trees, sweet-water ponds, sweet rettha tree mentioned in the interview of Ashok Kumar which was published in the Daily Ajit on 4 June, 2013, etc., on wikimapia or google map for everyone in the world to access, on the subject of Guru Nanak's visit to Sri Lanka.

11: Bikram Singh (India), March 11, 2014, 7:38 PM.

I was intrigued with the article as I have been wanting to learn more about the route followed by Guru Nanak during his various Udaasis. It would be great if someone can pick up and follow up from where Arikta left off.

12: Maninder Kaur (Inida), June 24, 2015, 11:54 PM.

Read your views. Visitung Sri Lanka for the first time. Can we stay in the Sindhi Darbar gurdwara?

13: Brij Mohan Singh (India), October 21, 2015, 9:01 AM.

We have formed a trust in the name of GURU NANAK SEWA TRUST, SRI LANKA, and have visited Kurukkulmadam many times and are planning to build a gurdwara there. We have found many other things related to Guru Nanak there.

14: Artika Bakshi (Sri Lanka), November 25, 2015, 2:13 AM.

Please do share your finds! Thanks and all the best!

15: Dr Dave Singh (USA), October 03, 2017, 6:58 PM.

We are planning on visiting Colombo and Kurukkulmadam this November. Any local information on this topic would be most welcome.

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