Gurdwara Bangla Sahib

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Excerpted from Gurnek Singh, Sikh exgesis, problems and prospects

Beautiful view of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Delhi
Photo by Solarider

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib (ਗ੝ਰਦ੝ਆਰਾ ਬੰਗਲਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ) is the most prominent Sikh gurdwara, or Sikh house of worship situated in the heart of New Delhi's famous Connaught Place in the Capital city of India. It is located on the eastern side of the intersection of Ashok Road and Baba Kharag Singh Marg. It is instantly recognisable by its stunning golden dome and tall flagpole called the Nishan Sahib.

This sacred shrine has association with the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan, and the the pool inside its complex, known as the "Sarovar", is considered holy by Sikhs and is known as "Amrit". The building was built by Sikh General, Sardar Bhagel Singh in 1783, who supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi in the same year, during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II.

Originally this place was the Bungalow ("haveli" or "bangla") of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, hence the name "Bangla Sahib". It's original name was Jaisinghpura Palace. A Rajput, Mirza Raja Jai Singh, was one of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's most important military leaders and a trusted member of his Darbar (Court).

Background

After the passing away of Guru Har Rai the seventh Sikh Guru, Ram Rai who was the eldest son of the seventh Master and his masands (masand is derived from Arabic word masnad, meaning delegating authority of the sovereign) instigated Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to issue a decree summoning Guru Harkrishan to his court. Ram Rai was elder brother of Guru Harkrishan.

Guru Harkrishan decided to go to Delhi since he felt that the "sangat", his followers had been misguided and he saw an opportunity in this to clear their misunderstandings. Meanwhile Sikhs of Delhi approached Mirza Raja Jai Singh, a strong devotee of Sikh Gurus to prevent any harm coming to Guru Harkrishan either by Aurangzeb or by the masands of Ram Rai.

When Ram Rai learned that Guru Harkrishan had accepted the summons to appear before Aurangzeb at his court at Delhi, he started rejoicing since Guru Harkrishan had taken a vow not to appear before Aurangzeb. So if Guru Harkrishan came to Delhi and refused to meet Aurangzeb then definitely he would be arrested and suffer humiliation. Now Ram Rai felt that this act of Guru Harkrishan will surely lower his prestige among his followers and would pave the way for Ram Rai to declare himself as the true successor of Guru Har Rai.

Mirza Raja Jai Singh had made elaborate arrangements to receive Guru Harkrishan. Guru Harkrishan was received on the outskirts of Delhi like a royal guest of honor. Guru Harkrishan was accompanied by prominent Sikhs from his darbar and his mother Mata Sulakhni.

The Sikh Ardas

In the Sikh Ardas, which is a prayer or Benti to the Lord, the following line is recited every time this prayer is read:


Guru Gobind Singh Ji says in Chandi Di Vaar which we read everyday in Ardas:

ਸ੝ਰੀ ਹਰਿ ਕਿਸ਼ਨ ਧਿਆਈਝ ਜਿਸ ਡਿਠੇ ਸਭਿ ਦ੝ਖਿ ਜਾਇ॥

sree har kishan dhhiaaeeai jis ddit(h)ae sabh dhukh jaae (And then I reflect on) the most Venerable Guru Har Krishan, seeing whom all the sufferings melt away.

(On Ang 278 of Dasam Granth)

Full Shabad

Brief history

Closeup of front Elevation

A magnificent and spacious bungalow in Delhi owned by Raja Jai Singh of Amber (Jaipur) who commanded great respect and honour in the court of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb now enjoys the status of a holy shrine called Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. The eighth Guru Sri Harkishan had stayed here for a few months as a guest of Raja Jai Singh. Since then it has become a place of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Sikhs. They come to pay their respects to the memory of Guru Harkrishan who, nominated as successor by the seventh Guru Sri Har Rai, was summoned to Delhi by Emperor Aurangzeb in a furtive attempt by his older brother Baba Ram Rai to grab the Gurugadi. Earlier Baba Ram Rai had disgraced himself by giving a false translation of Bani to appease the Emperor. For this he had been disowned by his father and rewarded by Aurangzeb.

Learning that Har Krishan had been appointed the spiritual head of the Sikhs, Baba Ram Rai became very perturbed. He tried in vain to influence the leading Sikhs of Delhi and Punjab. Later he approached Emperor Aurangzeb, who had befriended him, to help him acquire the Gurugadi. Consequently, Aurangzeb agreed to summon Guru Harkrishan to see whether he was really superior and more spiritual than Ram Rai.

Fortunately both Raja Jai Singh and his son Raja Ram Singh were in Delhi at that time. When approached by Sikhs for help, they agreed to assist them in their predicament.

The Rajput chief took over the responsibility of persuading Guru Harkrishan to come to Delhi and also gained assurance from the Emperor that as long as he (the Emperor) was not satisfied about the succession issue, Guru Harkrishan Sahib could stay with Jai Singh and his son in his bungalow as a guest.

During Guru Harkrishan's stay in Delhi there was a terrible epidemic of cholera and smallpox. Rather than staying in the safety of Jai Singh's home the Guru spent most of his time in serving the humble, the sick and the destitute. He distributed medicines, food and clothes to the needy. He also directed Diwan Dargah Mal to spend all of the daily offerings made by the people to the Guru on the poor. The Guru won more admirers. Soon stories about his healing powers spread throughout the city. Contracting smallpox himself the young Guru, only a little over five years old, passed away on October 6, 1661. He had been tried and tested as a perfect fearless and fully illuminated soul.

A small tank was constructed by Raja Jai Singh over the bungalow's well. Today, the faithful continue to come to the well and take its water home, as amrit, to cure their ailments. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee runs a hospital in the basement of the Gurudwara building and the Khalsa Girls School is located in the adjoining building. A tank 225 x 235 ft with 18 ft wide Parikarma and 12 ft wide varandah along its three sides has been constructed entirely with people's selfless contributions of funds and voluntary labour.

The Art Gallery located in the basement of the Gurdwara is also very popular with visitors. They express keen interest in the paintings depicting historical events connected with Sikh history. The gallery is named after the Sikh General Sardar Bhagel Singh who supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi in 1783 during the time of Shah Alam II.

In the news

from Metro page 8 25 Aug 2007 hindustantimes.com

The Sarovar at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib

MR AND MRS GILL have never skipped their visit to Bangla Sahib in the last 12 years. They have been praying - and gorging on the karah parshad -every morning at this holy place. Easily identified by its golden dome and tall flagpole, this prominent Sikh gurdwara witnesses silent prayers of at least 15,000 such souls every day God is busiest here on Sundays when the number of visitors doubles, sometimes triples, over the usual weekdays.

A walk through this sprawling white-marbled gurdwara can hardly tell you of the fact that the place used to be once Raja Jai Singh's palatial bungalow in the seventeenth century It's said that the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan, lived here during his stay in Delhi.

There's an interesting anecdote about the relevance of the holy water here. There was a smallpox and cholera epidemic in the city and Guru Har Krishan started giving fresh water from the well in this house to those who were suffering. Since then, Bangla Sahib's water is revered for its healing properties by Sikhs across the globe.

For a first timer, here's a low-down on the goings-on at this place of worship. You enter bare feet with your head covered, bow down to the Granth Sahib resting in a gold palki and soak in the lilting sounds of Shabad Gurbani. To wrap up this beautiful experience, you gorge on a generous handful of karah parshad on your way to the sarovar (a large pond). Home to big and small, orange and green fish, this water body is said to act like a panacea for acne and other skin ailments. While many take a dip, others splash their faces and inevitably do a parikrama to complete their holy journey.

The whiff of desi ghee originating from the gurdwara kitchen whips up the gastronomic urges of at least 8,000 people daily From dal-chawal (lentil and rice) to sabzi-roti (vegetable and chapatis) and kheer (rice pudding), the langar hall is teeming with activity throughout the day "We are building a multi-level parking with a capacity of 1,000 cars," says a gurdwara official, referring to the everyday rush. Incidentally, the offerings from devotees often amount to Rs 1 crore per month.

An art museum within the premises houses interesting slices of Sikh history From old manuscripts of Sukhmani Sahib and Japji Sahib to a handwritten Mool Mantar by Guru Arjan Devji and a miniature Granth Sahib, there is a colourful account of Sikh gurus and their childhood on canvases. Coins of earlier centuries and legendary scenes from the batt1efield come alive on the walls of this museum. Within walking distance is the library that promises to tell you of the significance of the turban, besides covering vast texts on Sikh religion and history on its shelves.

A gateway to divinity in the heart of the city , Bangla Sahib is the epitome of Sikh spirit. Be it young, old or middle-aged, people across the spectrum come here to do sewa: from mopping the floors to shoe-minding, they do it all in the name of Ek Omkar Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.

  • for further details contact: ripu.singh@hindustantimes.[email protected]

Gallery

  • please click on the image to enlarge

Address Details

The Secretary, Management Committee, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Ashok Road (near Connaught Place), New Delhi Pin code 110001

Tel: 91-11-23365486, 23342871

See also

External Links