Gurdwara Gwarigat Sahib
Last December while we were in Jabalpur we went to see the Gurdwara at Gwarighat. I did not know until then that this site is associated with Guru Nanak's travels. It is practically unknown outside of Jabalpur.
The Gurdwara was under construction at the time. It has a picture museum, rooms for travelers and a free clinic for treating anyone who might need it. While we were there the sevadars treated us with hot and very tasty tea and leter in the afternoon before having langar.
There was no shop or any other commercial outfit in or near the Gurdwara. I asked one of the sevadars if they had any information in print. He gave me a flier in Hindi. It was written by Bhai Jasbir Singh of Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. I asked the sevadar if he had any in Gurumukhi or English. He said no. He was very happy when I offered to translate the flier in English and send a copy to the Gurudwara. And I did.
The flier has some flavor of the way Indians write but is quite informative about the events associated with Guru Nanak and other legends.
Guru Nanak undertook four journeys, also known as 'Udaasis' (literally a somber state of mind, here - travels), in order to spread enlightenment to the people of the world who were lost in the darkness of ignorance and sin to show them the path of truth and to bring to them the realization of Akaal Purakh (God). It is true that the scholars disagree on the exact paths covered by Guru Nanak during these 'Udaasis.' However, they are unanimous that Guru Nanak traveled widely in the Indian subcontinent, Arab lands, Mecca, Bagdad, Nanking (China), Kabul (Afghanistan), and many other far away lands.
Guru Nanak preached service to humanity to the Yogis and ascetics living in the caves in the Himalayas and clerics, priests and saints of many other religions. He emphasized that salvation can be attained by serving needy human beings, prayer and meditation on God’s name while remaining and living at home and following the duties of a "householder.” One need not shun the societal life in order to attain salvation. Among other inaccessible places, Guru Nanak also traveled to the ice covered mountains of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas. These mountain peaks remain ice and snow covered throughout the year, and even today are extremely difficult to traverse. In the Janam Sakhis (witness accounts of the life Guruji) there is mention of a mountain range called 'Kaag Bhamund' which remains perpetually covered with ice.
There are signs and memorials indicating the event of Guru Nanak’s visit to places in India, like Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet, Sumer mountain, Lake Mansarovar in Tibet, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Amarnath, Joshimath, Ladakh, almora, Bageshwar, Jagannath Puri, Kathmandu (Nepal) etc. These signs and other evidence of Guru Nanak’s visit are present still today.
Guru Nanak set off on his first Udaasi in 1501AD from Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district of Punjab. This Udaasi took more time than all the others. At beginning of this Udaasi Guru Nanak went from Sultanpur to his birth place in Talvandi of Rai Bhoi (Nankana Sahib) in Shekhupura district which is now in Punjab, Pakistan. Guru Nanak then went to Lahore after meeting his father. In Aemanabad he met Bhai Lalo and then proceeded to Karnal, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Delhi, Garh-Mukteshwar and Haridwar. He walked along the Shivalik Hills and visited Kashipur, Navabganj-Tanda (Guru Nanakpur), Rohailkhand, and then after passing through Rampur district, he reached the place now known as Nanak Mata. From Nanak Mata Guru Nanak went to Pilibhit, Sitapur, Lakhnow, Alahabad, Sultanpur (UP), Banaras, Patna, Gaya, Silhet, Dhubri, Gohati and Shillong in the northern tract. On his returned trip Guru Nanak visited Dhaka, Kolkata, and Jagannathpuri (Puri). Onwards along the east coast if India Guru Nanak went to Guntur, Madras and Rameshwaram in the south. From Rameshwaram Guruji went to Sri Lanka and visited Jaffna. In Jaffna Guru Nanak preached his spiritual lessons to the King Shivanath of Jaffna before returning to Kochin in India. From Kochin Guruji went to Wilderness of Andhra Pradesh. In the forest known as Kajli vana in Andhra Pradesh Kauday Bhil, the cannibal chief of the Bhil tribe abducted Mardana, Guru Nanak's companion, with intent to eat him. Guru Nanak gave Kauday Bhil spiritual lessons and dissuaded him from cannibalism.
Principal Satbir Singh has described this era in his book, “Balio Chiraag, bilx icrag” (Lamp is burning bright). Guru Nanak then went to Nanak Jheera Maltekri (in Maharashtra State) and Nanded. From there Guruji went to the home towns of Bhagat (saint) Naamdev – Narsi-Bamanni, home town of Bhagat Tirlochan – Baarsi in Sholapur district and then to Nasik. From Nasik Guru Nanak traveled to Onkareshwar, Indore, Khandwa and walked along the Narmada river and reached Gwarighat near present day Jabalpur. Gyan Singh the renowned poet has described the crossing of the Narmada river in his 'Panth Parkash':
After blessing Vindhyachal, river Narmada was crossed, Jabalpur and Chitrakoot and Rikhanpur were blessed.
From the ancient times the old road from Jabalpur to Nagpur passed through Gwarighat. Even now there is no other dock in Jabalpur where Narmada could be crossed. There is no doubt that Guru Nanak crossed Narmada here at Gwarighat.
Giani Gian Singh has mentioned Rikhanpur with special emphasis because Rishi (a holy person) Sarbang lived here on left bank of the Narmada river. Rishi Sarbang is also mentioned in the book called 'Bhavikh Vaanni' (Prophesy). This Rishi believed in useless rituals as a way to salvation (spiritual attainment to please God). He did not attain the spiritual enlightenment till ripe old age until Guru Nanak came here to bless and show him the true path of spiritual knowledge and way to God. Principal Satbir Singh and writers of old Janam Sakhis (witness accounts of lives of Guru Nanak and other Gurus) have also mentioned blessing, preaching and reforming of several thugs and criminals operating along the Narmada river by Guru Nanak.
Hindus have considered Narmada a hallowed and holy river for ages. Every year thousands of pious Hindus come here for pilgrimage. Many Hindu saints believe that it is a spiritual privilege and a means to salvation and Nirvana to spend their lives on the banks of Narmada. It is likely that Guru Nanak came and stayed here to impart spiritual knowledge and show the way to salvation to those who were misguided and entangled in worldly traps and meaningless rituals in this region.
On the left bank of Narmada there is a Gurudwara in memory of Guru Nanak’s visit. There is another Gurudwara where the river Amarkantak emanates. A resident “Udasi” Mahatma provides the services there. The place known as Onkareshwar is right on the bank of Narmada where Guru Nanak preached the Hindus and Brahmins to shun the rituals and worshipping a variety of deities and to focus their devotion from all their spiritual self to the one eternal God. By God’s will the Seva (devotional service, significant contributions) for this Gurudwara was performed by Giani Sant Singh (Maskin), the eminent scholar of the Sikh panth.
Mandala, on the banks of Narmada, was the place established by the Udasi sadhus in memory of Guru Nanak. Khair Narmada was also blessed by touch of Guru Nanak’s feet. The great scholar and author of the Gurubaanni lexicon known as “Mahan Kosh”, Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha wrote:
“According to Puranas, Narmada – venerable – the river of bliss is known as the daughter of Maikal Rishi. This is the reason that it is also known as Maikala or Maikal Kanya (daughter). Narmada is also known to be the sister of the Nagas. During a conflict between the Gandharvas (heavenly beings) and the Nagas she (Narmada) brought Purkuts to help the Nagas. Pleased by this gesture the Nagas changed her name from Maikala to Narmada. Puranas mention that Purkuts was son of Narmada. It is written in the Matsya Purana that the name of Narmada’s husband was Dussah. In “Harivansh” she is called spouse of Kurputs and she is called “Reva” and “Poorva Ganga” as well. Being daughter of Chandrama (Moon), “Indraja” and Som-devta are also mentioned as names of Narmada.”
Bhai Kahan Singh has written the above information based on Puranas (Indian/ Hindu Epics). Readers can clearly notice that there are conflicts in this 'history' (Indian/Hindu mythology) of Narmada in the Puranas.
Gurudwara Gwarighat is on the left bank of this river. 'Panth Parkash' records that this is where Guru Nanak crossed Narmada River to give sermons to Sarbang Rishi. This is also corroborated by the fact that this has been the docks for crossing Narmada since ancient times. For a long time Sant Tulsa Singh has been serving (Seva) this haloed site associated with Guru Nanak. After Sant Tulsa Singh passed away the Sikh sangat (congregation) of Jabalpur constituted a committee to look after it. Today, an inn accommodates pilgrims and travelers. Guru’s Langar is a regular feature. Every visitor and traveler is cared for lovingly.
Guruparab (religious anniversaries and events): The historic Guruparab of Hola Mahlla (Holi) is celebrated here with great éclat and pomp. Days before the event people start to converge here from far off places with great enthusiasm. The parkash Utsav (Birth anniversary) of Guru Amardas ji is celebrated with great devotion. Every Sunday congregation Divan is organized after Akhand Patth Bhog. Every week numerous devout Sikhs and others come here to listen to the divine enlightening message and wisdom of Guru Granth Sahib.
The buildings for a Sikh museum and the rooms for travelers to stay are completed. An attempt is being made to present complete Sikh history through the medium of paintings in the museum for the Sikhs of Jabalpur and Sikhs and other travelers visiting here. This Gurudwara is in a very picturesque setting and travelers of any faith or status are equally welcomed with grace and love.
According to Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha every Gurudwara should conduct morning Satsang, Langar and care for indisposed and sick. The performances of morning sangat and Langar are routine here and are mentioned earlier. A good Homoeopathic dispensary is established to provide free excellent medical care for sick and infirm.
A Library is expected to be ready soon in order to spread the sacred message of Guru Granth Sahib and the knowledge of Sikh history amongst populace. Sangat r requested to provide as many books as they can for this Library and get the blessings Guru.
For travelers going from Punjab to Hajoor Sahib (Nanded) by bus Gurud. Gwarighat is right off that road. From Punjab the road takes them to Delhi, Agra, Gwalior, Sagar, Damoh and then Jabalpur.At 22 Km milestone on the Jabalpur Nagpur road turn left and go two Km to Gwarighat.Road will take them fr Gwarighat to Jabalpur & via Nagpur on to Sach-Khand Sri Hajoor Sahib.
- By Kamaljeet Singh, Orlando, Florida.
- Writer Bhai Jasbir Singh, Sri Darbar Sahib – Amritsar, English rendition by Kamaljeet Singh
Publisher: Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Gwarighat, Jabalpur, MP India