DAMDAMA SAHIB, also known as Talwandi Sabo (29° 59'N, 75° 5'E), a small town 28 km southeast of Bathinda in the Punjab, is sacred to the Sikhs as the seat of one of their five takhts or centres of highest religious authority. Damdama Sahib, place of repose where the Guru had some respite after a period of continuous turmoil, was visited successively by Guru Tegh Bahadur while travelling in these parts in the early 1670's, and Guru Gobind Singh who put up here for over nine months in 1706. Tradition also recounts a visit by Guru Nanak during one of his journeys across the country. In the earlier half of the eighteenth century, the place became for the Sikhs a cantonment as well as a seat of learning. It gained renown especially under Baba Dip Singh Shahid (d. 1757). The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee approved, vide Resolution No. 32, dated 18 November 1966, Damdama Sahib as a takht, adjured the Khalsa to keep this takht in mind as they did in the past while saying their ardas, and recommended to the Punjab Government amendment to Gurdwara Act so that the jathedar of the takht, like those of the other four takhts, could be counted as an ex officio member of the Shiromani Committee. Several shrines, sarovars and bungas survive as relics of its historical past.
GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB SRI GURU TEGH BAHADUR PATSHAHI NAUVIN, also called Darbar Sahib, is a flatroofed rectangular room, marking the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur is believed to have put up and preached. Daily gatherings for religious prayers, kirtan and discourses take place here. Sacred relics including two swords, one muzzleloading gun, a seal and an old copy of the Guru Granth Sahib are preserved here in a domed cubicle behind the sanctum. Another relic, a mirror, said to have been presented to Guru Gobind Singh by the sangat of Delhi, is displayed in the hall. Of the two swords, one is believed to have belonged to Guru Gobind Singh and the other, heavy and doubleedged, to Baba Dip Singh. The muzzleloader is believed to be the one Guru Gobind Singh received as a present (See THARA SAHIB below).
GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB PATSHAHI IX and X is another shrine dedicated to Guru Tegh Bahadur. About 100 metres to the west of Darbar Sahib, it marks the spot where he used to sit supervising the digging of the tank, Gurusar. Guru Gobind Singh also sanctified the site by a visit during his stay at Talvandi Sabo. The present building, constructed by the Sant Sevak Jatha, Buriga Mastuana, is a marblefloored hall with a circular tower topped by a domed pavilion at each corner. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated on a canopied seat of white marble, tastefully carved, in a square sanctum marked off by marblelined pillars. Above the sanctum are two storeys of square rooms overtopped by a lotus dome. The goldplated pinnacle has an umbrellashaped finial with a khanda on top.
GURUSAR SAROVAR, a bathing tank, 130 x 90 metres, with a 10metre wide marbled pavement around it, was got excavated originally by Guru Tegh Bahadur. He is said to have inaugurated the work by digging the first few sods and carrying the earth in his doshala or rug. Guru Gobind Singh is believed to have had the tank desilted and deepened. The lining and marble paving are works recently carried out.
GURDWARA NIVAS ASTHAN DAMDAMA SAHIB PATSHAHI X, a multistoreyed octagonal tower, adjoining the Darbar Sahib, marks the apartments of Guru Gobind Singh. According to Sakhi Pothi, when Guru Tegh Bahadur arrived at Talvandi Sabo, he halted at the base of a huge anthill, which he saluted as he alighted. Questioned by the Sikhs accompanying him, he explained, "A grand temple, nine spears in height, with golden pinnacles will be erected on that spot by the great one who comes after me. Let my shrine be at the foot of his temple." The Guru Granth Sahib is now seated in a domed room at the top floor of the tower.
TAKHT SRI DAMDAMA SAHIB, adjoining the Darbar Sahib on the east, marks the site where Guru Gobind Singh during his stay here held his daily assemblies. Guru Tegh Bahadur had called Talvandi Sabo Guru ki Kashi, predicting that "many scholars, philosophers, theologians, copyists with elegant hand, students and devotees will adorn the place." The prophecy came true when learned Sikhs poured in from far and near to be with Guru Gobind Singh. Among them was Bhai Mani Singh who came from Delhi escorting Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devari, the Guru's consorts separated from him after the evacuation ofAnandpur. Guru Gobind Singh had Bhai Mani Singh prepare a fresh copy of the Guru Granth Sahib under his own supervision. The spot where this work was carried out is still shown the pilgrims. Copies continued to be prepared here from this recension. One such copy preserved here is believed to have been prepared by Baba Dip Singh Shahid himself. It contains 707 leaves excluding the list of contents spread over 29 leaves. It was from here that the Guru issued his commands and letters to farflung Sikh sangats. The place became in fact a centre of Sikh learning. This character it has maintained ever since as the home of what is known as Damdami Taksal, or the Damdama School of Learning. The present building of the Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, constructed during the 1970's under the supervision of Sant Seva Singh of Sri Kesgarh, is a spacious highceilinged hall, with a pavilion, at either end. The takht (throne) proper is a 2 metre high square platform lined with white marble and marked off with marblelined columns in the southern part of the hall. This is the sanctum sanctorum on which the Guru Granth Sahib is seated. After the evening service the Holy Book is carried to the old Mariji Sahib in a procession of hymnsinging devotees. The interior of the sanctum is decorated with reflecting glass pieces of varying colours set in geometrical and floral designs. Over the sanctum, above the hall roof, is a domed square room topped by a tall goldplated pinnacle and an umbrellashaped fmial, with a khanda at the apex. Octagonal towers at the hall corners have also domed pavilions above them. All these domes are lined with glazed tiles in white, light yellow and light blue colours.
GURDWARA MATA SUNDARI JI and MATA SAHIB DEVANJI, to the southeast of the Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, marks the place where the holy ladies lived during their stay at Talvandi Sabo in 1706. The Gurdwara comprises a square domed room with the Guru Granth Sahib seated on a platform in the middle of it.
GURDWARA LIKHANSAR is a square hall, including a domed sanctum within it, at the southeastern corner of the sarovar, holy tank. According to Bhai Kuir Singh, Gurbilas Patsbabi X, there used to be a pool of water here in the days of Guru Gobind Singh, who sitting here sometimes would have reedpens for the writers made and then throw them into the pool. Once, Bhai Dalla, the local chief converted a disciple, entreated him to explain why he ordered thousands of pens to be cut and thrown away. To quote the Sakhi Pothi, the Guru said: "Thousands of Sikhs will hereafter study the holy texts in this place and then pens will come into use. This is our Kashi (seat of learning); those who study here will cast off their ignorance and rise to be authors, poets and commentators."
GURDWARA JANDSAR, half a kilometre to the northwest of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, marks the place referred to as Jandiana in old chronicles. Here Guru Gobind Sihgh used to disburse largesse to his warriors. The Gurdwara now comprises a domed sanctum, with a small sarovar adjacent to it.
TIBBI SAHIB is an open space close to a pond known as Mahalsar. Here Guru Gobind Sihgh trained his Sikhs in mock battles.The site continues to be the venue for the traditional Hola Mahalla and Baisakhi.
NANAKSAR, an 80metre square sarovar halfway between the Takht Sahib and Gurdwara Jandsar, was till lately a natural pond called Nanaksar. It was so named in the belief that Guru Nanak had stayed on the bank of it during his visit to Talvandi.
BURJ BABA DEEP SINGH, a 20metre high tower with a dome at the top adjoining the northeast corner of the Takht Sahib, was constructed by Baba Dip Singh of the Shahid misi, who remained at Talvandi to look after the shrines after Guru Gobind Singh had left the place to resume his travels. He is also credited with the sinking of the well which still supplies drinking water to the complex.
SAMADH BHAI DALL SINGH, a small domed shrine standing a bare 30 metres to the south of the Takht Sahib, marks the site where Chudhari Dalla, Dall Singh after he had received the vows of the Khalsa at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh, was cremated.
THARA SAHIB BHAI BIR SINGH and DHIR SINGH, a small room in the vicinity ofBurj Baba Dip Singh, has recently replaced a platform (thara, in Punjabi) which marked the place where two Rarighreta Sikhs, named, according to local tradition, Bir Singh and Dhir Singh, father and son respectively, offered themselves as targets for the Guru to test a muzzleloading gun presented to him by a Sikh. According to Bhai Santokh Sihgh, Sn Giir Pratap Sura/ Granth, Chaudhari Dalla once boasted about the loyalty and courage of his soldiers. Guru Gobind Singh asked him to provide a couple of his men as targets so that he could test the range and striking power of the new weapon. The strange demand stunned Dalla and his men out of their wits, and none of them did in fact come forward. The Guru thereupon called out the two Sikhs who were at that moment busy tying their turbans. They came running, turbans in hand, each trying to be in front of the other in order to be the first to face the bullet. Dalla, astonished at the Sikhs' spirit of sacrifice, learnt to be humble.
BUNGA MASTUANA SAHIB, established in 1923, by Sant Atar Singh, is not a historical shrine as such but is a prestigious institution for training young scholars in the theory and practice of the Sikh faith. It is a vast complexcomprising dormitories, rows of cubicles, a dining hall, an agricultural farm and a magnificent gurdwara with a large assembly hall. All these shrines, other than Bunga Mastuana Sahib, are under the management of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which took over control in 1963 from the family of the custodian, Captain Ranjit Singh of Shahzadpur.
References 1. Tara Singh, Sn Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n.d. 2. Thakar Sihgh, Giani, Sn Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1933 3. Malva Desh Ratan di Sakhi Pothi. Amritsar, 1968 4. Harbans Singh, Guru Gobind Singh. Chandigarh, 1966