Vaisakhi Mela of Nangali Sahib

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Vaisakhi Mela of Nangali Sahib

The historic Nangali Sahib shrine played a great role in preaching Sikhism in Jammu and Kashmir. The Sikh community of the state is greatly attached and devoted to historic shrine Nangali Sahib. Apart from routine visits of Sikh and Hindu devotees to Dera Nangali Sahib, the Sikhs from all corners of the state assemble at this holy Dera every year on the eve of Baisakhi to pay offerings and obeisance. The devotees come with families a week ahead on the eve of Baisakhi festival and enjoy the community langer, religious sermons, natural atmosphere and attractive scenic views from this Dera. They meet their relatives, friends, kiths and kin at this very place. The old persons recall their memories by sitting on the bank of Drungli stream, the youths play Gathka (a game of sword), the women remain busy in preparation of community langer and finally participate in Sangat, Pangat and Langer. Therefore it takes the shape of Mela which continues for a week. A number of Akhand Paths of Guru Granth Sahib Ji start a two days before the festival which concludes on the day of Baisakhi. After Shabad Kirtan, Ardas, Bhog and Langer, this religious function takes the shape of Mela in which thousands of pilgrims including Hindus and Muslims participate.

Dera Sant Pura Nangali Sahib is about four kilometers away from Poonch city. This important shrine is located in between the Doda (9000 feet above the sea level) range of mountains on the left bank of Durga Nadhi (Drungli). About 2006 years ago, a great saint and spiritual personality of his time Thakur Bhai Mela Singh establish Dera Sant Pura Nangali Sahib at this very place. In those days, the village was known as Bowli but with the establishment of Dera and Gurudwara, the village was renamed by the public as Nangali Sahib after the name of Gurudwara Nangali Sahib. Presently, the Dera Saint Pura Nangali Sahib complex comprises Samadhi of Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji, Tapo Asthan (cave), three storied Gurudwara Sahib building having about 70 rooms, Langer Hall and new Gurudwara building constructed in memory of Mahant Bachiter Singh Ji a first aid ca entre and Rest House.

The Dera Nangali Sahib has a long historical background. As per Tariq-e-Aqwam-e-Poonch of Mohammad Din Foaq the 10th Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj after laying the foundation of Khalsa Panth had deputed Bhai Pheru Singh Ji, Bhai Punjab Singh Ji and Bhai Rocha Singh Ji for spreading Sikhism in Kashmir and Pothohar areas. Saint Bhai Pheru Singh Ji (1640-1697 AD) remained busy in missionary work in Hazara district on the Western side of Poonch, Bhai Punjab Singh Ji (1672-1729 AD) established his Dera at Chattar Khalas in Muzaffarabad and Bhai Rocha Singh Ji, the disciple of Saint Bhai Pheru Singh Ji was asked to establish his Gaddi (seat) in Poonch Illaqa. Therefore, Saint Bhai Rocha Singh Ji (1688-1803 AD) came to Poonch Illaqa and established the Dera (seat at Rawalakote now in POK). He constructed a Gurudwara, started Guru Ka Langar and preaching of Sikhism. With the sincere efforts of these saints, the new religion got popularity among Hindu masses and they started embracing Sikhism.

Saint Bhai Rocha Singh Ji died in 1803 AD. Before his death he had nominated his disciple Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji of village Koteray Tehsil Bagh as his successor. Therefore, on Baisakhi of 1803 AD, the sangat assembled at Rawalakote in which Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji was formally declared as Mahant of the Gaddi.

Prof. Netar Singh writes in his book 'Dera Nangali Sahib' that Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji ascended to the Gaddi at the age of 20 in 1803 AD at Rawalakote. Immediately after the construction of Samadhi of Saint Bhai Rocha Singh Ji at Rawalakote, he left the town with armed devotees for mountainous areas on religious tour and reached Poonch town in 1803 AD.

Finding the environment of Poonch town was not peaceful and conducive for a saint to live in, Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji moved towards Bowli (present Nangali Sahib) which was a Hindu dominated village at that time. During his visit, Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji saw a solitary place on the bank of Durga Nadi, a scenic spot. He found it suitable for meditation and decided to establish a Dera here. He at once decided to shift his Dera from Rawalakote to this place. The devotees on his order cleared the forests of Nangals from some area and constructed Kachha Gurudwara, Kitchen and Musaffar Khana for the convenience of the pilgrims. In the month of August 1803 AD, Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji formally inaugurated the Dera. As per Tarikh-e-Aquam-e-Poonch the ruler of Poonch principality in 1803 AD was Gujjar Wazir Ru-Allah-Khan Sangu. It is said that Ru-Allah had approved Thakur Ji to settle in Poonch area instead of Rawalakote. Therefore, Thakur Ji selected Nangali Sahib for meditation and preaching of Sikhism. In 1814 AD during the first attack of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on Kashmir, Maharaja had established royal camp at Bowali near Poonch, visited Nangali Sahib and met Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji for blessing. In 1823 AD the Khalsa governor of Poonch Dewan Dhanpat Rai had annexed two villages with Nangali Sahib for continuation of Langer. In 1837 AD when Raja Gulab Singh (later on who become Maharaja of J&K) of Jammu came to Poonch on the order of Maharaja Ranjit Singh for subsiding Poonch revolt, he also visited Nangali Sahib shrine and attached a village with the shrine.

The great Saint Thakur Bhai Mela Singh Ji passed away in 1854 AD. After that Saint Bhai Mana Singh Ji (1854-1870 AD), Bhai Mangal Singh Ji (1870-1877 AD), Bhai Rattan Singh Ji (1878-1879 AD), Bhai Avtar Singh Ji (1879-1892 AD), Bhai Rattan Singh Ji Modi (1892-1901 AD), and Bhai Morh Singh Ji (1901-1919 AD) remained the Mahants of Dera Nangali Sahib. In 1919 AD when Bhai Mangal Singh Ji attained the Gaddi of Nangali Sahib, the Raja of Poonch Sukhdev Singh had also participated in the ceremony. Holiday was declared in Poonch State and on behalf of Poonch government Rs. 500 were offered as obeisance. Saint Bhai Mangal Singh Ji made a number of additions in the Gurudwara complex which was constructed by Bhai Morh Singh Ji. He also started Gurmukhi Pathshala at Poonch and Bhantani (now in PoK).

After the death of Bhai Mangal Singh Ji, his disciple Bhai Bachitter Singh Ji succeeded him on 23rd of October 1947. During the happenings of 1947, Mahant ji was compelled to come to Poonch town as the village Nangali Sahib too fell to enemy. After the liberation of the village, Mahant Ji immediately rushed to Nangali Sahib but the original Gurudwara complex was destroyed by the tribes men. Therefore, he was putting up in a small room near the Dera. Then he planned for construction of a big Gurudwara complex and started tours of villages and towns for collection of donations. In the meantime, due to implementation of land reform act, all the Jagir of the shrine was taken over by the Government except 182 kanal cultivable land. Out of this land about 100 kanal washed away in 1959 floods. Even then the construction of Gurudwara Sahib and continuation of Langer was not stopped by Mahant Ji and in 1966, three storied Gurudwara building was completed at a cost of Rs. 15 lakhs. This is the unique religious building in Poonch Illaqa.

Mahant Bachitter Singh Ji passed away at Nangali Sahib on 1st November 1991. He was 74. On 2nd November 1991 after the cremation of Mahant Ji, a dewan of prominent Sikh personalities was held at Nangali Sahib. In this religious meeting, Sardar Harnam Singh a Sikh leader and associate of Mahant Bachitter Singh Ji told the Sangat before Guru Granth Sahib that it was the will of Late Mahant Ji that his true disciple Bhai Manjeet Singh Ji be his successor.

Apart from spiritual and missionary work, Mahant Bhai Manjeet Singh Ji took interest in further development of Dera. He constructed a new Gurudwara Sahib at Nangali Sahib in memory of his predecessor Mahant Bachitter Singh Ji.

He purchased about 50 kanal cultivable lands in Jhullas and Chandak area for continuation of Langar. With his serious efforts, an Engineering College and a B.Ed. College at Digiana Jammu have been established for deserving students. This is the main contribution of Mahant Ji for the community. He has also taken a number of social reforms. He is also planning to open a Medical College for the higher education of children of remote and border areas. His contribution in the field of education are remarkable.

See also