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The city of Anandpur Sahib

Anandpur Sahib (31.235169°n 76.499128°e) (the holy City of Bliss) is one of the holiest places of the Sikhs, second only to Amritsar. Located about 95kms north-west of Chandigarh. Anandpur is framed between the Shivalik hills to the east and the Sutlej River farther away in the west, with vast green expanses and profound tranquillity all around.

It is closely linked with Sikh religious traditions and history. The ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, purchased the site from the ruler of Bilaspur in the year 1665 and founded Anandpur Sahib near the ruins of ancient Makhowa. He called it Chak Nanki after the name of his mother. The town became prosperous and reached its zenith in the times of Guru Gobind Singh, who spent 25 years of his life here.

Foundation laid by the Guru in 1689

On March 30,1689 Guru Sahib laid the foundation of a new town and named it Anandpur Sahib. To Defend Anandpur from external threats, Guru Gobind Singh constructed five forts around the town and joined them with earthworks and underground tunnels. The construction began in 1689 and took over ten years to complete. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh baptised the first five Sikhs called the Panj Piares, the five beloved ones in 1699. The Panj Piare had offered him their heads to uphold Dharma, thus creating the nucleus of the Khalsa. Chak Nanki and Anandpur Sahib as well as some adjoining villages form the present city of Anandpur Sahib.

Anandpur Sahib is accessed by Rail and Road. Nearest airport is at Chandigarh, about 75km away. The nearest railhead is at Nangal. Free accommodation is available at the gurdwara. Presently no regular hotel accommodations are available at Anandpur Sahib. One can stay in standard hotels at Nangal or Ropar.

The City of Spiritual Bliss

The city now known an Anandpur Sahib includes Chakk Nanaki, Anandpur Sahib and some adjacent villages.

It is generally believed that Anandpur was founded by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib on June 19,1665, but, in fact it was Chakk Nanaki which was first founded in 1665. The foundation stone of Anandpur Sahib was laid on March 30,1689. The area of Chakk Nanaki (in 1665) extended between the village of Agamgarh and the square between Kesgarh Sahib and the town's bus stand.

In the past, new towns were usually founded, established and developed by monarchs, leaders or wealthy men. It is a unique phenomenon in the history of the Sikh religion that its Prophets founded a number of towns and turned several villages into major towns. Hence, social, political, economic and spiritual role became one in Guru Sahib.

The first town associated with the Sikh history is Nanakana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak Sahib. But, the first town founded by Guru Nanak Sahib was Kartarpur, now in (Pakistan). Even Sultanpur Lodhi had been visited by Guru Nanak Sahib. Guru Angad Sahib turned the small village of Khadur into Khadur Sahib. Guru Amar Das Sahib founded the town of Goindwal. He also asked Guru Ram Das Sahib to establish a new Sikh State in the middle of Majha zone. Guru Ram Das Sahib laid the foundation of Guru Da Chakk which, later, came to be known as Ram Das Pur and now it is famous as Amritsar. Guru Arjan Sahib developed Guru Da Chakk into a major city and also founded the towns of Tarn Taran, Chheharta, Hargobindpur and Kartarpur (Jullundur). Guru Hargobind Sahib restablished the Akal Takht Sahib. He purchased the territory of the present town of Keeratpur Sahib {Keeratpur Sahib was founded and established by Baba Gurditta, son of Guru Hargobind Sahib}. Guru Har Rai Sahib played a major role in the development of Keeratpur Sahib and turned it into another major center of the Sikhs. By the time of Guru Harkrishan Sahib, Keeratpur Sahib had became a full-fledged town. His visit to a small village Panjokhara put the village on the world map and his visit to and death at Raja Jai Singh's residence lead to its being turned into "Bangla Sahib".

Chakk Nanaki had been founded by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. Earlier he used to live at Bakala and had spent more than seven years (1656-64) in Assam, Bengal and Bihar. He had spent some time at Talwandi Sabo and Dhamtan too. In the middle of April 1665, he made a visit to Keeratpur Sahib. When he was still at Keeratpur, on April 27,1665, Raja Deep Chand, the ruler of Bilaspur, died. The Bilaspur ruler was a very devoted Sikh. On May 10,1665, Guru Sahib went to Bilaspur to make last prayers for Raja Deep Chand. Guru Sahib stayed there till May 13. By this time Rani Champa had come to know that Guru Sahib had decided to move his headquarters to Dhamtan. This made Rani Champa despondent. She approached Mata Nanaki (Guru Sahib's mother) and begged her to ask Guru Sahib not to move far away from Bilaspur State. Mata Nanaki could not resist helping a sentimental Rani Champa. Mataji requested Guru Sahib to fulfil Rani's desire. When Guru Sahib agreed, Rani Champa offered to donate some land to Guru Sahib so that he might established a new town. Guru Sahib decided to set up new town but refused to accept a donation of the land. He selected a piece of land in between the villages of Lodipur, Mianpur and Sahota and paid regular price for the same. Rani Champa hesitatingly accepted the price of the land but her joy new no bounds at the thought that Guruji had chosen to establish his headquarters near Bilaspur State.

The site chosen by Guru Sahib, around the ruins of the ancient village of Makhowal, was very remarkable from a strategic point of view as it was surrounded by the river Satlej on one side as well as having hills and forest surrounding it as well. It proved to be a peaceful zone for meditation as well as for arts and intellectual activities. At the time it seemed safe from military interference and disturbances. The Sikhs had experienced Mughal invasions at Amritsar and Kartarpur in 1634 and 1635. Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib had participated in these battles. Though Keeratpur Sahib had remained safe from Mughal attacks, the possibility always existed because Aurangzeb was sitting on the Delhi throne and he was known for his fanaticism.

Thus, the sight selected for new town had a special importance. In 1665, the river Satlej used to flow through the present city of Anandpur Sahib (now it flows near Keeratpur Sahib). Keeratpur Sahib too was a strategic place. It was surrounded by Satlej on one side, river Sarsa on the other side and a chain of hills on the third side. Similarly, the site of Chakk Nanaki too was still better choice. It had the protection of Charn Ganga stream on two sides and river Satlej on the third. Towards the hills-side there were thick bushes and trees. Long long ago, it was covered in dense forest filled with herds of wild elephants and other animals. Then, this area was known as Hathaut (literally: abode of elephants).

The area or Chakk Nanaki was a peaceful zone. Besides, it was fertile land which could easily yield two crops annually. Hence, the new city was capable of becoming a self-sufficient City-State. Guru Sahib's selection of the land was highly appreciated by Rani Champa and the Sikhs. The Bilaspur elite was exceptionally happy because the presence of a Sikh City-State on the borders of Bilaspur State and the Mughal territory meant increased safety for Bilaspur and its associate States.

Chakk Nanaki's Foundation Laid

The foundation stone of the new town was laid down by Bhai Gurditta (great-grandson of Baba Buddha), on June 19,1665 at the present site of Guru De Mahal. The first prayers were made by Diwan Dargah Mall. Guru Sahib named the new town Chakk Nanaki after his mother Mata Nanaki. Guru Sahib spent the next three months at Chakk Nanaki. During this period a couple of house had been built for the visitors to the Sikh City.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was unable to visit Chakk Nanaki for the next six and a half years, as he was away on a missionary journey to Assam, Bengal and Bihar (January 1666 to March 1670. After this, he spent about one and a half year at Bakala (now Baba Bakala). In March 1672 Guru Sahib and his family moved to Chakk Nanaki and finally established it as his headquarters. It was from this village that the great Guru of peace set out on his mission on behalf of the Pandits of Kashmir, which ended with his martyrdom on November 11,1675.

With his father's death the young Gobind Rai became the tenth Guru of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh stayed in his father's city, However intrigue and the jealousy of the surrounding Hill chiefs were on the increase at the very same time that the Guru received an invitation from Raja Medini Prakash to visit his kingdom. So In April 1685 Guru Gobind Singh Sahib and many of his family members, his court and his Sikhs traveled to Nathan where they were warmly received. It turns out that the Raja was interested in strengthening his alliances by befriending the Guru and his Sikhs and the alliance formed worked well for both parties. The Raja's troops aided the Sikhs in building a new fort in record time. Paonta Sahib as the Guru named the fort became his home for the next three years. The Guru would often reflect on his days spent in the mountains, whether in refelction, hunting, training his Sikhs in warfare and of course his many hours spent in writing as some of the most productive and happy years of his life. In October of 1688 he left the area returning to Chakk Nanaki in November 1688. On March 30,1689 Guru Sahib laid the foundation of a new town naming it Aanandpur Sahib.

Today Chakk Nanaki and Anandpur Sahib both as well as some adjoining villages (Sahota, Lodipur, Agampur, Mataur etc) form the present city of Anandpur Sahib. Top Map of Anandpur Sahib :

Chakk Nanaki was founded by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib was established by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. The boundaries of Chakk Nanaki, Anandpur Sahib, Sahota, Lodipur, Mataur, Agampur etc. are not known to a common man. Only revenue officers (Patwari and Lambardar) know about the actual boundary-lines. In government papers Chakk Nanaki is known as "Chakk" only.

The square between the present bus stand and Gurdwara Kesgarh Sahib is the meeting point of Chakk Nanaki, Anandpur Sahib and Lodipur. Gurdwara Guru De Mahal (Bhora Sahib, Damdama Takht Sahib and Manji Sahib) are in the territory of Chakk Nanaki. It was the residence of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. Gurdwara Sis Ganj is on the border of Chakk Nanaki and Anandpur Sahib. The Bus Stand, Hospital and the Girls School are in Chakk Nanaki. A part of the saw-mill near Gurdwara Holgarh Sahib is in the territory of Chakk Nanaki and its boundary wall is within the boundary of Sahota village. The Milk Bar (near the squares) and the Sarover (tank) are in Lodipur village. The garden adjacent to the police post is a part of Chakk Nanaki. Khalsa High School is in the territory of villages Sahota. Quilla Anandgarh Sahib Gurdwara Shahidi Bagh (under the management of one group of Nihangs) are situated in the village of Lodipur. The area around Kesgarh Sahib is a part of Anandpur Sahib. Khalsa College has been built in the territory of village Mataur. The bridge over Charan Ganga is a part of Chakk Nanaki. Now all these areas form the present city of Anandpur Sahib.

The Anandpur zone has undergone several major changes in the past 334 years (1665 to 1999). The river Satluj, which used to flow near Anandgarh fort, has changed its course and now it flows about seven km away (near Keeratpur Sahib). "Himaiti" stream, which used to protect Anandpur Sahib from Mughal invasions, has disappeared. Several other rainy streams too have disappeared. A bridge has been built on Charan Ganga rivulet. The hill on which a tent was put up (Tambu Wali Pahari) on the day of revelation of Khalsa does not exist any more. Even the hill on which Kesgarh Sahib shrine has been built is, now, at least ten feet (more than three meters) lesser in height than it was in 1698. A road has been built to link Kesgarh Sahib and Anandgarh Sahib. A very large number of new buildings too have been constructed in and around Anandpur Sahib. Today's Anandpur is a lot different from Anandpur Sahib of the eighteenth century. However, almost all the shrines of the zone have been built at actual sites.

Today, Anandpur Sahib is a tehsil. Its 240 villages include Chakk Nanaki, Agampur, Sahota, Lodipur, Mianpur, Mataur (Anandpur Sahib zone), Keeratpur Sahib, Jauwal, Kalyanpur Bhaguwal (Keeratpur zone), Jindbari, Khera-Kalmot, Nangal (Nangal zone), Kahanpur Khuhi, Nurpur Bedi (Nurpur Bedi zone) Bajrur, Basali, Chanauli (Takhtgarh zone) etc. "Guru Ka Lahore" and Gurdwara Taragarh are a part of Bilaspur district (Himanchal Pradesh). Though most of the places associated with the history of Anandpur Sahib are in the territories of Anandpur Sahib and Keeratpur Sahib zones but Kalmot, Basali, Bajrpur, Bibhaur, Bassi Kalan, Bhattha Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib, Machhiwara (as well as Machhiwara to Talwandi Sabo) are situated in other zones. Similarly, Gurdwaras at Gurpalah, Bilaspur, Nahan, Paonta Sahib, Bhangani, Nadaun, Rivalsar etc are in Himanchal Pradesh. No Gurdwara has, so far, been built at Ajner, Malakpur and some other places associated with Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's stay at Anandpur Sahib and his journey from Machhiwara to Dina Kangar.

Anandpur Sahib had a population of a few hundreds at the time of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib but hundreds of Sikhs used to visit Anandpur Sahib to make obeisance to Guru Sahib. In the month of March more than twenty thousand Sikhs used to attend the annual Sikh gathering at Anandpur Sahib. On the night of December 5 and 6,1675 when Guru Gobind Singh Sahib finally left Anandpur Sahib, only one person, Bhai Gurbakhsh Das, was left in the town. After a few years the families of Gulab Singh and Sham Singh (great-grandsons of Guru Hargobind Sahib) moved to Anandpur and began living there.

With the passage of time Anandpur Sahib again became a prominent Sikh center. At the time of Akali Phula Singh, in the first decade of the nineteenth century, the family of Bhai Surjan Singh Sodhi (a descendant of Guru Hargobind Singh) used to live there. At that time the population of Anandpur Sahib was less than three thousand. In 1868, when the first regular census was held, the population of Anandpur Sahib was 6869. In the first half of the twentieth century its population remained less than seven thousand. During this period an epidemic spread through the town and the adjoining villages, resulting into exodus of most of the population. After 1947, a few Sikh families, which had been uprooted from the west Punjab (Pakistan), moved to Anandpur Sahib. After a couple of years the Bhakhra-Nangal-Ganguwal projects added population of several hundred persons to the town. Today, in 1999, the population of the municipal area of Anandpur Sahib is around 13000 and there is no possibility of any extra-ordinary increase in spite of launching of several new projects in connection with celebrations of the tercentenary of Khalsa.

The new projects launched at Anandpur Sahib in 1998-99 are likely to give a new look to the town, but, the city, which used to be Anandpur Sahib of the period of Guru Sahib will not remain the same.

Thousand years ago, the Anandpur zone, from Keeratpur Sahib to Nangal, which was known as "Hathaut" (literally: abode of elephants), was a dense forest with thick growth of trees and bushes. This jungle-valley was surrounded by several hill belts, river Satluj, Charan Ganga and other rivulets. It was a home for elephants, lions, bears, wolves and other beasts. This area, about 50 km in length and 10-12 km in width, did not have any human population. By fifteenth century most of the beasts had either been killed or had moved to the upper hills, but, still, people were afraid of visiting this area. It was only in June 1665 when Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib founded the town of Chakk Nanaki that people began visiting this area. Guru Sahib turned this haunting forest into a fine place. The area where people did not dare to enter even during daytime became a great centre of spiritualism, learning and arts. Before 1665 the zone of Anandpur Sahib had no mention in history. According to a local myth a giant named Makho used to live here. At that time this place was known as Makhowal. According to another tradition two brothers named Makho and Mato were the chiefs of this area. They founded the villages of Makhowal and Mataur. Both were cruel chiefs. As a result, residents of these areas began moving to far-off places and finally both the village were deserted. But, there is no historical evidence to prove these 'stories'. In 1665, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib laid the foundation of Chakk Nanaki at the top of the mound known as ruins of Makhowal.

Today, three villages of Hathaut i.e. Chakk Nanaki, Anandpur Sahib and Keeratpur Sahib, have special mention in the history of the world. It is because Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Guru Gobind Singh Sahib had stayed there. From Anandpur Sahib to a Bhattha Sahib (near Ropar), the scene of furling Khalsa flags, throughout the zone, tell the story of the State of Guru Sahib. Several hundred Sikhs laid their lives in this area. The whole of the zone has been immortalized by Guru Sahib, their families and the Sikh martyrs. It is known as Guruji's Land. And, the Bilaspur State, which compelled Guru Sahib to abandon Anandpur Sahib, exists no more. Its capital Bilaspur, too, lies fifty feet (more than fifteen metres) deep under the waters of the lake named after Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. The family which wanted to expel the Sikhs from the zone does not exist any more. The family, the State, the capital have ceased to be even a political entity.

Anandpur Sahib "City of Bliss'; is one of the most holy places of the Sikhs. it is closely linked with their religious traditions and history. Situated 45km from Ropar on the left bank of the river Sutlej, Anandpur Sahib has a number of historical Gurdwaras. The town gained further importance with the construction of Nangal and Bhakra projects nearby, 20 km to the north. These projects have brought Anandpur Sahib on the rail and road map of India. It is located at a distance of 80 km from Chandigarh - the city of dreams.

oday, Anandpur is one of the five most important religious places of the Sikhs. This is the birth place of the Sikh faith. Here Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth on Baisakhi day in 1699. The Takht Keshgarh Sahib stands at the place where the tenth Master baptized the 'Panj Pyaras', the five beloved ones, and administered Amrit to them.

Besides, there are a number of other Gurdwaras associated with Sikh history. Gurudwara Guru Ka Mahal was built by Guru Tegh Bahadur for his residence and it was here that sons of Guru G6bjnd Singh were born. Gurudwara Sisgani commemorates the spot ~where the head of ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated when it was brought to Anandpur Sahib by Bhai Jaita from Delhi, after his martyrdom in Chandni Chowk in 1675.

Besides, Gurdwaras Keshgarh, Anandgarh, Lohgarh and Fatehgarh mark the spots where once stood four fortresses built by Guru Gobind Singh who fought many pitched battles against Mughal and Rajput forces.

Every year on the day following Holi, Hola Mohalla festival is celebrated at Anandpur Sahib. On this day Anandpur Sahib relives the martial splendor of the Khalsa under their great Guru. About two lakh pilgrims from all over India and abroad participate in the festival with abundance gay. For visitors, accommodation is no problem at Anandpur Sahib. Five well furnished tourist huts, each with a double bedroom have been set up by Tourist Department of Punjab Government. Nearby at Nangal the Punjab Tourist Department has a 70 bed tourist bungalow where accommodation is available at a nominal rate. The field hostels of Bhakra Nangal Management Board also offer accommodation. Pilgrims mostly come by rail and roa4 to this historic place, but sophisticated pilgrims and tourists come by air from all over India and abroad. For them nearest airport is Chandigarh from where they can travel by buses. For pilgrims and tourists, a visit to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Museum is a must. It was set up in the memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur who made the supreme sacrifice for sake of liberation of the oppressed and for the freedom of conscience and belief. The great saga of Sikh history of this period is full of struggle and sacrifices which are depicted here through the medium of paintings prepared by eminent artists. These paintings are primarily in realistic style covering the most turbulent significant and epoch-making period of the Sikh history.

See also

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