Guru Nanak at Puri

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GURU NANAK’ MEMORIAL AT PURI

---  A   Historical Need  For  The  Sikhs.


                                       Guru Nanak, the voice of compassion and universal love, set out from Punjab in 1497 A.D, to convey the message of One God and universal brotherhood  of humanity  in all directions.  The long journeys he undertook for this purpose, the places he visited ,and important people of all the religions he met, are mind boggling.  Wherever  he went, he dazzled the minds of the people, exhorted them to shed spiritual slavery, and invariably left a permanent imprint on their minds.
          Guru Nanak undertook four Udasis i.e. long journeys, in four different directions. The first one was of longest duration and the destination was Jagan Nath Puri.  This destination was carefully chosen. Puri was one of the four Dhams established by Shankracharya in 7th century, and later on it had become the prominent centre of Vampanthis.  During the times of Guru Nanak, this philosophy of salvation had degenerated into the pleasures of flesh. Guru Nanak after touring the ‘Kamrup Desh’, which comprised the areas of Assam, Bengal and Orissa, reached Jagan Nath Puri in June, 1510 A.D. What happened there during Guru Jee’s visit is recorded in detail in every Janam Sakhi (biography of the Guru). Guruji stayed there for about  one and half month, recited two important shabads(Aarti) like, “Gagan Mein Thal........ Bhav Khandana Teri Aarti Hoai.” which are part of Guru Granth Sahib ,and are  recited by the Sikhs everywhere during Akhand Path. The historical context in which those shabads were recited is very important to project the philosophy of Guru Nanak.
             Bhagat Jaidev’s hymns, which he composed in his well known composition Gita Govinda at Puri, are also incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib. Puri, therefore, has a place of pride in the mind of the Sikhs.
               Puri acquired further importance in Sikh history as it contributed to Sikh history till the time of Guru Gobind Singh. After religious persecution of  the Sikhs by Aurangzeb and other Mughal Emperors, it lost connection with the Sikhs as the Sikhs had to leave their religious places and had to go into hiding. Since then,  the place has remained ignored  and neglected by the Sikhs till today.  In order to project the importance of Puri for the Sikhs, it is imperative to see its long historical connection with the Sikh history and the Sikhs.  It is from this angle, that I have tried to trace the historical connection from the times of Guru Nanak till today.
           After Guru Nanak, no Sikh Guru except Guru Tegh Bahadur undertook long journeys outside Punjab. The second Sikh  Guru, Guru Angad Dev Jee, tried to consolidate Guru Nanak’s Bani and to propagate the same.  For that purpose, Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak’s life and his visit to various places were got written in details.  In the Janam Sakhi of Bhai Bala, Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri is mentioned in great detail. Two places, Mangu Math and Bauli Math also find mention in the Janam Sakhi as being intimately connected with Guru Nanak’s visit to Puri. The third Guru, Guru Amar Dass, took further steps for propagation of Guru Nanak’s new creed and appointed missionaries for that purpose in different parts of the country.  Bhai Mohan was the first missionary appointed for the area of Bengal and Orissa in about  1562 AD.  The missionary work took a further fillip, when Baba Shri Chand accepted the supremacy of his father’s mission and his new creed, and undertook its propagation during the time of 4th and 5th Gurus. Baba Shri Chand, whose Udasi followers are  now-a-days  managing  Bauli Math and Mangu Math in Puri, had become a Sanyasi and did not marry. During the last years of his life, he adopted Baba Gurditta, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, and entrusted to him the missionary work of Sikhism in various parts of India. Baba Gurditta under the guidance of Guru Hargobind opened many new missionary centres at far flung places.
             The chief missionary appointed for Jagan Nath Puri was one Almast, who  had done impressive missionary work in the areas of the present Uttar Pradesh during the life time of Baba Shri Chand.  It is said that it was Almast who got constructed Dharamsalas at the places historically connected with Guru Nanak’s visit, including the buildings at Bauli Math and Mangu Math at Puri  Almast with his extensive religious knowledge and deep spirituality won respect for Sikhism in the area of Jagan Nath Puri.  It is because of Almast’s impressive work that Guru  Tegh Bahadur chose to visit the place in 1670 AD, during his visit to Assam, Bengal and other areas.  Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed at Bauli Math, which was said to be dug by Guru Nanak, for about fortnight and got the same repaired. Guru Tegh Bahadur opened a free kitchen i.e., Langar for the pilgrims of all faiths and further explained to the people the principles of Guru Nanak’s mission and philosophy.  The ordinary people as well as the learned Pandits were impressed by Guruji’s way of life and exposition of the philosophy of Sikhism.  The people in the area had great respect for Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus, and the same was further deepened.  It is because of that respect that the people use to come to meet the living Gurus.
            Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagan Nath Puri, in the same traditions, came and offered his head to Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 AD, at the time of creation of Khalsa Panth as one of the Panj Piaras.  The thread of historical connection from Guru Nanak’s first visit to the creation of Khalsa Panth is continuous in one way or the other.  But, after this great historical event, the connection between Puri and the Sikhs was snapped for a very long period. The Government of Orissa  should help  to raise this memorial  in memory of Bhai Himmat Singh also.
            It was only in 1838 AD, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his last illness offered to donate the famous Kohinoor diamond to the Temple of Jagan Nath at the suggestion of his astrologer, that the place finds mention in the Sikh history again. The royal custodian Beli Ram refused to acced to the royal wish of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ,and Kohinoor Diamond could not find its way to the temple of Jagan Nath Puri.  Beli Ram and his family suffered a tragic death and, the Sikhs lost their kingdom in a short time.  The British, as a matter of policy did not encourage the missionary work of  any Indian religion.  Jagan Nath Puri also lost connection with the Sikhs as the places connected with Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit were not properly kept. The local Udasi Sadhus  totally ignored all the traditions of Sikhism and its practices at the places  connected with Sikh history.
             These days, the general population of the city do not know anything about Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri,  and particularly about the historical places connected with Guru Nanak’s name.  The Udasi Sadhus managing these places also do not know much about the purpose of Guru Nanak’s visit, but Guru Granth Sahib is  ceremonially  placed there in the corner of these two Maths.
           Sikhs after independence have made some unsuccessful attempts to acquire those places for the purpose of building Gurudwaras,  but due to political complications, the attempts have failed due to one reason or the other. The Sikhs wanted  to build Gurdwara only  at the place of Bauli Math. But the Udasi people did not  agree to hand over the possession  of the place  for that purpose. Therefore, there is no trace of memory of  Guru Nanak’s  historical visit to Puri. It is a matter of surprise  to the people,  and matter of shame for the Sikhs.
            In 1993,  Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society had taken initiative to construct Guru Nanak’s Memorial at the  sea shore of Jagan Nath Puri to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to Puri, and to project his philosophy at a place where other religions of India stand represented in one form or the other.  Kabir and Chaitanaya who visited the place have impressive Maths constructed by their followers, but Guru Nanak and his philosophy  is unrepresented at such a great historical place.  It is  a major challenge  to see Guru Nanak’s philosophy and Sikhism represented among the other major religions of India. Otherwise, the people would say, as a Minister of Orissa said in 1993, that ”the Sikhs construct Gurudwaras only at places where they expect some monetary gains.”  This is an unfair charge against them because it is against the history of the Sikhs. The people know that the Sikhs have not allowed to go into oblivion any place connected with the name of their Gurus so far.  Why is Puri, such an important religious place, the only exception?  The Sikhs have to give an answer now ---in the form of an impressive Memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to this place. It was because of old love that the Sikhs felt deeply pained  to see the recent cyclonic tragedy of vast devastation in Orissa and they rose to help whole heartedly the people of Orissa in their times of misfortune. 
              The people of Orissa should help the Sikhs to cement their bonds of love  with Puri by co-operating in raising this memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s first great historical visit to Orissa,  and particularly to Puri. Since 1995, our Society  has made serious efforts  to start the construction of the memorial, but the same has got delayed due to one reason or the orther. The last  reason given that  Guru Nanak’s memorial would creat problems of security,  is not understandable at all. Therefore,  the Government of Orissa  should  take immediate  steps  to  hand over the possession of land  already allotted  to the society,  at least at the end of the  year long  celebrations  of Khalsa,  started  in April, 1999. That would be real celebration of India’s Secularism in the begining of 21st century.



April 13, 2000. Dr. M.S. Rahi

General Secretary

Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society



Copy to:

1. The Chief Minister, Orissa.

2. The Home Minister, Orissa.

3. The Revenue Minister, Orissa.

4. The Collector, Puri, Orissa.


 _________________________________________________________________________________________



15.04.2000


To


           The Collector
           Puri, Orissa.


Subject: Lease of Government land in favour of the Society for construction of a Memorial of Guru Nanak at Puri.

 Sir,
           With reference to your letter No. 1003/Rev.,  dated 23.03.2000, I am appearing before you  in order to explain the case of the Society. The historical background of the  desire of the followers of Guru Nanak to build  memorial at Puri is explained in the paper  “GURU NANAK’S MEMORIAL AT PURI - A Historical need for The Sikhs.”  Why this project was undertaken by the Society  is  also explained in this paper. (Copy of the paper is attached herewith).
           The present initiative to raise this memorial took place in October, 1993 when two members  of the Society were visiting  Puri for a different purpose. Since then  correspondence between the Society and the Orissa Government has ensued. The first letter was written to Smt. Gian Patnaik. W/o  then  Hon’ble Chief Minister, Late  Shri Biju Patnaik on 4th Aug., 1994, and afterwards Shri Bhupinder Singh, Minister of  Tourism and Culture in the previous Government took up the matter.  Then  the land    was allotted  to the Society  adjoining Sat Sang and Holiday Home of Southern Railway  (near BNR Hotel) in 1997 as is evident from many letter written to the Society by the Hon’ble Minister.

The Society throughout was insisting for handing over the possession of the allotted land. But unfortunately, the handing over of possession of the land was delayed for the reasons not known to the Society, but the whole correspondence as maintained in the office of the Society , makes a very depressing reading.

           The letter memo No. 4541, dated 26.10.1999 received  from this office, surprised and distressed most  the members of the Society.  The Society  did not get the reasons for droping the alienation case No. 35/97 inspite of request for the same through letter dated 1.11.1999. The Society is ready  to explain any position asked by  the Government authorities.
           It is hoped that no negative  thought should be intertained regarding the  raising of  Guru Nanak’s Memorial at Puri and possession of the land should be delivered at the earliest, so that  the construction could be started though already much delayed.


Yours faithfully,


(M. S. RAHI)

General Secretary,


GURU   NANAK’S    MEMORIAL    AT    JAGAN    NATH   PURI   --    A   CHALLENGE  TO  THE  SIKHS.
                           Guru Nanak, the voice of compassion and universal love, set out from Sultanpur Lodhi in 1497, after long meditation and reflection of 14 years, 9 months and 7 days, resulting into enlightenment; to convey the message of One God and universal brotherhood in all directions, wherever he could go in those days of difficult and hazardous communications.  The long journeys, he undertook for this purpose and the places he visited and important people of all the regions he met, are mind boggling.  Wherever, he went, he dazzled the minds of the people, exhorted them to shed spiritual slavery and, invariably left a permanent imprint on their minds.  He undertook four Udasis i.e. long journeys in four different directions, the first one was of longest duration and the destination of the same was Jagan Nath Puri.  This destination was carefully chosen as Puri was one of the four Dhams established by Shankracharya in 7th century and, during the course of time, Puri Dham had become the prominent centre of Vampanthis.  During the times of Guru Nanak this philosophy of salvation, had degenerated into pleasures of flesh. Guru Nanak after touring the ‘Kamrup Desh’ which consisted of the areas of Assam, Bengal and Orrisa, reached Jagan Nath Puri in 1510 A.D. What hapened there during Guru Jee’s visit is recorded in detail in every Janam Sakhi. Guru Jee stayed there for about  one and half months, recited two important shabads like, “Gagan Mein Thal.........” which are part of Guru Granth Sahib. In the historical context in which those shabads were recited is very important to project the philosophy of Guru Nanak.  Puri acquired further importance in Sikh history, as it contributed to Sikh history till the time of Guru Gobind Singh and, after religious oppression of Aurangzeb, it lost connection with the Sikhs and, the place has remained ignored by the Sikhs till today.  In order to give it the proper place of important, it is imperative to see its long historical connection with the Sikh history and the Sikhs.  It is from this angle, that I have tried to trace the historical connection from the times of Guru Nanak till today.
                       After Guru Nanak, no Sikh Guru except Guru Tegh Bahadur took long journeys outside Punjab. The second Sikh  Guru Guru Angad Dev Jee tried to consolidate Guru Nanak’s Bani and to propagate the same.  For that purpose, Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak’s life and his visit to various places were got written in details, as are said to be given by Bhai Bala.  In this Janam Sakhi, Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri is mentioned in great detail and two places, Mangu Math and Bauli Math are there connected with Guru Nanak’s name as mentioned in the Janam Sakhi. The third Guru Amar Dass took further steps for propagation of Guru Nanak’s new creed and appointed missionaries for that purpose in different parts of the country.  Bhai Mohan was the first missionary appointed for the area of Bengal, and Orrisa.  The missionary work took a further fillip, when Baba Shree Chand accepted the supremacy of his father’s mission and his new creed and, undertook its propagation during the time of 4th and 5th Guru. Baba Shree Chand had become a Sanyasi and did not marry and, during the last years of his life adopted Baba Gurditta, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind and entrusted to him the missionary work of Sikhism in various parts of India. Baba Gurditta under the guidance of Guru Hargobind opened many new missionary centres at far flung places and; the chief missionary appointed for Jagan Nath Puri was one Almast, who  had done impressive missionary work in the areas of the present Uttar Pradesh during the life time of Baba Shree Chand.  It is said, this was Almast who got constructed Dharamsalas at the places, historically connected with Guru Nanak’s visit.  Almast with his extensive religious knowledge and deep spirituality, won respect for Sikhism in the area of Jagan Nath Puri.  It is because of Almast’s impressive work that Guru  Tegh Bahadur chose to visit the place in 1670 A.D., during his visit to Assam, Bengal and other areas.  Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed at Bauli Math for about fortnight and got the same repaired, which was said to be dug by Guru Nanak. Guru Tegh Bahadur opened a free kitchen i.e., Langer for the pilgrims of all faiths and, further explained to the people the principles of Guru Nanak’s mission and philosophy.  The ordinary people as well as learned Pandits were impressed by Guru Jee’s way of life and exposition of the philosophy of Sikhism.  The people in the area had great respect for Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus, and the same was further deepened.  It is because of that respect that the people use to come to meet the living Gurus and, Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagan Nath Puri, in the same traditions came and, offered his head to Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 A.D., at the time of inception of Khalsa Panth as one of the Panj Piaras.  The thread of historical connection from Guru Nanak’s first visit to the inception of Khalsa Panth is continuous in one way or the other.  But, after this great historical event, the connection between Puri and the Sikhs was snapped and much is not known after this period. It was only in 1838 A.D., when Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his last illness offered to donate the famous Kohinoor diamond to the Temple of Jagan Nath at the suggestion of his astrologer and, the place finds mention in the Sikh history.  The royal custodian Beli Ram refused to acceded to the royal wishes of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Kohinoor Diamond could not find its way to the temple of Jagan Nath Puri.  Beli Ram and his family suffered a tragic death and, the Sikhs lost their kingdom in a short time.  The British, as a matter of policy did not encourage the missionary work of Sikhism.  Jagan Nath Puri also lost connection with the Sikhs as the places connected with Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit were not properly kept and the local Udasi Sadhus became selfish and converted those places mainly into Mandirs, ignoring all the traditions of Sikhism and the Gurudwaras.  These days, the general population of the city do not know anything about Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri and particular about the historical places connected with Guru Nanak’s name.  The Udasi Sadhus managing the places also do not know much about the purpose of Guru Nanak’s visit, but in the corner of these two Mandirs, Guru Granth Sahib is placed there.
                       Sikhs after independence have made some unsuccessful attempts to acquire those places for the purpose of building Gurudwaras, but due to political complications, the attempts have failed due to one reason or the other.  Now, Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society had taken initiative in another form to construct Guru Nanak’s Memorial at sea-shore of Jagan Nath Puri to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to Puri and to project his philosophy at a place, where other religions of India stand represented in one form or the other.  Kabir and Chaitanaya who visited the place have impressive Maths constructed by their followers, but Guru Nanak and his philosophy  is un-represented at such a great historical place.  It is  a major challenge  to see Guru Nanak’s philosophy and Sikhism represented among the other major religions of India, otherwise, the people would say, as a Minister of Orissa said in 1993,”that the Sikhs construct Gurudwaras at places where they expect some monetary gains.”  This is an unbecoming charge against them because it is against the history of the Sikhs. The people know that the Sikhs have not allowed so far to go into oblivion any place connected with the name of their Gurus.  But, why Puri, such an important religious place is the only exception?  The Sikhs have to give an answer, now in the form of an impressive Memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to this place.  With the grace of the Guru, the happy news is: The Government of Orissa has alloted land to our Society and the Hon’ble Minister, Shri Bhupinder Singh, Minister of Tourism and Culture, has informed us vide his letter dated 27.9.1996.  The foundation stone is jto be laid on this coming Guru Nanak’s Birthday on 25th Novembr, 1996 and, thereafter, we need the co-operation of the Sikh Sangat to complete this historical project.