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Takht Sahib - seats of Sikh's authority

Takht Sri Kesh Garh Sahib

Takht Sri Kesh Garh Sahib

When Guru Tegh Bahadur was residing at Kiratpur, he thought of building a new township for himself and his devotees which would form the nucleus of a religious centre. The Guru imagined it to be a city with a difference-place for the people coming from outside, a big hall for the relgious congregations and a beautiful place for the Guru's residence. The Guru thought the place should be near Kiratpur in the foothills with excellent surroundings. He, therefore, purchased a piece of land in villages Makhowal, just 8 km from Kiratpur. The land was purchased from the Raja of Kahlur for five hundred rupees.

Soon a new township came into existence; it was named Nanki Chak. When Guru Gobind Singh came from Patna, the town was further extended. The town was later named Anandpur-the abode of bliss.

When the work to build this township started, construction of three building was taken up-the Guru's residence, a place for worship and a rest house. It was necessary to do so as the missionary work had to be continued unhampered. Many people came from all parts of the country and were provided accomodation. Traders were given facilities for starting their business. Free land was provided to them. Peasents were tole to till barren land so that the local requirements of grain and vegetables were met. They were asked to give a portion of their produce for Guru-ka-langar, the free kitchen. In the matter of days, the town was full of life.

Now, Anandpur Sahib is one of the most sacred places of the Sikhs. It is closely linked with their religious traditions and history.

It lies on the lawer spurs of the Himalayas surrounded by picturesqe natural scenery, with river Sutlej forming a shining blue border on the south-west, hardly six km away.

The town gained further importance with the construction of Nangal and Bhakra projects nearby - just 20 km to the north. These projects have brought Anandpur Sahib on the rail and road map of India. It is situated at a distance of about 80 km from Chandigarh - the city of dreams. It is also said that sage Vasishta had meditated here and Maharishi Valmiki composed the Ramayana at this place.

Guru Gobind Singh came into this world with a special mission. He was sent by the Lord to perform certain duties for the emancipation of mankind. The Guru thus decided to evolve a new order with the sole object of making people realise the necessity of sacrificing their lives for the cause of dharma, righteousness. People should fight against the tyranny of the rulers, he said.

The Guru sent letters to his devotees, thoughtout the country, to come to Anandpur to Attend the festival of Baisakhi. The devotees started converging on Anandpur like swarms of locusts. The year was 1699. A day before the first of Baisakh, a large number of people, including many women and children, collected at Anandpur. A large shamiana was pitched and decorated with buntings and flowers. Hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib were recited and devine atmosphere was created. Guru Gobind Singh was present in the pandal and listened attentively to the chanting of Asa-di-Var. He sat motionless for some time and then stood before the huge gathering, estimated to be about eighty thousand. His eyes were red like rays of the sun. He took his sord from the scabbard and flashing it in his hand, thundered like a lion : "My devoted Sikhs! my comrades! The goddess of power clamours for the head of brave Sikh. Is there anyone among this huge gathering ready to sacrifice his dear life at its call?"

Complete silence prevailed. People were stunned. They thought something had gone wrong with the Guru. The Guru once again roared. Again, there was no reply. The whole assembly was thrown into consternation. The Guru repeated his call. There was hushed silence. What the Guru wanted nobody knew. No Guru before him had ever demanded the head of his followers like this. The Sikhs were surprised at the demand of the Guru who had all along been bestowing great affection on them. It was an amazing call. "Is there not one among the thousands who has faith in me." were the last words uttered by the Guru, flashing his eyes. People present there trembled. Now, Bhai Daya Ram, a khatri of Lahore, stood up with folded hands before the Guru to the astonishment of the whole gathering. It was unique scene - the Sikh offering his head. The Guru caught him by arm and took him inside the tent speacially pitched for the purpose. The Guru, after a few moments, came out with his sord dripping with blood. Blood flowed from the tent too. The Guru then asked for another man to offer his head.

There was silence. Again, the call came. Bhai Dharam Das, a Jat of Delhi, offered his head. The same story was repeated. Horror-stricken people were fully convinced that the second devotee had also been killed. The gathering began to thin out. Most of the people left to save their precious lives. Panic prevailed all arround. People sat with their heads lowered. Some devotees went to the Guru's mother and requested her to ask him to abstain from killing his own men. The call of the Guru contined. Bhai Mukkam Chand, a washerman of Dwarka, was the third devotee to offer his head. He, too, was taken inside the tent and the word went round that he, too, had met the same fate. More terror, more panic. More people left the pandal.

The Guru's eyes were extremely red now. He made yet another demand for another head. The crowd was dumbfounded and sat motionless. Yet another devotee stood up with with folded hands. This time, it was Bhai Sahib Chand of Bidar, a barbar by caste and profession. He touched the Guru's feet and sought pardon for not offering himself earlier. The same story was repeated again.

The Sikhs prayed to the Almighty to restrain the Guru. The Guru asked for another head. Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagannath Puri, a water carrior, rose and bowed his head before the Guru. The same process was repeated.

Then Guru himself went into the tent and brought out the five sikhs he had taken into the tent earlier. They were dressed in new clothes, with blue turbans on their heads and in loose long yellow shirts. They had waist bands and wore underwears of a special style, with swords hanging by their sides. They looked attractive and handsome like soldiers of valour. The audience was awe-struct. The Guru named them Panj Payaras, the five beloved ones. The whole congreation shouted with one voice Sat-Sri-Akal, Victory of God. The Guru address them thus; "I wish all of you embrace one faith and follow one path, obliterating all difference of caste and religion. Let the four Hindu castes mentioned in the Shastras be abandoned altogether and the path of co-operation with one another be adopted. Let nobody think himself superior to another. Do not follow the old scriptures. All should follow the tenets of Guru Nanak and his successors. Let men of the four castes receive my baptism and eat from the same vessel. Let nobody feel contempt for the other".

Once again, the sky resounded with the shouts of Sat-Sri-Akal. The Guru was extreamly delighted. He had achieved his objective. A new path was shown by him to his followers - the path of valours, devotion and sacrifice.

The next day, on the first of Baisakh, 1756 B.S., A.D. 1699 the devotees again gather in thousands. An atmosphere of gaity cheerfulness prevailed. People were overjoyed. They had dreams in their eyes - dreams of bright future. People were keen to know the next step of the Guru. They sat motionless and were eager to listen to him in full attention. The Guru came out, dressed in white, and with a smiling face sat on the dais and addressed the devotees thus:

"In the past the initiation was through charan pahul which shall now be substituted with Khande-ka-Amrit - baptism by water stirred with the double-edge sword. The nectar with steel, the Divine word and my spirit dissolved in it, shall perform miracles. Those who take it will become brave and shed their cowardice. They shall not only be Sikhs, but also Singhs (lions). I shall transform jackals into lions. There will be no caste distinction. All castes will merge into Khalsa brotherhood where there will be no high or low. All will be equals."

The crowd heard the Guru's words in rapt attention. His thought provoking ideas penetrated deep into their hearts. They were immensely moved. There were shouts of Sat-Sri-Akal time and again. Now, the five beloved ones stood in a queue. The Guru put some pure water in an iron pan and stirred it with a double-edged sword. He recited hymns from holy Guru Granth Sahib, Japji, Anand Sahib, and his own composition Jap Sahib, Sawyyas and Chaupayas. While the Guru was still stirring the water, his wife Sahib Dewan came with sugar crystals. The Guru appreciated the idea and said that they be put into the vessel. He did this so that the Sikhs might be blissed not only with valour and courage but also with sweetness.

The Guru then stood before the beloved ones with the iron pan in his hands. He showers of amrit on the faces one by one and asked them to say in a low voice : WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh, that is Khalsa belongs to God, Victory of God. He than gave thems five handfuls of amrit to drink. He sprinkled it five times on their hair and eyes. The beloved five were thus baptised by the Guru. They were asked to drink from the same vessel to create the spirit of oneness and brotherhood.

After the ceremony was over, the Guru himself requested the five beloved ones with folded hands to initiate him, in the same manner in which they had been initiated by him. They were surprised at this strange request of the Guru and told him he was their Guru, their spirtual Master, both in this and the other world, their redeemer, their saviour and the one to whom they had dedicated their lives. It was not proper for them to bestow amrit on him, who was their superior and preceptor. The Guru replied that the new order had been introduced under orders of the Almighty. There was nobody high or low any more. Those who accepted this would be Khalsa. There would be no difference between the Khalsa and the Guru himself. Then, the five beloved ones administered amrit to the Guru in same manner as had been done to them. The huge gathering watched the ceremony in silence. The spectacle was as thrilling as it was amaging. The Guru and the beloved ones mingled into one.

The Guru then ordered all the Sikhs to be baptised. They were told to lead a clean, pure and simple life, avoid strong drinks and shun use of tobacco. They were asked to wear five kakas - kesh (hair), kanga (comb), kacchha (underwear), kara (iron bangle) and kirpan (sword). They were to be called Singhs.

A new order was created but Sikhism in essence remained the same as was ordained by Guru Nanak. The Sikhs returned to their homes kinded with a new spirit and enthusiasm. The inspiration which had guided them for several generations took a concreate shape at Anandpur.

Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib has been built at the place where the historic ceremony of the creation of Khalsa had taken place. The present magnificent building was constructed in the forties of the 20th century. It is a few meters away from the main road and one has to reach the gurudwara by walking the cobbed path and climb a little to reach the hillock on which the shrine stands. After climbing up a few steps, a deorhi has to be crossed. After that there is a huge open marbled quadrangle at the end of which steps lead up to the main shrine. In the central portion of the hall are displayed weapons of Guru Gobind Singh. On one side is placed Sri Guru Granth Sahib on a decorated seat. Around the room is the parikarma. The floor above is again a hall, about 315 square metres, and on the top foor are domes of different sizes.

Anandpur is a small silent sleepy town, but on the occasion of Hola Mohalla, the town gains importance and recaptures its old glory and splendour. In the month of march the fair is celeberated on a very large scale. Thousands of devotees come from all parts of the country to pay their homage to the great Guru.

In the gurdwara are preserved some sacred arms connected with the Sikh history. They are revered by the people as a living memory of the great Guru.

The most important of these is the steel khanda - a double edged broad sword which was used by Guru Gobind Singh when he prepared amrit, or the baptismal water, at the time of the inaugration of the Khalsa in 1699. The fresh waters of Sutlej mixed with sugar crystals in an iron vessel, were stirred with this khanda to prepare amrit which gave new life and spirit to the nation.

The second one is a katar, or a short sword. Guru Gobind Singh wore this weapon on his person and used it on many an occasion for fighting hand to hand in battle or in sport to kill tigers and leopards.

Karpa Barchha is a broad spear with a blade fashioned in the style of the palm of the human hand. History records two occasions when it was used. Frst, it was used by the youthful Guru Gobind Singh on the occasion of his wedding at a place about 20 km to the north of Anandpur Sahib known as Guru - ke - Lahore. The Guru chose this beautiful spot, rich in natural hill scenery, for the celeberation since he did not like to travel all the way to Lahore, the provincial capital of the Mughals. It was reported to him that there was scarcity of fresh drinking water for the people who was in prime of youth, came riding and pierced a rock thrice with this spear. Three streams of water gushed forth. They have been flowing ever since with their sweet and sparkling waters, adding to the picturesque charm of the surroundings. This spear was used again during the siege of Anandpur Sahib.

Nagni Barchha is another spear. Its blade is cast in the form of snake. In the battle of Aandpur it was used by Bhai Bachittar Singh, a reputed Sikh warrior. To break open the gates of the Guru's fort, the enemy brought a mighty drunken elephant. Seven plates of steel, one upon the other, covered the forehead of the animal, which was followed by a large number of soldiers. Bhai Bachittar Singh was commissioned by the Guru to fight the elephant. The great warior went forth armed with Nagni Barchha and a sharp steel sword. Riding his horse and standing in stirrups, he pierced with the spear the seven steel plates and wounded the elephant in the forehead. With lightning alacrity he attacked agin and cut the elephant's trunk with a blow of his sword. The wounded beast run back in fury trampling under foot those who were following it. The Nagni Barchha keeps fresh the memory of this brave deed of Bhai Bachittar Singh. Guru Gobind Singh's musket is another precious relic preserved at Anandpur Sahib.

The saif is a double edged broad sword of Arab origin. It is nearly 1300 years old and was used by the Caliphs of Islam in atleast five battles. It bears Arabic inscriptions and was Aurangzeb's property once upon a time. The sord was presented to Guru Gobind Singh by Emperor Bahadhur Shah, the eldest son and successor of Aurangzeb.

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