HARGOBINDPUR : WHERE HISTORY BREATHES
Hargobindpur and you get a feeling that you are medieval age.
You will find most of the houses and remains built centuries ago. You
get impression that this town is in the process of being abandoned.
There are more houses than the men. You can have an idea how happy
this town would have been in the medieval days.
Sri Hargobindpur was founded by our
Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind sahib and was named by Baba Budha.
One had to pass through a double gate while coming from
GURU KI MASEET built by Guru Hargobind sahib for the Muslims of
the newly founded town
Gateway to Guru Ki Maseet
Close up : Guru Ki Maseet
Inscription at Guru Ki Maseet
Balwant Singh the care taker of Guru Ki Maseet
A plaque boasts of protection of Guru Ki Maseet by UNESCO. But you
hardly find any conservation work.
Houses built with small Nanakshahi bricks is a common sight. In
close up mark the accuracy in masonary work
A well that watered Manji
sahib is now closed.
Zulka the respected Sikhs of Paro Zulka fame,
the founders of Satkartarian sect is a treasure house of artefacts at
In the following photos the present head of Zulka
family poses, his father Sh. ....... is desplaying zara bakhtar armour
the iron wire coat worn by warriors. The armour belonged to Sangtia
the great Zulka. The photos that follow are wall painting at Zulka's
residence. These are believed to be belonging to 18th century. In the
end is photograph of Bawa Harkishan Singh the Sikh scholar who was
related to Zulka family.
|The following beautiful
articles on Sri Hargobindpur are reproduced from Tribune Newspaper and
THE GURU'S SECULAR CITY
Anna Barry Bigelow
Beas in June is low and its waters flow slowly around many belas
(islands formed by the receding waters). They will disappear again
in the rains, consumed by the rising river. Nearly 400 years ago,
Guru Hargobind arrived on this promontory overlooking the river,
seeking a place to spend the rainy season in and built a
settlement for his followers here.
As his conflicts with
the Mughals were intensifying, the Guru fortified the city well. In
fact, these fortifications were so solid that the original city walls
and many buildings within are still visible throughout Sri
Hargobindpur. Tiny Nanakshahi red bricks blend into more recent larger
cut brick structures. Similarly, the ancient history of the town
blends into the present, as residents of all religious faiths perceive
themselves as heirs to the sixth Guru’s mission to found a secure and
secular home on the banks of the Beas.
Best known for his
miri-piri approach to authority, Guru Hargobind was equally
comfortable with Muslim faqirs and Hindu sadhus. According to some
Sikh histories, when asked by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir about the
difference between Islam and Hinduism, the Guru responded with a hymn
composed by his father, Guru Arjan Dev, which concludes: "You are the
Bestower of kindness and mercy. Grant us devotion and worship of you,
O Creator. Allah and Parbrahm are the same." The Guru’s civic plan
reflected this understanding of the concept of God having multiple
names but being one entity as the town included gurdwaras, temples and
a mosque. Even today, the people of Sri Hargobindpur visit all these
places frequently and freely, regardless of their religious
One of the best
examples of this pluralism is that in the post-Partition period, in
the absence of Muslims to oversee a Sufi saint’s tomb, local Hindus,
Sikhs and Christians are continuing the tradition of the saints. They
demonstrate their concern for their shrines through weekly ceremonies,
annual festivals, voluntary cleaning and maintenance, and especially
through narration of stories about the pirs.
Many of these stories
concern the association of a saint with the neighborhood or region,
linking the locality with famous saints, rulers, invaders, and
miracles. Other stories are more intimate, detailing events in the
community and their own houses, showing the depth of the connection
between these saints and this place. In fact, many residents say that
one of the most significant thing about Sri Hargobindpur are its five
gates and the shrine at each gate belonging to a Muslim pir. In fact,
the gates and the pirs are credited with safeguarding the community.
Although all five
pirs at the five gates of Sri Hargobindpur can still be found, four of
the five gates are now in ruins and live on only in the memories of
the residents. One gate, however, still bears physical evidence of
this source of Sri Hargobindpur’s protection.
The Lahori Gate is an
imposing two-storeyed and triple bay structure standing at the main
entrance to the settlement. This little known monument is of enormous
historic importance as it is the only existing example of a gate built
by a Sikh Guru in all of Punjab. This gate is still an integral part
of the town. As the primary route for going in and out of the
settlement, its doors are now always open and nearly everyone must
pass through them to enter the heart of the old city. However, the
future of the Lahori Gate is in serious jeopardy in view of a local
development plan and state policies that would sell the shops
currently being rented out from the municipality to the shopkeepers.
Without immediate action and updated legislation to allow for the
provisional use of historical sites, either the gate or the shops (or
both) will disappear forever.
At the Shamana Gate
is the dargah of Baba Shamana. The gate itself disappeared long ago,
but the tomb remains perched picturesquely on a cliff overlooking the
Beas. The long-time caretaker of Baba Shamana’s tomb is a Hindu, but
he and other residents still know many stories about this Baba, who is
said to have come here hundreds of years ago.
According to local
lore, the pir was here before the Guru came and when the walls were
built, the Guru asked him whether he wanted to be inside or outside
the gates, which would be closed every night at 10 and opened again at
4 in the morning. The pir, not wishing to have his movements
restricted, chose to remain outside the walls. According to another
account, Baba Shamana gave shelter to a gang of Muslim cattle thieves
who had been operating the city. When the town people came to
complain, the saint told them to take back the cattle if they could
recognise them—then he changed their shapes and colours. Afterwards,
the cattle thieves repented and became the pir’s sevadars .
This interweaving of
religious traditions and local history is also evident at Damdama
Sahib, a gurdwara just outside the city on the road towards Amritsar.
Residents almost universally describe this place as the most important
religious site in Sri Hargobindpur. According to the Gur Bilas, this
gurdwara marks the place where the Guru killed the Mughal General
Abdul Khan during the Battle of the Beas in 1630. At this spot he
first breathed a sigh of relief after the fighting (hence the name
damdama). Also, from this place he ordered the bodies of the 14,000
slain Sikhs and Muslims to be cast into the river, rather than burned,
as this was the common practice for disposing of the bodies of saints
in all religious traditions.
remains of the original gurdwara, Damdama Sahib is an important centre
of Sri Hargobindpur’s religious life. The importance of the site is
increased by the presence of a pir’s shrine just across the large
sarovar near the imposing new gurdwara currently under construction.
This building is humbler, but ancient and beloved. It is dedicated to
Jaane Shah, a Muslim faqir who heard of the Guru and sought him out
here. According to the Gur Bilas, Jaane Shah came daily for darshan of
the Guru. As a test of the extent of his faith, the Guru refused to
see him and even had a wall built between them. This did not deter the
persistent seeker, so the Guru tested him further, instructing him to
jump into the river if he wanted to meet the Guru quickly. The faqir
immediately went to obey the command, at which point Guru Hargobind
was convinced of his sincerity and brought him back.
Guru ki Maseet
It is a further
example of the integration of religious traditions in this town that
this pir’s shrine does not house the saint’s tomb, but rather the Guru
Granth Sahib. On the walls are images of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind
Singh, Lakhadata Pir and Namdev. Many people who come to Damdama Sahib
from all over the region visit both places.
Damdama Sahib at the site of his military victory, the Guru returned
to his civic planning. He said to his Sikhs, "Create a town of
unmatched beauty, with five gates, that puts the enemy to shame the
moment it sets its eyes on it. And let those who inhabit the town be
free of sorrow." (Gur Bilas) Then the Guru invoked the aid of God
Visvakarma, who at the Guru’s command "constructed mandirs and bazaars
of different kinds and in their midst a beautiful maseet which the
Muslims would love. In this place—a treasure of happiness— he placed
his diwan and reflected." (Gur Bilas). Setting to work, God Visvakarma
took only six days to establish the 20-feet-high, 2.5-feet- thick
walls and the grid-iron pattern of the interior.
The genius of this
centuries old urban planning is confirmed by the fact that it is still
impossible to get lost or remain isolated in Sri Hargobindpur. Small
alleyways join the two main roads, previously both bazaars. Today,
along the main road from Lahori Gate is a vibrant market.
This plan connected
all neighbourhoods, integrating the settlement and allowing women in
purdah to pass easily between homes and markets. Also, on nearly every
street is a temple, gurdwara or pir’s dargah. From Baba Shahmana to
the Raghunath Temple, Manji Sahib Gurdwara to Baba Falai Wala, Krishna
Mandir to Sat Kartarian Gurdwara, and so on, Sri Hargobindpur (a town
with only 15,000 residents) is densely populated with sacred sites.
These places provide not only spiritual centres for the residents, but
social centres as well, bringing Sikhs, Hindus and Christians together
to pay respects and make offerings.
Kartarian, for example, is both a gurdwara and a mandir. This place is
managed by a Hindu family related to Baba Sangat Das, a descendent of
Guru Nanak’s famous follower Bhai Phero. The gurdwara is on the ground
floor and on the two floors above is a small chamber containing the
300-year-old wooden seat, or gaddi, of Baba Sangat Das. Exquisite
paintings of the gurus and other saints cover the walls of this room.
Perhaps the fullest
expression of the secular spirit of Guru Hargobind and the citizens of
Sri Hargobindpur is found in the ongoing work to preserve and maintain
the mosque the Guru built—the Guru ki Maseet. Of all the religious
shrines in Sri Hargobindpur, the Maseet enjoys one of the most
stunning views of the Beas. The Gur Bilas states that "the Guruji
decided to construct a Maseet which would be endearing to the
Muslims." As if nature herself approved of this idea, "at this moment
the cool monsoon winds blew strong. The sky was overcast with clouds
and was beautiful. Clouds came from all directions and it began to
rain heavily. The Beas river was full with happiness. The river
turned, twisted, gurgled and whirled with joy." The Guru ki Maseet
also enjoys pride of place for the residents who, especially since the
restoration of the site began almost a year ago, have come to
appreciate even more the open-minded and open-hearted intentions of
the Guru in building it.
The Maseet is small,
but lovely—built in the typical three- domed, three-bayed style of
Shah Jahan period mosques. As the work progresses, from beneath layers
of limewash and old concrete, calligraphy, decorative paintwork, and
the small red Nanakshahi bricks are emerging. The Guru ki Maseet is
being repaired and restored by the Cultural Resource Conservation
Initiative (CRCI), as a part of the UNESCO-UNDP Culture of Peace
programme. The work is also supported by the US- based Sikh Foundation
and by the donations of land, time, and labour from the community.
This project has
helped restore the connection between the non-Muslim residents of the
town and the Guru’s mosque. Sangeeta Singh Bais, an architect and UN
volunteer, says that when she first came the site was overgrown and
unvisited. But, "now people can tell you all about it. Now they come
to see the site and see how the work is going, and say what good work
we are doing." As CRCI’s director, Gurmeet Rai, points out, "All too
often the physical condition of a building does not reflect the depth
of the bond between a site and the community surrounding it."
Therefore, in conjunction with the work on the mosque, the CRCI is
working to re-establish these links between the site, the event it
represents, and the citizens of the town. Bais adds, "We are here to
raise awareness about why historical places are important and culture
is important. The people here should be able to take care of the sites
after we are gone, and they need to know how rich their culture is."
Working under the guidance of Dr Savyasaachi, a social scientist based
at Jamia Milia University in Delhi, the CRCI ran projects in the local
schools to educate the residents about their history.
According to Meena
Manhas, the volunteer who implemented the school programme,
"Previously, students were surprised to see me at their schools, but
when they saw that I was telling them stories about their own city and
the gurus, then they became very interested and began to ask lots of
questions and participated eagerly in seva and in competitions."
The work has also
encouraged local efforts to foster economic growth without destroying
historical places. For example, many residents are opposed to the
initiative to sell the shops within the Lahori Gate. They are afraid
that the sale will result in even further disintegration of the
structure. As the main entrance to the settlement it is a key point
for local commerce, but as the only gate built in the entire state by
a Guru, it is also a unique historical treasure in Punjab.
Currently the Punjab
Secretary of Culture and the Municipal Committee are considering ways
to allow the Gate’s continued use without further harming the
structure, thereby allowing the buildings of the past to give shelter
and support to the present needs of the community.
After all, as one local puts it, "Sri
Hargobindpur is a place where everyone helps each other." Furthermore,
it is a place to which those who leave feel drawn to return. Master
Ohri, a local Hindu businessman and retired schoolteacher ,spent years
away, working. But in these other places dil nahin lagiya (his
heart did not feel connected). So he came back and has become a great
supporter of the work on Guru ki Maseet, donating land to the project
and initiating a plan to start a foundation to preserve Sri
Hargobindpur’s heritage. His community spirit—a Hindu man helping in
the preservation of a Sikh Guru’s Muslim site— is echoed by many
others who feel fortunate to live in a place that is protected by the
Guru’s walls, the five saints at the gates, and perhaps most of all by
the continuing efforts of the residents to preserve this unique place
and its rich heritage for their descendants.
and one more article on Sri Hargobindpur :
Now by Varider Walia
|Muslims Pray at Mosque Built by Sixth
by Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service
Sri Hargobindpur, March 23, 2002
sorts was created when namaz (muslim prayer) was performed at
historical Guru-ki-maseet, (Guru's Mosque) which was got
constructed by the Sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, for the Muslim brethren
about 400 years ago.
controversy of Babri Masjid [in Ayodhya] stands unresolved, a
"memorandum of understanding" (MoU) has been signed by the Nihangs — the
caretakers of the mosque and the Punjab Waqf Board in the presence of
Deputy Commissioner K.A.P. Sinha. Dr Mohammad Rizwanul Haque,
Administrator, Punjab Wakf Board, described the MoU as an international
event which would pave the way for strengthening communal harmony in the
Rai, Director, Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI), who was
honoured with an international award by UNESCO for the conservation of
the historical Krishan Temple at Kishankot village, near here, said
though as per the MoU, the Taruna Dal, a sect of Nihangs, had agreed to
conserve Guru-ki-maseet as a traditional mosque by allowing to
perform namaz, yet the Wakf Board requested the Nihangs to
continue as caretakers.
It may be
mentioned here that this 17th century mosque on the banks of the Beas
was got built by the Sixth Sikh Guru for his Muslim subjects. The legend
has it that the Hindu god Vishwakarma came down to the earth in a human
form to build this sacred town. For many years, this mosque has been
maintained by the Nihangs as it was abandoned at the time of the
Partition in 1947. Dr Haque said he remembered that the late Baba Kirtan
Singh, the Nihang chief of the Taruna Dal, had signed an MoU at Baba
Bakala on February 8 last year. He said it was the desire of babaji that
Muslims must perform their namaz at the mosque which was gifted
to them. As per the wishes of Baba Kirtan Singh, five saplings were
planted in the names of five pirs.
Balbir Singh, who is the caretaker of the mosque, told TNS that the
Nihangs had preserved the "amanat" of Muslim brethren after the
Partition of the country. He said the holy Guru Granth Sahib which was
placed inside the mosque was taken to the newly constructed adjoining
building so that the mosque could be preserved in its original form as
gifted by Guru Hargobind.
Singh, state convener, INTACH, said the CRCI had started the
conservation work with the financial help of Sikh Foundation.
A community meal for children who volunteered to work on the
renovation of Guru-ki-maseet
Hamid Hussain Qasmi was specially called to perform namaz from
Amritsar. Before the namaz, in presence of a large number of
Nihangs and officers of the district administration, Mr Akhlaq Ahmed
Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Punjab Wakf Board, said the performance
of namaz after 55 years would be recorded in the world history as
an event when Sikh brethren showed so much magnanimity towards Muslims.
awards were presented to the villagers and members of the CRCI at
Kishankot village, where an ancient temple, being looked after the Sikhs
was preserved with a cost of Rs 14 lakh. This temple was built during
the reign of legendry Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
A.Engelhardt, Regional Advisor for culture in Asia and the Pacific,
while presenting awards, said the small village temple had been
highlighted at the international level with this award. Mr Barjinder
Kumar Uppal, SSP, Gurdaspur, Ms V. Neerja, SSP, Batala, and Mr V.K.
Mishra, Vice-Chairman, INTACH, were present at the ceremony.
Guru-ki-maseet - Tribune News Service
Meal at the mosque - CRCI/Gurmeet S. Rai
and now from Milli Gazzette
|In a historic gesture,
Sikhs return mosque to Muslims|
The mosque had been in disrepair for long. Now it
has been restored by a group of Sikhs and Muslims in a unique
manifestation of India's multi-religious society,
says Zafarul-Islam Khan
offering prayers in the Guru's Mosque while Sikhs watch them
New Delhi, April 6: A new chapter was inked
in the Western Indian state of Punjab last week. While large-scale
bloodshed continues in Gujarat and several other parts of the
country over the issue of the proposed Ram temple construction at
the site of the now demolished Babri Masjid amid extremist demands
to surrender "thousands" of other mosques, a historical mosque was
returned to Muslims by the Sikh community. For the last fifty four
years since Partition of the country this mosque, known as "Guru ki
Maseet" (Guru's Mosque) was being used as a gurdwara (temple) by the
Sikh community. The mosque is picturesquely situated on a hill
overlooking a curve on the banks of the mighty Beas river in
Punjab's Gurdaspur district.
Maulana Hamid Husain Qasmi, the imam of the Jama Masjid in
Amristsar, the largest city of the state, was specially called to
lead the first prayers in the mosque on March 23. The mosque was
constructed by Guru (Sikh religious leader) Hargobind Singh 370
years ago. According to Sikh tradition, the Guru had converted the
house of a dead Muslim into a masjid and set up a langar (common
kitchen) for the poor. Their tradition records an encounter between
Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, and some Muslims which ended with
the declaration that "if Hindus are the left hand, then Muslims are
the right, and we all believe in the one true God."
A “memorandum of understanding” (MoU) has been signed by the
Nihangs, the Sikh caretakers of the mosque, and the Punjab Waqf
Board. Dr Mohammad Rizwanul Haque, Punjab Waqf Board Administrator,
described the MoU as an international event which would pave the way
for strengthening communal harmony in the country.
Ms Gurmeet Rai, director of the Cultural Resource Conservation
Initiative (CRCI), who was honoured with an international award by
UNESCO for the conservation of the historical Krishan Temple at
Kishankot village and who has been in the forefront of the campaign
for the restoration of the mosque to Muslims said that though as per
the MoU, the Taruna Dal, a sect of Nihangs, has agreed to conserve
“Guru ki Maseet” as a traditional mosque by allowing Muslims to
perform prayers there, yet the Waqf Board requested the Nihangs to
continue as caretakers.
For many years, this mosque has been maintained by the Nihangs as it
was abandoned at the time of the Partition. Dr Haque said he
remembered that the late Baba Kirtan Singh, the Nihang chief of the
Taruna Dal, had signed an MoU at Baba Bakala on February 8 last
year. He said it was the desire of the Baba that Muslims must
perform their prayers at the mosque which was gifted to them. As per
the wishes of Baba Kirtan Singh, five saplings were planted in the
names of the Sikh Gurus.
The mosque had been in disrepair for long. Now it has been restored
by a group of Sikhs and Muslims in a unique manifestation of India's
multi-religious society. Sikhs offered their labour, Muslim masons
repaired the walls and an all-woman team of restorers led by Ms
Gurmeet Rai lent its expertise.
In 1997, a survey team of the CRCI came to the town and inspected
the mosque. Recognizing the value of the building, the group began
to undertake the restoration of the mosque as part of the UNESCO and
UNDP-UNV’s "Culture of Peace" programme, and with additional
financial support from the US-based Sikh Foundation. A neighbour
donated a piece of land and further property was purchased by CRCI.
Finally the work of restoration of this 370-year-old mosque built by
Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, was completed on March
23 in the town named after him, Sri Hargobindpur, halfway between
Jalandhar and the Sikh's holy city of Amritsar, in India's western
province of Punjab. The "Guru Ki Maseet" was built in 1630 after the
Guru Hargobind's battle with Jalandhar's ruler, Abdullah Khan.
Legend has it that the mythical Hindu god Vishwakarma came down to
earth in a human form to build this sacred town.
Why did a Sikh Guru build a mosque? Had it been a dharmshala (a rest
house for Hindu pilgrims), it might have been destroyed by invaders.
By building a mosque, and that too by a Sikh Guru, it was ensured
that people of all religions would protect it, Baba Kaladhari, a
spokesman for the Sikhs, said.
comparing historical texts
about the mosque's history
No one destroyed it, yet not too many loo