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PANJA SAHIB, GURDWARA

PANJA SAHIB, GURDWARA, at Hasan Abdal (33° 48`N, 72° 44`E) in Attock (or Campbellpore) district of Pakistan Punjab, is sacred to Guru Nanak, who briefly stopped here on his way back to the Punjab from his western uddsi or journey which took him as far West as Mecca and Baghdad. According to tradition popularized by Bhai Santokh Singh, Sri Guru Ndnak Prakdsh, Guru Nanak and his Muslim companion of long travels, Mardana, halted at the foot of a hill. On the top of the hill lived a Muslim recluse known in those parts as Wall Kandhari.

Feeling fatigued and thirsty and seeing no water in the vicinity, Mardana climbed up to the Wall`s hut and begged him for water to quench his thirst.Questioned as to who he was and what had brought him to that place, Mardana said that he was professionally a musician and had come in the train of a great saint, Baba Nanak. Wall Kandhari refused to give him water and quipped instead that if his master was so accomplished a saint, he should not let his follower go thirsty.

Mardana walked back disappointed and told the Guru what the Wall had said. Guru Nanak asked Mardana to go once again and supplicate the Wali with humility. Mardana obeyed, but returned only to report the failure of his mission. Guru Nanak thereupon touched the hillside with the tip of the stick he was holding. Instantly, water spouted forth from that point and Mardana drank his fill.But simultaneously Wali Kandhari`s reservoir on top of the hill began to ebb and soon dried up. The Wali, blind with rage, rolled down a big boulder towards the travellers.

Guru Nanak gently raised his arm and the rocky mass, as goes the tradition, stopped in its downward career as it came in touch with his palm, {panjd, in Punjabi). The impression of his palm was left on the stone which is still shown the visitors to the place, now famous as Panja Sahib, the Holy Palm.A gurudwara was built at the site during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to which he made a handsome land endowment and which he visited more than once during his lifetime.

Gurdwara Panja Sahib, as it came to be called, was administered by a line of waAan^untilJathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, at the head of a 25strong jathd or band of Akali reformers, occupied it on behalf of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on 1718 November 1920. The Gurdwara gained further prominence during 1922 when the local sangat led by Bhai Pratap Singh, treasurer of Sri Panja Sahib Gurdwara Managing Committee, sought to halt a train carrying prisoners of the Guru ka Bagh agitation to Attockjail in order to serve meals to them.

As the railway authorities refused to make an unscheduled wayside halt, several Sikhs, with Bhai Pratap Singh and Karam Singh (a pilgrim from Anandpur Sahib) at their head, squatted on the railway track. The train, finding its warning whistles ineffective, screeched to a halt but not before crushing Bhai Pratap Singh and Karam Singh to death and wounding five others. This tragedy which took place on 30 October 1922 attracted streams of pilgrims, and funds began collecting for raising a larger building.

Construction of the new sarovar or sacred pool began on 14 October 1932 with ceremonies presided over by Tikka (later Maharaja) Yadavinder Singh of the princely stale ofPatiala, which event is commemorated in a slabinscription. On the same day, the cornerstone of the new building of Sri Harimandar Sahib in the middle of the sarovar was laid by Panj Piare, the Five Elect, Bhai Randhir Singh, Baba Vasakha Singh, Baba Nidhan Singh, Professor Bhai Jodh Singh and Sam Budh Singh.

Besides the daily services, largelyattended religious assemblies were held in October to commemorate the martyrs of the 1922 tragedy and in April to celebrate Baisakhi until the place had to be abandoned at the time of mass migrations caused by Partition in 1947. However, Gurdwara Panja Sahib is one the few Sikh shrines in Pakistan which pilgrims from India may still visit in groups on special occasions with the prior permission of the Government of Pakistan.

References :

1. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Guru Khalsa [Reprint]. Patiala, 1970
2. Santokh Singh, Bhai, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth. Amritsar, 1927-35
3. Thakar Singh, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
4. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
5. Mehar Singh, Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1975
6. Khan Mohammad Waliullah Khan, Sikh Shrines in West Pakistan. Karachi, 1962
7. Sahi,J.S., Sikh Shrines in India and Abroad. Faridabad, 1978

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.

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