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PATNA

PATNA (25° 37`N, 85°10`E), ancient Pataliputra, now capital of Bihar state, is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage for Sikhs. It is the birthplace of their Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, and one of their seats of high religious authority. For this reason it is designated a takht, i.e. throne. It is called Patna Sahib, with sahib suffixed to the name as a title of dignity and honour. The old Patna city railway station has now been officially renamed Patna Sahib. Several historical shrines are located in the city.

GURDWARA PAHILA BARA GAI GHAT, or simply Gurdwara Gai Ghat, is in the `Alamganj area of the old city, close to the new bridge over the River Gariga. Guru Nanak, during his visit to Patna in the first decade of the sixteenth century, stayed at this place, then the residence of a pious man,Jaita by name and a confectioner by trade. Jaita became a Sikh and converted his house into a place of holy assembly which came to be known as Bari Sangat or Gai Ghat Sangat. According to tradition, it was from here that Guru Nanak had sent Mardana to the city with a jewel for evaluation as a result of which Salas Rai, the jeweller, also became a Sikh and escorted the Guru to his home.

When Guru Tegh Bahadur arrived in Patna with his family and a retinue of Sikhs in 1666, he also stayed here at Ban Sangat first but later shifted to Chhoti Sangat in the house that had once belonged to Salas Rai. In the Gai Ghat Gurdwara two old relics are displayed: Mardana`s rebeck and Mata Gujari`s grindstone.TAKHT SRI HARIMANDAR SAHIB is the principal shrine in Patna. The place was originally the residence of Salas Rai, the jeweller. Guru Nanak is said to have stayed and preached here for about three months.

A religious centre known as Chhoti Sangat, the smaller assembly as distinguished from Ban (larger) Sangat at Gai Ghat, grew up here. It was headed by Bhai Adhraka, an employee of Salas Rai. When in 1666 Guru Tegh Bahadur came to Patna, Adhraka`s descendants, who were the priests of Chhoti Sangat, escorted the Guru and his party to this place in a procession from the Bari Sangat. The Guru, leaving his family at Chhoti Sangat in the care of his brotherinlaw, Kirpal Chand, proceeded further east.Here Guru Gobind Singh was born on 22 December 1666.

The house where Guru Gobind Singh spent his early childhood, according to a foreigner, Charles Wilkins, who visited it in 1781, "forms a square of about forty feet, raised from the ground about six to eight steps. The hall is in the centre, divided from four other apartments by wooden arches upon pillars of the same materials, all neatly carved. The room is rather longer than it is broad." This building, originally raised in 1665 by Raja Fateh Chand Maini, gave place to one constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. Further extensions were carried out in 1887 jointly by the Sikh rulers ofPatiala,Jind and Faridkot stales.

The central building sustained serious damage in the earthquake that rocked Bihar in 1934. The present building, the Takht Harimandar Sahib today, was construccted under the supervision of Sant Nischal Singh and Sant Kartar Singh and completed in 1957. It is a magnificent Fivestoreyed edifice with a ribbed lotus dome on top of the sanctum and smaller domes at the corners. These corner domes have gold pinnacles while the central one carries an umbrellashaped finial.

The inner sanctum, representing the room where Guru Gobind Singh was born, has a circumambulatory passage around it and a huge hall in front. Its ceiling is lined with reflecting glass and its front arch is covered with gold plates, having embossed floral motifs to match the designs on the marble in the interior. There are three canopied seats in the sanctum. The central one facing the hall has the Guru Granth Sahib placed on it. Of the other two seats, one is occupied by the Guru Granth Sahib and the other by the Dasam Granth.

Several relics belonging to Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh such as wooden sandals, an old gown, several weapons as well as their hukamndmds are preserved at the Takht Sahib. The administration of Takht Harimandar Sahib was for a long time in the hands of a line of mahants. On the death of the last of them in 1930, the management was handed over to a committee of five, with Baba Kartar Singh Bedi as Sarbarah Kar, under the general supervision of the DistrictJudge of Patna. Baba Kartar Singh was removed in 1954 on the grounds of maladministration. A new constitution was framed in 1956 after consultations with various Sikh societies and a new committee took over the control.

The committee consists of 15 elected and nominated members, representing the Sikhs of Patna city, Bihar and Calcutta, and nominees of bodies such as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Chief Khalsa Diwan. Three members are the nominees of the DistrictJudge of Patna. GURDWARA BAL ULA MAIN! SANGAT, situated in a lane from across Takht Harimandar Sahib, is located in what used to be the house of Raja Fateh Chand Maini, a prominent citizen of Patna. Fateh Chand and his wife were devoted followers of the Sikh faith. They were without a child, and had longed and prayed for a son.

One day as the lady sat absorbed in prayer with her usual wish in her heart, child Gobind Rai [that was the name by which Guru Gobind Singh was then known] came along, followed by his playmates, sat in her lap and lisped, "Mother, give us something to eat." This was a miracle for her. She felt as if her prayer had been answered and she had really been blessed with a son. Joyfully she fetched the only eatables readily available in the houseboiled salted gram. Fateh Chand Maini was no less delighted. The couple converted their house into a sangat which came to be known as Maini Sangat.

To this day, theprasdd^t this Gurdwara consists of boiled salted gram especially distributed to children in the morning. The Gurdwara is served by Nirmala priests. The building has been extended in recent years, but the old porch supported on pillars and arches of carved wood has been preserved. On the entrance door are carved the Mul Mantra and the date Sambat 1725 Assu vadi 10, corresponding to 28 August 1668. Among the relics displayed in this Gurdwara is a pair of shoes of embroidered velvet believed to have been Guru Gobind Singh`s.

There is also a karaundd tree in the compound supposed to have sprouted from a twig planted by him. The Gurdwara has a volume of the Guru Granth Sahib in which the Mul Mantra is written in the old calligraphic style of the hukamndmds. It is believed that this is in Guru Gobind Singh`s own hand. GURDWARA GURU KA BAGH is on the eastern edge of the old city, about 3 km from Takht Harimandar Sahib. When Guru Tegh Bahadur returned from Assam, he alighted on this site which was then a garden owned by Nawab Rahim Bakhsh and Nawab Karim Bakhsh.

It is said that the trees in the garden had withered and almost dried up, but no sooner had the Guru entered than they blossomed forth. The Nawab offered the garden to the Guru. On hearing of the Guru`s return, the whole sangat of Patna along with child Gobind Rai, came out to pay him homage. Guru Tegh Bahadur was pleased to see the sangat and his young son. This meeting took place on Baisakh sudi 7, 1727 Bk/17 April 1670. A small shrine was built later near an imiitrcc under which the Guru had sat. Only a dried stump of that tree now remains.

The old shrine was demolished to give place to a new building the construction for which was taken up by the Takht Sahib Committee in 1971-72. GURDWARA SRI GURU GOBIND SINGII GHAT is a small shrine over that Ghatgate, close to Takht Harimandar Sahib. The Gariga, which has since receded further north, used to flow past this ghdl, or landing place. Guru Gobind Singh as a child often turned out here with his playmates. Tradition preserves many stories of these childhood days. Shiv Datt, a pious Brahman, used to meditate daily in the morning on the rivcrbank. His one wish was to see his deity in flesh.

One morning he did see Lord Rama in person. He was delighted at the vision. The next moment he found himself gazing at child Gobind Rai standing in front and smiling graciously at him. He instantly felt as if the child was the deity he had been longing to see. Shiv Datt treated Gobind Rai so ever after. A small cavelike shrine, with idols and icons believed to have belonged to Pandit Shiv Datt himself, still stands opposite to Gurdwara Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ghat. The Gurdwara is administered by Takht Harimandar Sahib. GURDWARA HANDI SAHIB at Danapur, about 20 km west of Takht Harimandar Sahib, is also sacred to Guru Gobind Singh.

When, summoned by Guru Tegh Bahadur, his family left Patna for the Punjab. Danapur was their camp at the end of the first day`s journey. An old lady, named by chroniclers variously as Jamna or Pardhani, had offered to provide the evening meal to the party. She had cooked khichn, a dish of rice and lentils in a hdndt, a small earthen kettle, but she saw that a large body of Patna sangat had followed to see off young Gobind Rai. She had neither the means nor the time to cook more food. But she had her faith. She prayed to the Guru and started serving food to the sangat.

It is said that the whole party was fed, but khichri`m the handiy/as not exhausted. A sangat was established in the lady`s house which came to be called Handi Vali Sangat. It was looked after for a long time by Udasi priests until the Takht Harimandar Sahib took it over and reconstructed it. The Gurdwara, on the bank of a seasonal stream called Son, consists of a small hall, with a verandah on three sides and a small brickpaved compound in front.

References :

1. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Gurduarian. Amritsar, n.d.
2. Narotam, Tara Sirigh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
3. Thakar Sirigh, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
4. Mehar Singh, Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1975
5. Randhir, G.S., Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990

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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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