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SAROVAR, a tank, pool or lake, especially at a sacred place or by a holy shrine used for sacramental ablutions and other religious ceremonies. Sanskrit synonyms are sar, sarvar, tarag and vapl. Another word is puskar or puskarini which usually means a pond full of lotus flowers. The lotus is a symbol of purity; water symbolizes fertility as well as purity. The primary association of sarovar is with the purificatory aspects of its water. In the Sikh sacred literature we find sarvar, sar, sarovar, and mansarused in the sense of a lake or pool. 

The word sagar is used in the sense of sea or ocean as a Figure of speech to represent the circuit of transmigration (bhav sagar, bhavjal).Mansar as a nominative singular is a shortened form of Mansarovar, a famous natural lake, believed to be the haunt of swans (harisa) on the mountain Kailas in the Himalayas. It is a holy lake, a tirtha, and harisa is a type of bird associated with enlightenment and purity, which stays in and around the holy waters of Mansarovar.

The sanctity of sarovar is often related to that of the place where it exists. It is a bathingplace where bathing has a religious significance.The word sarovar sums up a great deal of water symbolism documented in the religious history of India from the time of the Rgveda to that of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Although the term sarovar generally means a holy tank situated at a sacred place where sacramental ablutions (snana) and initiatory rituals (di`ksa) are performed, in the Guru Granth Sahib it is quite often employed in a symbolic sense also meaning the teacher (guru) or the society of sages (sadhsangat ), as for example, Guru Nanak`s line, guru sarvaru ham hansa piare Guru is sacred lake and we are his dear swans (GG,1027), or Guru Amar Das` guru sarvani mansarovaru hai vadbhagi pnrakh lahanni Guru is the Mansarovar Lake, but only the fortunate ones have access to it (GG, 757) ; and, further, Guru Ram Das`, athsathi tirath majanu kla satsangati pag nae dhuri by bathing in the dust of the feet of sadhsarig`at is as good as bathing at the sixtyeight sacred bathing places (GG.l 198).

The Great Bath, 39`x 23` x8`, excavated around BC 2500 at the site of the prehistoric city of Mohenjodaro, now in Pakistan, may be one of the most ancient tanks in human civilization.Since then the tradition of digging tanks at pilgrim centres and sacred spots has been carried on, and so has been the belief that a dip in a sacred sarovar, particularly on certain auspicious occasions, washes away one`sins. Traditionally, in India, there are sixty-eight bathing spots, some of them being near riverbanks, some by the sea and many inland tanks or pools. A tank close to a temple is a common phenomenon all over India.The Sikhs have a number of sacred tanks or pools, mostly situated in the Punjab.

The first bathing spot sacred to the Sikhs was the baoh`, a well with eighty-four steps leading down to water level, got dug by Guru Amar Das (1479-1574) at Goindval where the Sikhs gathered annually on the Baisakhi day. Bathing here is believed to annul transmigration. There are numerous other sarovars, sacred to the memory of Sikh Gurus, including the one at Amritsar which is considered the holiest of the holy Sikh places. The sarovar at Amritsar (the city itself received its name from the sarovar which was amritsar, the pool of ambrosia) was excavated by Guru Ram Das (1534-1581) and the Harimandar, the Temple of God, built in the middle of it by Guru Aijan (1563-1606).

So important is the element of a sacred tank and a purificatory bath in the Sikh tradition that in the Sikh morning and evening prayer (ardas) one of the benedictions sought and injunctions laid on the faithful is Sn amritsar ji ke darsan isnan may we be blessed with a glimpse of and, a bath in the holy Amritsar sarovar.Bhai Gurdas includes purificatory bath in his list of three jewels of Sikhismnam (meditating on His name), dan (giving charity to the needy) and isnan (bath in a sacred tank). The sarovars are no doubt a part of the Sikh religious heritage and bathing in them an acknowledged religious practice, but the real sarovar in Sikhism is the Guru`s word (sabda) which alone can wash away one`s sins.

Contemplating God through Guru`s sabda, millions may have their sins burnt up (GG, 1175).At many places in Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, the teacher and the disciple are likened to the pool (sarovar) and the swan (harisa) referring to the swan`s search for food of gems and pearls in the pool the gems and pearls being the attributes of God.The pool is full of pearls but he alone reaches it who is so blest (GG,6»5).

The seeker seeks ever to arrive at the Guru`s sarovar to satisfy the thirst of his soul. He is pleased on seeing the Guru just as the lotus in a pool blossoms touched by the ray of the sun. Around the Guru`s pool is the embankment of truth : those who are truthful and free from ego find this pool out and having bathed in it stand washed of all stain. It is the crows, i.e. the manmukhs, who cannot reach the pool.

References :

1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1959
2. Gurdas Bhai, Varan. Amritsar, 1962
3. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Sri Amritsar, [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1977
4. Datta, V.N., Amritsar Past and Present. Amritsar, 1967
5. Monier Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary [Reprint]. Delhi, 1979


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