TOSHAKHANA, from Persian toshakhanah (toshah = food or provisions for journey or food articles in general+ khana = house, store) or tosha khana (toshak = bedding, clothing + khana) means in Punjabi a treasury or secured storehouse for valuables. It is now generally used for the storehouse in the Darbar Sahib complex at Amritsar where costly items presented as offerings at the Harimandar, the Akal Takht and the shrine of Baba Atal accumulated over the centuries, mostly during the Sikh rule in the Punjab, are normally kept under tight security. They are taken out for jalau or display in the shrines on special occasions such as major festivals or anniversaries.
They mostly comprise gold and silver ornaments such as chhabbas (domelike pendants), seharas (fringes of pearls and gems), chhatars (umbrellas), jha.la.rs (bejewelled frills), etc.Other costly items like door leaves of the Harimandar lined with gold sheets and valuable rumalas (scarves or wrappings for Guru Granth Sahib) are also stored in the Toshakhana.Two rare items are a richly bejewelled canopy, originally a present from the Nizam of Hyderabad to Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), who considering it too good for himself made an offering of it at the Harimandar, and a chandan da chaur or fly whisk made of fibres of sandalwood prepared by a Muslim craftsman, Haji Muhammad Maskin.
He had made two such whisks, one of which he had presented at the Holy Ka`aba at Mecca, and was in search of a holy place in India deserving of his offering. Guided by Bhai Hira Singh Ragi, a well known exponent of gurmat kirtan (singing of sacred hymns of Guru Granth Sahib), he offered the whisk at the Harimandar on 31 December 1925.The Toshakhana is located on the first floor of Darshani Deorhi, the gateway to the Harimandar, and is guarded by employees of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
The contents are properly accounted for and the records kept by the secretary of the local managing committee until, 1945, when the local committee was disbanded and the administration of the Darbar Sahib complex was put under the direct control of the Shiromani Committee. It was the confiscation of the keys of this treasury by the British administration on 7 November 1921 that led to the keys agitation, the first direct confrontation between the government and the Akalis during the Gurdwara Reform movement.
It ended in the restitution of the Golden Temple keys to the shrine authority on 5 January 1922.A government official came to the Darbar Sahib complex and surrendered the keys wrapped in a red piece of cloth to Baba Kharak Singh, then president of the Shiromani Committee.Toshakhana too was fired at by government troops during “Operation Blue Star” on the night of 5/6 June 1984. It was partly damaged by artillery shells from guns mounted on tanks. The treasury, however, remained intact except that the famous Hyderabad canopy was scorched by heat generated by shelling.
1. Madanjit Kaur, The Golden Temple Past and Present. Amritsar, 1983
2. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurduara Sudhar arthat Akali Lahir. Amritsar, 1975
3. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Sri Amritsar [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1977
4. Singh Sabha Patrika (Bhai Sahib RagiHira Singh Vishesh Ank). Amritsar, 1979