ACHAL SAHIB, GURDWARA. sacred to Guru Nanak, is located on the boundary of Salho and Chahal villages along the Jalandhar Batala road, 6 km south of Batala (31M9\’N, 75°12\’E) in Gurdaspur district of the Punjab. The low mound on which the Gurdwara is situated, in close proximity of the ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva, is popularly known as Achal Vatala. The Achal temple had since old times been a place of pilgrimage visited by sadhus from distant parts, especially during the annual fair held on the occasion of Sivaratri festival.

Sujan Rai Bhandari, Khulasat utTwarikh, writing at the end of the seventeenth century, gives a graphic account of this fair.Guru Nanak came here at the time of one such fair from Kartarpur, an habitation he had founded on the bank of the River Ravi. In the words of the Miharban Janam Sakhi, “As the Guru entered Achal, the name Nanak spread everywhere among the crowds. Everyone began to say that Nanak, the renowned saint, had come. Nanak whose sabdas or hymns the world recited was himself there.

Whoever was in Achal rushed to see him. Neither a yogi was left nor a sannyasi; neither a householder was left nor a recluse. Not a soul remained behind; whosoever there was thronged to the spot saying, `Nanak hath come, Nanak hath come.`”Guru Nanak held a long discourse with the Nathyogis led by Bhangar Nath, who, according to Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 1.40, began by questioning him, “Why hast thou soured the milk by adding vinegar to it? Whoever obtained butter by churning sour milk? Why, casting off the vestment of an Udasi, hast thou again adopted the life of a householder?” “Bhangar Nath,” replied the Guru, “it is thou that hast been perversely instructed.

Thou didst not cleanse the vessel well, so the butter turned rancid. Abandoning home life thou turnest an anchorite, and yet thou goest to beg at the doors of the householders. Thou wouldst have nothing to live by if they gave thee nought.”The Naths then tried to overawe Guru Nanak with a display of their magical powers, and challenged him to show them a miracle. But the Guru condemned their wizardry and said, “The magic of the Siddhas is vain and futile.

I rely on nothing except the holy fellowship and the Word. Besides the True Name, I possess no other miracle.” “By the Guru`s Word,” says Bhai Gurdas, “contentment came to the Siddhas.” A memorial platform was raised on the site where Guru Nanak had halted. A small gurdwara was raised during the eighteenth century and was attended by a line of mahants.

According to revenue records, the Gurdwara was owned by one Mangal Singh in 1892.His son, Sundar Singh, succeeded him in 1904.Sundar Singh`s son, Surat Singh, was the mahant or custodian, when. around 1923, a Jatha from the nearby village of Jaito Sarja, under the leadership of Jathedar Kesar Singh occupied the Gurdwara and seven acres of land attached to it. Surat Singh had offered no resistance.

Subsequent to the passing of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, the management was officially handed over to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on 28 April 1926.The foundation of the present building was laid on 17 October 1935. The complex, completed in 1946, consists of an 8metre square sanctum within a high-ceilinged hall, with a gallery all around at mid-height and a pinnacled lotus dome on top.There are square domed kiosks at the corners of the hall roof and solid lotus blossoms in leaves on the wall tops. Rooms for pilgrims and the Guru ka Langar are across a brickpaved courtyard close by.

The Gurdwara is affiliated to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, but the administration has been temporarily handed over to the successors of Sant Gurmukh Singh.In addition to morning and evening services, largely attended congregations take place on every amavas, the last day of the dark half of the month. The biggest function of the year is the annual fair which now takes place from the ninth to the eleventh day after the Divali festival.The fair, although a continuation of the time honoured pilgrimage to the Hindu temple and tank, has in recent decades become more local in its appeal and increasingly Sikh in religious character and attendance. Gurdwara Achal Sahib is situated on the Batala–Baba Bakala road.

Achal Batala has been the most important centre of Nathpanthi yogis during the Mughal rule. Guru Nanak came to this place on Shivratri festival along with his disciples. As soon as Guru Nanak reached the place, people gathered around him to touch his feet. This created jealousy and bitterness in the hearts of yogis, as people paid much attention to the Guru and ignored them outright.This was too much for yogis to tolerate.Feeling that Guru Nanak was an intruder to their sacred place to win over their disciples, their leader Bhangar Nath had a bitter debate with the great Guru.

Guru Nanak told the yogi that he was a hypocrite. Though outwardly he had renounced the world being a recluse, yet he goes to the houses of the worldly people to beg his food. He questioned, “In what way\’ you are superior to those at whose door you beg your daily meal? What do you give them in return” Instead of replying,, the Yogi started showing miracle of black magic and occult powers.But Guru Nanak was not impressed by his magic tricks.

It so happened that yogi lost the power to show his miracle in the presence of the Guru. He realised that some superior power had taken the wind out of sail. The Yogi came to Nanak, calm and bewildered. Guru told him that all these magic tricks would be insignificant compared to the love and grace of God.  Gurudwara Achal Sahib stands on the spot where Guru Nanak had discussion with Yogi Bhangar Nath.

References :

1. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
2. Tara Singh, Sri Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n. d.
3. Randhir, G.S., Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990 J. C. B. W.

Additional Information: Encyclopaedia of Sikh Religion and Culture 

Achal and famous then for its Shiva Temple. Gurudwara Achal Sahib commemorates the visit. On arrival there, Guru Nanak became the centre of attention of everyone. The Yogis and Siddhas, feeling jealous, wanted to measure their prowess with him. According to the legend, they performed various miracles with black magic, one of them becoming a tiger, another a snake, a third a bird and so on. Guru Nanak told them that their yogic powers were of no use and that he had no other miracle except the “True Name”. There was a long discussion between the Guru and the leader of the Yogis and the Yogis were told that all the Yogic powers would be in vain without the glory of the True Name and the love of and grace of God.

The leader of the Yogis Bhangar Nath asked Guru Nanak many questions which were answered and are recorded in the Granth Sahib (p. 938)