AMBALA (30°23`N, 76°47`E), a city in Haryana, has several historical shrines sacred to the Gurus. GURDWARA BADSHAHI BAGH, situated near the district courts, occupies the site which used to be a halting place for the Mughal emperors when travelling from Delhi to the Punjab or Kashmir. Guru Gobind Singh came here at the end of 1670 or in early 1671 during one of his excursions from Lakhnaur. Then only a small child, he had greatly impressed Pir Nur Din (or Mir Din), custodian of the nearby Muslim shrine.

According to local tradition, the young Guru miraculously made ordinary sparrows fight against the arrogant Pir`s hawk which, badly mauled, fell down dead near Labbhu ka Talab in another part of the city. The Pir, now humbled, made obeisance to the Guru, and built a platform in his honour. Later during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Mehar Singh of Nishananvali misi raised a small gurdwara which, however, was blown off during a British attack on the rebel forces in 1857. The land thereafter passed into private possession. The owner, having become aware of the sanctity of the place, built a room on the old foundations, but it was in a state of neglect when the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee took it over in 1926. Five years later, through the initiative of Sant Gurmukh Singh of Patiala, the Sikhs erected a more befitting building and laid out a garden around it. The present complex was raised by Nirmala saints after the partition of 1947.

The management again passed to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Nirmalas shifted to an ashram near by. The Gurdwara is entered through a high gate in a wall with ramparts giving it the appearance of a fortress. The rectangular divan hall has a vaulted ceiling. The sanctum within the hall marks the site of the old shrine.

GURDWARA GOBINDPURA PATSHAHI DASVIN, located along the Jain College Road, close to an old tank called Labbhu ka Talab is sacred to Guru Gohind Singh. According to local tradition, Guru Gobind Singh, during his visit to Ambala in 1670-71, in order to humble the pride of an arrogant Muslim divine, Pir Nur Din , miraculously made sparrows kill the Pir`s hawk. The hawk, chased by the sparrows, fell down dead near Labhu ka Talab. It was a Muslim locality. Pir Sayyid Shah, another Muslim divine, witnessed the miracle from here, and sought from the young Guru the favour of a spring of sweet water as the wells in the area were brackish. The well dug at the Guru`s instance still exists in the backyard of the gurdwara. The present building, however, was constructed only after 1947. It consists of a single flatroofed hall, which includes a square sanctum, marking the site of the original shrine.

GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB (BAOLl SAHIB) is the premier gurdwara of the city. Guru Hargobind, while on his way to Delhi to meet Emperor Jahangir, stayed here for a night. The place, then a small village called Khurrampur, suffered from a chronic scarcity of water. The Guru asked his followers to construct a baoli, or a well with steps reaching down to water level. The baoh`was ready by the time he returned and broke journey here again for an overnight halt. Guru Gobind Singh is also said to have visited the place travelling towards Kurukshetra in 1702. According to local tradition, Banda Singh Bahadur also halted here before advancing upon ChhatBanur and Sirhind in 1710. On the establishment of Sikh power in the Punjab during the second half of the eighteenth century, Ambala and its surrounding territory fell to the share of the Nishananvali Misl.

Mehar Singh of this misi or chiefship got the baoli restored and had a room built on the site of the old Manji Sahib. Khurrampur village was subsequently destroyed by floods in the river Tangri, and the shrine remained in a state of neglect until Maharaja Hira Singh (1843-1911) of Nabha rebuilt it at the beginning of the twentieth century. Following the partition of the Punjab in 1947, the Sikh population increased with migrations from West Punjab.

The cornerstone of a new building was laid on 12 May 1951. The main building consists of an imposing threestoreyed gateway, flanked by octagonal domed towers and a spacious rectangular hall. Within the hall is the sanctum marking the site of the original Manji Sahib. The baoli is at the farthest end of the hall. A local committee manages the shrine subject to the overall control of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. A girls school, named in honour of Guru Hargobind, functions on the premises of the Gurdwara.

The most important festival of the year is the birth anniversary of Guru Hargobind which comes off in the month of June. GURDWARA SATSANG SAHIB honours the memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), once on his way from Anandpur to Kurukshetra, halted here under a tree near the potters` huts. An old man, Mehar Dhumian, urged the Guru to shift away from the tree which, he said, was haunted. He described an old incident saying that one evening an unidentified traveller had stopped there with his load of a covered basket and had asked him (Dhumian) if there was a Sikh house in the vicinity. Dhumian had directed the wayfarer towards the locality where the shrine of Twakkal Shah stood, but, to his horror, he observed bloodstains on the branchleaves where the stranger had hung his basket. From the circumstances narrated Guru Gobind Singh could make out that the stranger was no other than Bhai Jaita, carrying to Anandpur the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

A platform was raised on the site. Guru Gobind Singh prolonged his stay holding holy assemblies or satsang for the Sikhs. The shrine came to be known as Gurdwara Satsang. For a long time this sacred spot remained part of the private house of its priests. It was only in 1934 that a committee was formed. A new building was raised in 1935. In recent years another hall has been added, enclosing the older doublestoreyed domed structure.

GURDWARA SIS GANJ, about 300 metres from Gurdwara Manji Sahib, is sacred to Guru Tegh Bahadur. After the Guru had been executed publically in Delhi on 11 November 1675 under the orders of Emperor Aurangzib, one of his Sikhs, Bhai Jaita carried off his severed head to Anandpur, while his body was cremated by Bhai Lakkhi Shah in Delhi. Bhai Jaita travelling incognito with the Guru`s head (sis) stayed in a Sikh`s house in Ambala, the site of the present Gurdwara Sis Gary.

Local devotees raised a platform to mark the spot. In 1913, when the Sikh Educational Conference met for its sixth annual session at Ambala, the site sprang into limelight. The custodians of the adjoining Muslim shrine of Twakkal Shah objected to the Sikhs` visiting the place in large numbers. A civil suit followed which, however, went in the Sikhs` favour . In 1925, the control was entrusted to the newly constituted Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The new building, completed in 1969, consists of a doublestoreyed domed gateway and a small divan hall.

References :

1. Tara Singh, 5ri Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n.d.
2. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
3. Randhir, G.S., Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990