DELHI, also called Dilli (28Â° 40`N. 77Â° 13`E), the capital of India, is also connected with Sikh history. The first, sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth Gurus visited it. Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devari, consorts of Guru Gobind Singh, stayed here for a long time before and after the death of the Guru. A Sikh sangat existed in what came to be known as Kucha Dilvali Singhari in Old Delhi.
After the downfall of the Mughal empire and the rise of Sikh power in the Punjab during the latter half of the eighteenth century, the confederated armies of the Dal Khalsa extended their area of operations right up to the walls of the metropolis, and in March 1783 they ransacked Malka Ganj and Sabzi Mandi and actually entered the Red Fort on 11 March 1783.
The helpless Mughal emperor Shah `Alam II sought mediation by Begam Samru and came to terms with the Sikhs, who agreed to retire with their main force to the Punjab provided Sardar Baghel Singh of Karorsinghia misi was permitted to stay on in the capital with 4,000 men till the construction of gurdwaras on sites of historical importance to the Sikhs was completed. To meet the expenses, Baghel Singh was authorized to charge six annas in a rupee (37.5 per cent) of all income from octroi duties in the capital.
During his stay in the capital from March to December 1783, Baghel Singh located seven sites and constructed gurdwaras upon them. Besides these seven, another historical shrine, Nanak Piao, was already in existence on the outskirts of Delhi. Another, Damdama Sahib, dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh was established later. Like most other historical gurdwaras^ these Delhi shrines had been administered severally by hereditary mahant families till the rise of the Gurdwara reform movement in the Punjab during the early 1920`s.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee sent a deputation comprising Dan Singh Vachhoa, Harbaris Singh Sistani and Gurdit Singh to negotiate with the mahants the transfer of gurdwaras to Panthic management. Mahant Hari Singh, B.A., head priest of Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib was the first to hand over the Gurdwara and its property to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on 19 December 1922. The mahants of most other historical gurdwaras at Delhi followed suit.
The committee appointed, on 19 March 1923, a managing committee comprising Raghbir Singh and Bahadur Singh, an engineer, to take over the administration. Later, in March 1926, an 11member committee, designated the Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee was constituted. The members included among others, Rai Bahadur Wasakha Singh, Jodh Singh, Surinderpal Singh Advocate, Nanak Singh, Beant Singh and Agyapal Singh.
Charichal Singh was appointed manager. The partition of India, in 1947, brought about significant demographic changes in Delhi including the influx of a large number of Sikh immigrants from what then became Pakistan. The immigrants were mostly artisans, businessmen and industrialists. While attendance and the finances of the gurdwaras improved considerably, group rivalries and factionalism raised their hand, which affected the management of the gurdwaras and the functioning of the Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
In 1974, the Government of India entrusted the control of gurdwaras to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee (D.S.G.M.C.), a statutory body set up under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1971, and independent of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee at Amritsar. The historical gurdwaras under the Committee`s management include: GURDWARA sis GANJ SAHIB in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi about half a kilometre west of the main Delhi railway station marks the spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur, Nanak IX, was beheaded on 11 November 1675 under the orders of the Mughal emperor Aurangzib. See TEGH BAHADUR, GURU.
The site next to the city Kotwali where Sardar Baghel Singh had established his main post was at the time occupied by a mosque which the Sardar had to demolish before raising a gurdwara. The gurdwara was later demolished and replaced by a mosque. The case for the demolition of this mosque and its replacement by Gurdwara Sis Ganj was taken up with British government after the 1857 Mutiny by Raja Sarup Singh, ruler of the princely state of Jind.
The local Muslims opposed the proposal and took the case to courts. Mosques and gurdwaras appeared on the site alternately during the prolonged litigation. Ultimately, the present building of Gurdwara Sis Ganj was raised in 1930 in consequence of the verdict of the British Privy Council. The twostoreyed hall, with only a mezzanine forming the first floor, was barely adequate for the increasing number of devotees and visitors especially after immigration of 1947, and efforts were made to acquire the adjoining Kotwali (police post) with a view to enlarging the sitting area.
Half the Kotwali precincts were acquired by the Delhi SikhGurdwaras Management Committee (D.S.G.M.C.) in 1971 at a cost of Rs 1,625,000. The other half was offered to the Committee by government in 1983. This led to a programme of largescale renovation and development. However, the old domed building continues to house the sanctum sanctorum. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated on a gilded palanquin on a raised platform, the basement below which represents the exact spot of execution.
The trunk of the tree under which the execution took place is also preserved behind a glass screen. The additional buildings include Guru ka Larigar and Guru Tegh Bahadur Nivas, lodgings for pilgrims. The offices of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee are also located in Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. The Committee publishes a Punjabi religious and literary monthly, the Sis Ganj. While all important Sikh days on the annual calendar are observed at the Gurdwara, special programmes are earmarked in honour of Guru Tegh Bahadur`s martyrdom.
GURDWARA RIKABGANJ SAHIB on Pandit Pant Marg near Parliament House in New Delhi marks the place where the body of Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated. After the execution of the Guru on 11 November 1675, his headless body and the severed head were left lying in the Chandni Chowk. The awestruck people of Delhi did not dare to come forward and claim the Guru`s remains. It was only after nightfall that, while a Rarighreta Sikh, Bhai Jaita, picked up the head and carried it posthaste to Anandpur, the body was carried by Bhai Lakkhi Shah Vanjara and his son, Nigahia, to their house in the Raisina village (now New Delhi).
Still afraid of performing an open cremation, they set the house itself on fire and collecting the ashes of the Guru`s body in an urn buried them there. When, after the death of Aurangzib in 1707, Guru Gobind Singh came to Delhi to meet Prince Mu`azzam, later emperor Bahadur ShahI, he with the help of local Sikhs located the site and raised a simple memorial thereon. Later a mosque came to be built on the site which Sardar Baghel Singh had to demolish when he built Gurdwara Rikabgarij in 1783.
During the Mutiny (1857), the Muslims again demolished the Sikh shrine and rebuilt a mosque here. Sikhs took the matter to the law court which restored possession of the site to them, and they quickly rebuilt the gurdwara. In 1914 another dispute arose, this time regarding the boundary wall of the Gurdwara, a portion of which had been demolished by government for the purpose of straightening a road to the British Viceroy`s mansion (now Rashtrapati Bhavan).
The Sikhs protested and would have launched an agitation to oppose the proposal. Meanwhile, World War I (1914-1918) broke out on which account the protest was held in abeyance. But as soon as the war ceased, the agitation was resumed. In the end the government yielded and the Gurdwara wall was rebuilt at public expense. See GURDWARA RIKABGANJ AGITATION. The construction of the present building of Gurdwara Rikabganj Sahib was started in 1960 and was completed in 1967-68.
It is an impressive white marble structure. The twostoreyed building on a high plinth comprises a highceilinged hall with a mezzanine at midheight forming the first floor. It is topped by a pinnacled dome of the type of an inverted lotus, with kiosks adorning the roof corners. The basement below the hall marks the actual cremation site of Guru Tegh Bahadur`s headless body. The Gurdwara has avast campus. Besides, about two dozen staff quarters, a suboffice of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee, offices of the Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, a 65metre square congregation hall completed in 1980 and Guru ka Langar are located on the premises.
An institution for the training of young musicians in Sikh kirtan is also functioning here. Sacred relics preserved in the Gurdwara include two swords, a dagger and two katars (poniards) given by Guru Gobind Singh to Mata Sahib Devan before her departure from Nanded in 1708. GURDWARA NANAK PIAO (lit. a water booth) situated along Sher Shah Suri Marg, near Azadpur, on the northern outskirts of Delhi commemorates Guru Nanak`s visit to the place during which he got a well dug and a booth set up to serve water to wayfarers.
The present building of the Gurdwara replacing the older shrine was constructed during the 1980`s. It is a highceilinged hall with a mezzanine forming its first floor. The high dome above the hall is topped by a gilded pinnacle and an umbrellashaped fmial. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated in a marble palanquin in the middle of the hall. The 40metre square marblelined sarovarwith colonnades on three sides was built in 1978. The old well is still in use.
Two educational institutionsGuru Tegh Bahadur Institute of Electronics and a branch of Guru Har Krishan Public School are also functioning on the campus. A flour mill installed here supplies wheat flour to all historical gurdwaras in Delhi for Guru ka Langar as well as for karahprasad. Special congregations take place on the occasion of the death anniversary of Guru Nanak which comes off in SeptemberOctober. GURDWARA MAJNU TILLA is situated on a mound (.tilla) on the bank of the River Yamuna beyond Timarpur Colony on the outer Ring Road of Delhi.
According to chroniclers, a Muslim recluse lived here during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Lodhi (1488-1517). He used to ferry people across the river but was usually absorbed in prayer and penitence unmindful of his physical health and appearance. People had nicknamed him Majnu after a romantic hero of Persian folklore. Hence the name of the place Majnu ka Tilla (Majnu`s mound) or Majnu Tilla. Guru Nanak during his visit to Delhi met and held discourse with Majnu upon whom he impressed the importance of selfless service of mankind which was far superior to austerities for selfpurification.
Guru Hargobind, Nanak VI, is also said to have halted for some time at Majnu Tilla on his way to Delhi summoned by Emperor Jahangir. Sardar Baghel Singh established a gurdwara here in 1783. Later Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) had a small marble building constructed which still exists. It is a twostoreyed building comprising a hall with two cubicles at ground floor. Recently a new magnificent hall, 20metre square, and lined with white marble slabs has been constructed close to the old building.
Old copies of Guru Granth Sahib from other gurdwaras in Delhi and the neighbouring states are kept in the mezzanine of the older shrine here till their periodical disposal by consigning them reverently to fire in a small kiln especially built for this purpose. Sunday divans and community meals at Gurdwara Majnu Tilla attract large gatherings of devotees. The most important celebration of the year, however, is Baisakhi, the birth anniversary of the Khalsa, when largely attended divans take place.
GURDWARA BANGLA SAHIB near the Gole Post Office about one kilometre from Connaught Place in New Delhi perpetuates the memory of Guru Har Krishan, who stayed here in the bungalow (bangia) or mansion ofMirza Raja Jai Singh during FebruaryMarch 1664 when he came to Delhi summoned by Emperor Aurangzib. Delhi was at that time in the grip of severe cholera and smallpox epidemics. The young Guru started serving the sick and the destitute and, in the process, himself got smallpox infection.
In order to save its spread to the inmates of Raja Jai Singh`s household, the Guru shifted to a place on the bank of the River Yamuna where he passed away on 30 March 1664. According to some chroniclers. Guru Har Krishan breathed his last in Raja Jai Singh`s house, now the site of Gurdwara Bangia Sahib, and was only taken to the bank of the Yamuna for cremation. Raja Jai Singh dedicated the haveli or house where the Guru had stayed to his memory.
The Mughals demolished this shrine and built a mosque in its place sometime between 1753 and 1775. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia razed this mosque during his attack on Delhi on 1 October 1778, and Sardar Baghel Singh raised Gurdwara Bangia Sahib on the site in 1783. The present building was constructed by Sikhs of Delhi after the partition of 1947. It is a two storeyed building on a high plinth and has an allround gallery at midheight of the rectangular domed hall.
The Guru Granth Sahib is displayed in a wooden palanquin on the ground floor. Another singlestoreyed hall, also rectangular in design, has since been constructed adjoining the main hall. The extensive Gurdwara campus is flanked on the one side by the Guru ka Langar, community kitchen, and by a vast sheet of shimmering water, sarovar, the holy tank, on the other, and is entered through a high archway. The Gurdwara* is also served by a charitable hospital, a library and a museum named after Sardar Baghel Singh.
Besides the daily services, special divans take place on the first of each Bikrami month and other special days on the annual Sikh calendar. The major annual celebration however is the birth anniversary of Guru Har Krishan falling on Savan 10, occurring usually in July. GURDWARA BALA SAHIB, near Sunlight Colony, on the outer Ring Road of Delhi, marks the site where Guru Har Krishan was cremated. The place was then right on the bank of the Yamuna which has, however, changed its course since.
The Guru, hardly eight years old at the time of his visit to Delhi, became popular among the residents of Delhi as Bala Pir (lit. young prophet). Hence the name of the Gurdwara. Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devan, consorts of Guru Gobind Singh, were also cremated at this site where a simple memorial shrine had existed when Sardar Baghel Singh established a larger gurdwara here in 1783. The present building of Gurdwara Bala Sahib on an 18acre estate was constructed in 1955.
It comprises a flatroofed hall, 30 x 25 metres. Its roof is supported by 18 columns. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated on a raised platform under a domed canopy of masonry. Samadh of Mata Sahib Devan is also under the same roof, only a wooden partition separating it from the sanctum of Bala Sahib. It comprises the small kiosk with the Guru Granth Sahib seated inside it. It is called Angitha Mata Sahib Kaur. Mata Sundari`s samadh is in a separate room, 8metre square with a verandah around it, flanking the main Gurdwara Bala Sahib.
The Guru Granth Sahib is seated here in a marble palanquin. Besides the daily morning and evening services, larger divans and community meals are held on the first of each Bikrami month and on every fullmoon day. Most important of all is the death anniversary of Guru Har Krishan which is observed on Chet sudi 14 occurring during MarchApril. GURDWARA MATA SUNDARI, behind J.P. Hospital (formerly Irwin Hospital) near Ghalib Urdu Academy in New Delhi, marks the residence of Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devan from 1727 till their death.
The holy mothers had at first been staying in a house in Kucha Dilvali Singhan in Old Delhi. Following the execution of Ajit Singh Palit (adopted son of Mata Sundari) in 1725, the ladies went to stay at Mathura, but on return from there after two years they took up residence in a house which came to be called Haveli Mata Sundari Ki, now Gurdwara Mata Sundariji. The Gurdwara built during the 1970`s is a twostoreyed flatroofed structure with its facade decorated with projecting windows and kiosks on roof top.
Besides the usual morning and evening services, special divans are held on fullmoon days. Still larger divans take place in December every year to mark the death anniversaries of the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh. GURDWARA MOTI BAGH is situated on the Ring Road near Dhaula Kuan in New Delhi. It marks the site where Guru Gobind Singh on his arrival at Delhi in 1707 set up his camp. The gurdwara here was first established by Sardar Baghel Singh Karorsinghia.
While its doublestoreyed old building is still preserved with the Guru Granth Sahib presiding it, a new complex was raised in 1980 with a 22metre square highceiling domed hall and a mezzanine at midheight. The Guru Granth Sahib is enshrined in it in a marble palanquin under a canopy. The entire wall surface, exterior as well as interior, is lined with slabs of white marble. The major festival of the year celebrates the first installation of the Guru Granth Sahib in the Harimandar at Amritsar (August).
GURDWARA DAMDAMA SAHIB near Humayun`s tomb on the outer Ring Road in New Delhi is where a meeting between Guru Gobind Singh and Prince Mu`azzam (later Emperor Bahadur Shah) took place sometime in MayJune 1707. The Guru agreed to help the latter in his struggle for the throne against his younger brother, Prince `Azam. A gurdwara was established later to mark the spot. Its present building constructed during 1977-84 is a 20metre square high ceilinged, domed hall on a raised plinth with a mezzanine at midheight forming the first floor.
The entire wall surface is lined with marble slabs. The hall has three doors on each side making the building a baradari (lit. building with 12 doors). The inner design with arches supporting the mezzanine forming a covered passage under it, duplicates the design followed in the construction of Harimandar Sahib at Amritsar. Domed kiosks adorn the roof corners. The most important celebration of the year is on the occasion of Hola Mohalla festival falling in March.
1. Tara Singh, Sri Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n.d.
2. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
3. Kahn Singh, Bhai, GurusAabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh [Reprint]. Patiala, 1974
4. Trilochan Singh, Historical Sikh Shrines in Delhi. Delhi. 1972
5. Johar, S.S., The Sikh Gurus and Their Shrines. Delhi, 1976
6. Randhir, G.S., Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990