PAONTA SAHIB (30° 25`N, 77° 35`E). a town on the right bank of the River Yamuna in Sirmur district of Himachal Pradesh, was founded by Guru Gobind Singh in November 1685. The land was an offering from Raja Mcdini Prakash of Nahan. Guru Gobind Singh stayed here for about three years. This was a period filled with literary creation. In the calm of Paonta, Guru Gobind Singh composed poetry of spiritual as well as of martial tenor, and the fifty two poets and writers he kept in his employ produced a vast treasure of literature by their compositions and by the translations they had made from ancient Indian classics.
It was during his stay at Paonta that the battle of Bharigam took place. At Paonta was born Guru Gobind Singh`s eldest son, Ajit Singh. Before leaving Paonta for Anandpur in 1688, Guru Gobind Singh entrusted the care of the fortified have Hand the sanctum within it to one Bhai Bishan Singh. The shrine, Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib, was reconstructed in 1823 by Baba Kapur Singh with funds provided by Sahib Singh Sandharivalia. In course of time, the shrine, with about 120 acres of land attached to it, came into the hands of hereditary mahants who treated it as their personal property.
In 1964 a band of Nihangs forced their entry into the shrine and started a continuing recital of the Guru Granth Sahib. The mahants sought the intervention of the Himachel Pradesh Government. After a protracted dispute the management of the Gurdwara was entrusted, in 1970, to an eleven member committee including ten life members and the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, as ex-officio chairman. The present building complex spreads over an area of over 3 acres. The main Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib in the centre consists of a square domed room within a vast rectangular hall.
The inner room contains old weapons among which a double edged sword, a scimitar and a matchlock are believed to have been the Guru`s personal weapons once. Other shrines include Talab Asthan where pay used to be disbursed; Kavi Darbar Asthan where literary works were recited and discussed; and Dastar Asthan where after the battle of Bhangani robes of honour were given to the warriors. Some relics were bestowed also on Pir Buddhu Shah of Sadhaura for his devoted service and scrifice during the battle.
Another shrine is a memorial to Rishi Kalpi whom the Guru had brought from his hermitage in the Himalayas to stay awhile at Paonta. From the backyard, Gobind Ghat leads down to the waters of the Yamuna. Administrative offices are under the portal on either flank of which is a row of rooms for pilgrims on the inner side and a line of shops facing outwards. Guru ka Langar is in the western part of the compound. Besides the daily programme of gurbdm recital and kirtan, larger assemblies take place on full moon days. An annual fair is held on Hola Mahalla.
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