BABA BAKALA (31°34`N, 75°16`E), a small town in Amritsar district of the Punjab, is sacred to Guru Hargobind and Guru Tegh Bahadur. The original name of the place was Bakala. As Guru Har Krishan lay on his deathbed in Delhi, he was asked by the sangat to name his successor. All that the Guru could say at that time was \’Baba Bakale\’ meaning that (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, who was the brother of his (Guru Har Krishan\’s) grandfather (baba) and who was living at Bakala, was to be the next Guru. Bakala, thereafter, came to be called Baba Bakala.

Earlier, Guru Hargobind had also resided at Bakala with his mother, Mata Ganga, who died at this place. Several shrines perpetuate their memory. DARBAR SAHIB marks the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur was anointed Guru and where he used to preach to his Sikhs. It comprises a congregation hall, with a square sanctum in the middle of it. The dome on top of the sanctum has an ornamental pinnacle and a large umbrellashaped finial. GURDWARA BHORA SAHIB, a ninestoryed octagonal edifice with a gilded dome topped by an ornamental pinnacle and umbrellashaped finial, marks the basement room, bhora in Punjabi, where Guru Tegh Bahadur used to sit in meditation.

After the death of Guru Hargobind in 1644, his youngest son, Tegh Bahadur, and his mother, Nanaki, had shifted from Kiratpur to Bakala, where they stayed until Tegh Bahadur was anointed and proclaimed Guru in 1664. He spent this interval in voluntary solitude and religious contemplation. Even after his formal installation on 11 August 1664 as Guru, he continued to live in seclusion and did nothing to counter the claims of the several pretenders to the guruship who were confusing and misleading the common Sikhs, until Makkhan Shah, a wealthy trader and a staunch follower of the Sikh faith, came to Bakala, discovered Tegh Bahadur sitting here in the bhora, deeply absorbed in meditation, to be the real Guru and publicly proclaimed the fact from the rooftop.

Guru Tegh Bahadur then actively took up the responsibility of instructing the Sikh community and guiding its affairs. He travelled extensively and made Kiratpur his headquarters, but the bhora at Bakala became, and has remained ever since, a sacred shrine for the Sikhs. The present building was completed in 1952. GURDWARA CHHAONI SAHIB is situated in a grove of old banyan and pipal trees. According to local tradition, Guru Hargobind\’s soldiery had their camp here. The place is now occupied by the Nihangs of the Taruna Dal, who stay here with their horses and cattle.

The Guru Granth Sahib is seated in a simple, 6 metre square room. GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB, a small glasscovered domed pavilion raised over a marblelined platform to the north of Darbar Sahib and in line with Bhora Sahib, is the spot where, according to local tradition. Guru Tegh Bahadur was fired at and wounded by Shihan, the Masand, at the behest of Dhir Mall, a nephew of the Guru and one of the pretenders to the guruship. GURDWARA MATA GANGA JI, half a kilometre northeast of Darbar Sahib, is dedicated to Guru Hargobind\’s mother, Mata Ganga, who died at Bakala on 15 Har 1685Bk/12 June 1628.

Mata Ganga had desired that her dead body should not be cremated but be immersed in the River Beas. Accordingly, the hearse was prepared and the body taken out in a procession, with the sangat chanting hymns. After the immersion of the dead body, the hearse was brought back to Bakala where a symbolic cremation was carried out and a samadh built. The present Gurdwara Mata Gangaji was constructed during the 1960\’s by Baba Bishan Singh Nihang of the Taruna Dal who continues to administer it. The building, in a walled compound, is a rectangular hall, with the 5 metre sqaure sanctum at the far end.

SHISH MAHAL MATA GANGA JI, close to Bhora Sahib, represents the house where Mata Ganga and, later, Mata Nanaki lived. It is a single flatroofed room, with glass panelled doors on three sides. The Guru Granth Sahib rests here for the night. Gurdwaras Bhora Sahib, Darbar Sahib, Manji Sahib and Shish Mahal, situated close to one another, are managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee through a local commitee. The others are under the control of the Nihangs of the Taruna Dal who have recently established some more shrines dedicated to Guru Hargobind.

References :

1. Tara Singh, Sri Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n.d.
2. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sri Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
3. Fauja Singh, Guru Teg Bahadur: Yatra Asthan,Pramparavan te rad Chinn. Patiala, 1976
4. Pramparavan te rad Chinn. Patiala, 1976 4. Randhir, G.S., Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990