TARN TARAN (31°27`N, 74°56`E), important centre of Sikh pilgrimage 24 km south of Amritsar, was founded by Guru Arjan in 1596. Six years earlier, on 13 April 1590, he had inaugurated the conversion of a natural pond lying along the DelhiLahore highway into a quadrangular tank. Digging operations on full scale commenced on the last day of the dark half of the month, Bhadon, falling on 19 August 1590. With the completion of digging, on Chet vaA`Amavas 1653 Bk/19 March 1596, began the construction of the main shrine, the Darbar Sahib, and ancillary buildings.

Meanwhile, a local official, Nur udDin, ordered under imperial authority the construction of a new caravan serai along the royal highway and confiscated to this end all the bricks and the kilns in which they were burnt for the holy shrine at Tarn Taran. He deputed his son, Amir udDin, to have the bricks carried to the serai site where, besides the inn, a complete habitation named Nur Din sprang up. This was about 6 km to the northwest of the Guru`s tank.

Further development of Tarn Taran remained suspended until 1768, when Sardar Budh Singh of Faizullapuria misi occupied the entire parganah ofPatti, uprooted the village of Nur Din and the serai, and brought their bricks back to the site of this sarovar. Sardar Budh Singh and Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia joined hands to have the building of the Darbar Sahib constructed. Some bungas or dwelling houses were also built on the periphery of the holy tank. Maharaja Ranjit Singh visited the shrine in 1802.

It was here that he exchanged turbans with Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluvalia as a token of lasting friendship. Ranjit Singh had the steps on the two sides of the sarovar, left unfinished by Budh Singh and Jassa Singh, completed and its circumambulatory passage paved. The Darbar Sahib was also reconstructed. Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his grandson Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh, donated large quantities of gold to have the exterior plated with the metal, but the work made little progress in the troubled times that followed Ranjit Singh`s death. It was in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that part of the exterior was covered with goldleaf by Sant Sham Singh, of Amritsar.

Only one of the four towers planned by Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh for the four corners of the tank was erected during this time. Under Maharaja Ranjit Singh`s orders, the town of Tarn Taran was enclosed by a wall. A few other shrines such as the Mahji Sahib, the Akal Bunga and the Guru ka Khuh were developed and several bungas added. After the annexation of the Punjab to the British dominions, the management of the shrines at Tarn Taran, along with those at Amritsar, was entrusted to a Sarbarah or manager appointed by the deputy commissioner of Amritsar.

The role of the manager was, however, confined to general supervision, the priests being autonomous in the conduct of religious affairs. They divided the offerings among themselves and gradually appropriated most of the lands endowed to the Darbar Sahib during Sikh rule. They neglected their religious duties and cared little for the sanctity of the holy shnnes and the sarovar. The traditional monthly congregation on every amavasya day, the last day of the dark half of the month, was reduced to a gay carnival.

Reforms introduced by the Siugh Sabha, Tarn Taran, established in 1885, were disapproved and resisted by the clergy. Efforts of the Khalsa Diwan Majha and the Central Majha Khalsa Diwan to cleanse the administration met with only partial success. As the Gurdwara reform movement got under way, the control of the sacred shrines passed to a representative body of the Sikhs, the Shiromam Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, on 27 January 1921. A leper asylum established by Guru Arjan, but completely ignored by the clergy after the abrogation of Sikh sovereignty was taken over in 1858 by Christian missionaries.

DARBAR SAHIB SRI GURU ARJAN DEV Jl is an elegant threestoreyed structure at the southeastern corner of the sarovar. Approached through a doublestoreyed arched gateway, it stands in the middle of a marblefloored platform. The upper portion of the edifice is covered with glittering goldplated sheets. The lotus dome, damaged in an earthquake (4 April 1905) and subsequently reconstructed has an ornamental gold pinnacle with an umbrellashaped gold finial. Exquisitely executed stucco work in intricate designs inset with reflecting glass pieces decorates the interior walls and the ceiling.

The Guru Granth Sahib is seated on a platform under an elongated dome covered with goldplated metal sheets. This throne was an offering from Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh. A relay recital of kirtan goes on from early morning till late in the evening. HAR Kl PAURi, a flight of marbled steps behind the Darbar Sahib descending into the sacred pool, marks the spot where, according to tradition, Guru Arjan made the first cut as the digging started in 1590. Pilgrims go down these steps to take charanamrit or palmsful of holy water to sip. THE SAROVAR, one of the largest of the Sikh holy tanks, is an approximate rectangle in shape.

Its northern and southern sides are 289 metres and 283 metres, respectively, and eastern and western sides 230 metres and 233 metres, respectively. The sarovar was originally fed by rain water that flowed in from the surrounding lands. In 1833, Maharaja Raghubir Singh of Jmd had a water channel dug, connecting the tank with the Lower Kasur Branch of the Upper Ban Doab Canal at Rasulpur watermills, 5 km to the southeast. The channel was cemented and covered in 1927-28 by Sant Gurmukh Singh and Sant Sadhu Singh. They also supervised karseva , i.e. complete desilting of the tank through voluntary service, in 1931.

The operation was repeated in 1970 under Sant Jivan Singh. Most of the bungas around the sarovar have now been demolished and a verandah constructed instead along the periphery. The name Tarn Taran, since appropriated by the town itself, originally belonged to the sarovar, so called by Guru Arjan. Literally it means, “the boat that takes one across (the ocean of existence)”. (Tarana in Sanskrit is a raft or a boat). According to Sikh tradition, the water of the old pond was found to possess medicinal properties, especially efficacious for curing leprosy.

For this reason the sarovarwas known as Dukh Nivaran, the eradicator of affliction. AKAL BUNGA, a fourstoreyed building near the Nishan Sahib or the Sikh flagpole, was constructed in 1841 by Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh. Maharaja Sher Singh provided the finishing touches. The Guru Granth Sahib, ` after a procession around the sarovar amid ^ chanting of hymns in the late evening, is, brought here for the night`s rest. MANJi SAHIB, a small domed shrine in the eastern part of the circumambulatory pavement, marks the spot from where Guru Arjan used to supervise the excavation of the sarovar.

A divan hall, a vast pavilion of reinforced concrete, has now been raised close to it. THE TOWER, the only completed column of the four planned by Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh for the beautification of the sarovar at Tarn Taran, stands at the northeastern corner. The threestoreyed tower, 34 metres high, was erected during the Kanvar`s lifetime. The dome on top of it was added later. GURU KA KHUH, a well constructed by Guru Arjan is 200 metres to the south of Darbar Sahib.

During the digging of the tank and continuing up to the middle of the twentieth century, Guru ka Langar functioned near here. Guru Arjan used to relax in a hut near this well, for which reason it is sometimes called Mahji Sahib Guru ka Khuh. The old Manji Sahib was replaced by a hall in the early 1980`s. A small monument near by marks the site where the bodies of Bhai Hazara Singh and Bhai Hukam Singh, the first two to fall martyrs in the cause of Gurdwara reform, were cremated.

References :

1. Gian Singh, Giani, Gurdham Sangrah. Patiala, n.d
2. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
3. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sri Gurduare Darshan, Amritsar, 1923
4. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion. Oxford, 1909