ANANDPUR (31° 13\’N, 76° 32\’E). lit. City of Bliss, is situated on one of the lower spurs of the Shivalik range in Ropar district of the Punjab. Connected to the rest of the country by rail and road, it lies 31 km north of Ropar (Rup Nagar) and 29 km south of Nangal Township. Being one of the supremely important pilgrimage centres of the Sikhs, it is reverently called Anandpur Sahib. Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, one of the five takhts (lit. thrones) or seats of highest religious authority for Sikhs, and several other holy shrines are located here. Having been the abode of the last two Gurus of the Sikhs for two score years, the town was witness to many a momentous event of Sikh history. The foundation of Anandpur was laid by Guru Tegh Bahadur (162175), Nanak IX, on 19 June 1665, on a piece of land, covering the ruined mound of an older village, Makhoval, which the Guru had earlier purchased for this purpose from the Rajput hill state of Kahlur (Bilaspur). He named the new habitation Chakk Nanaki after his mother, and shifted here with his family from Kiratpur, 8 km south of it. But soon after, he set out on his extensive travels across the eastern parts. The development of Chakk Nanaki was thus interrupted till after his return in 1672. The small habitation then grew into a flourishing town frequented by devotees from the Punjab and elsewhere. In May 1675, a group of Brahmans from Kashmir came to the Guru with their tale of woe. The burden of their submission was the religious persecution and forcible conversion which were the order of the day in Kashmir under its Mughal governor. Guru Tegh Bahadur resolved to go to Delhi, the Imperial capital, to have their grievance remedied, or to lay down his life in the cause of religious freedom. Naming his young son, Gobind Das (Later, Singh), hardly nine years of age, his spiritual successor, he set out on the journey, preaching the holy word in towns and villages he passed through. In Delhi, he was taken into custody, tortured and executed publicly under the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb in the Chandni Chowk on 11 November 1675. Back at Chakk Nanaki, the young successor, Guru Gobind Singh (16661708), received and cremated with exemplary courage and composure the severed head of his father, brought at great personal risk by a daring Sikh, Bhai Jaita. As he grew up, Guru Gobind Singh assumed a soldierly style which aroused the envy of the local ruler, Raja Bhim Chand of Kahlur. To avoid an early conflict, Guru Gobind Singh, accepting an invitation from the chief of another hill state, Sirmur, to visit him, left Chakk Nanaki in 1685 to stay at Ponta on the bank of the Yamuna. After the battle of Bhangani (18 September 1688) fought against the combined force of Rajput hill monarchs, he returned to Chakk Nanaki, which he now renamed Anandpur after one of a ring efforts (Anandgarh) which he, apprehending further trouble from the hill rajas, now undertook to raise. The forts were Kesgarh, in the centre and Anandgarh, Lohgarh, Holgarh, Fatehgarh and Taragarh around it. Bhim Chand and his son, Ajmer Chand of Kahlur, had not shed their chagrin over the defeat they had suffered at Bhangani at the hands of the Guru, although the latter had helped them in the battle of Nadaun (1691) against a Mughal general sent against them by the governor of Jammu. They made an alliance with the Katoch ruler of Kangra and several other chiefs, attacking Anandpur more than once, but each time Guru Gobind Singh repulsed their onslaught. On Baisakhi day, 30 March 1699, Guru Gobind Singh carried out the supreme task of his career converting the sangat into Khalsa. Instructions had been sent out during the previous year to sangats, or Sikh communities, in various parts not to recognize any longer the masands as the Guru\’s representatives and to come to Anandpur for the following Baisakhi festival in large numbers. They had also been asked to come, where practicable, mounted. On the appointed day a massive assembly took place in the Fort of Kesgarh at Anandpur. As all sat rapt in the morning service, Guru Gobind Singh, according to one of the earlier sources, Kuir Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi 10, made a dramatic appearance, a naked sword in his hand, and asked if any one of the assembly would be willing to offer his head to him. The audience were benumbed to hear this strange demand. Guru Gobind Singh repeated his call twice. At the third call, one Daya Ram, a Khatri from Lahore, offered himself. The Guru took him into an adjoining enclosure. After a while he returned, his sword dripping blood, and asked for another head. This time, Dharam Das, a Jat from Hastinapur, came forward and was led to the enclosure as had been his predecessor. Likewise, three other disciples, Mohkam Chand, a washerman from Dvarka, Himmat, a water carrier from Jagannath, and Sahib Chand, a barber from Bidar, in the South, offered themselves. The fear of the sangat turned to amazement and wonder when, soon after, the Guru led the five back, all dressed alike in saffron coloured gowns with neatly tied turbans on their heads and swords dangling by their sides. Guru Gobind Singh administered to the Five vows of baptism, giving them five palmsful of amrit or sweetened elixir sanctified by recitation over it of holy hymns and stirred with a steel khanda, double edged sword, and introduced them to the sangat as his panj piare, Five Beloved. He announced that with the baptism of the Panj Piare he had inaugurated the Khalsa, a brotherhood of holy soldiers who would be distinguished by five symbols all beginning with the letter \’k\’, viz. kes (uncut hair), kangha (comb), kachchha (pair of shorts), kara (steel bracelet) and kirpan (sword). The Khalsa were vowed to live up to the highest moral and ethical standards and to be ever ready to fight tyranny and injustice. They were to recognize no distinctions of caste, creed or status. The Guru himself stood up before the Panj Piare and begged with folded hands to be admitted to their ranks. Several thousands followed on that and on subsequent days to receive the rites of initiation by the double edged sword. Anandpur thus became the birthplace of the Khalsa. It is known commonly as Khalse di vasi (Home of the Khalsa). The emergence of the Khalsa caused panic among the chiefs of the surrounding hill principalities and they planned together strategy to dislodge the Guru from Anandpur. They sent to him emissaries who assured him on oath that they would forever cease troubling him and his Sikhs if only he would temporarily leave his citadel and move out of the town. At the same time, they secretly sought armed assistance from the Mughal faujdar of Sirhind in order to encircle Anandpur and force the Guru out of the town. Guru Gobind Singh left Anandpur but, still suspicious of the rajas intentions, encamped at the village of Hardo Namoh, 4 km south of Kiratpur, taking up a tactically viable defensive position. He was attacked by the hill chiefs from the north and by the Mughal contingents equipped with cannon from the south. These attacks, which according to BhattVahis took place on 7,12 and 13 October 1700, were repulsed and on 14 October, Guru Gobind Singh and his Sikhs broke the cordon and crossed the River Sutlej into Basohli, a small chiefship friendly with the Guru. This action is known as the battle of Nirmohgarh. As soon as the imperial troops withdrew, the Guru reoccupied Anandpur. The hill chiefs then waited upon Emperor Aurangzib and warning him of the new danger that the rise of the Khalsa spelt for his kingdom, entreated him to take some severe measures. Himself critically engaged in dealing with the Maratha insurrection in the South, the emperor ordered the governor of Lahore and the faujdar of Sirhind to act in this behalf in concert with the hill chiefs. A combined force marched upon Anandpur and laid siege to the town in May 1705. The Guru and his Sikhs withstood their repeated assaults for several months despite scarcity of provisions resulting from the prolonged blockade. The besiegers were eventually tired out and offered on solemn oath safe exit to the Guru and the Sikhs if they evacuated Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh along with his family and men left the town during the night of 56 December 1705. Before departing, the Guru directed one of his Sikhs, Gurbakhsh, an Udasi by faith, to stay behind to look after the local sangat and the shrines, especially the one commemorating the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur\’s head had been cremated. Years later, as the situation permitted, Gulab Rai and Shyam Singh, sons of Guru Gobind Singh\’s first cousin, Dip Chand, who had since the evacuation of Anandpur taken refuge with the friendly Raja of Nahan, came back. Gulab Rai purchased the town of Anandpur from the Raja of Bilaspur and pretending to be a successor to Guru Gobind Singh established his own religious seat, remonstrances from Gurbakhsh Udasi notwithstanding. All the four sons of Gulab Rai had predeceased him. His widow managed the affairs for some time, but soon died having bequeathed the gaddito Sodhi Surjan Singh, a grandson of Shyam Singh. After the conquest of the Punjab by the Sikhs, several rulers and chiefs made rich endowments to the shrines which continued to be managed by the local Sodhi family until the rise of the Gurdwara reform or the Akali movement in the early 1920\’s. The shrines at Anandpur were occupied by the Akalis on 12 January 1923; they were formally handed over to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee by the local Sodhis on 15 March 1923. The historic shrines are now managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar, through a manager appointed by it. The Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib is an exofficial member of the Shiromani Committee. The shrines:

TAKHT SRI KESGARH SAHIB is the principal shrine at Anandpur. Resplendent in its white marble glory, the shrine stands on a hillock and marks the site of the Kesgarh Fort where the historic Baisakhi congregation of 1699 had taken place. The present complex was constructed during 193644 under the supervision of Sant Hari Singh Kaharpuri. Being on a slope, the complex has two levels protected by retaining walls on the sides. On the lower level, approached by a flight of steps is the imposing two storeyed gateway, offices, and a 30 metre square courtyard. The level on which stands the main building is 2.5 metres higher than the courtyard. The 16 metre square hall with a balcony in front contains within it the sanctum, a 5.5 metre square room in which some old weapons preserved as sacred relics from the time of Guru Gobind Singh are displayed on a low platform. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated under a canopy outside the sanctum, above which rises a fluted lotus dome topped by a tall ornamental pinnacle of gilded metal, and a gilded khanda as a fmial. On the roof, corners of the hall and the balcony are adorned with domed kiosks. Guru ka Langar is on the lower level behind the central building. The lower slopes of the Kesgarh hill are covered with rows of residential rooms for staff and pilgrims. This complex is collectively known as Dashmesh Nivas. A 55 metre square divan hall, about 150 metres east of the central building, was added during the 1980\’s to cater for large congregations on festival occasions. A sarovar or bathing tank, 80 metre square, in a walled compound is situated at ground level to the west of the Takht Sahib and close to the Ropar Nangal road. The relics placed in the inner sanctum of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib include a khanda, a katar (dagger), a saif (double edged straight tapering sword), a muzzle loading musket, a spear known as karpa barchha, and a nagani (a kind of spear with a twisted and pointed blade). Another set of weapons also believed to have once belonged to Guru Gobind Singh, which had been taken away by the British to England after the occupation of the Punjab in 1849 and which had been brought back from there at the time of the celebration of the 300th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh in 196667 are now on display here.

GURDWARA QILA ANANDGARH SAHIB is situated on another spur, about 800 metres southeast of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib. It is a newly constructed building though marks of the old, original structure are also still traceable. The present building complex was raised during the 1970\’s by Sant Seva Singh (d. 1982) whose successors are now managing and further developing it. Earlier, during the 1930\’s, Kartar Singh Kalasvalia had got a fort like building constructed which is still intact on top of the hillock. The present Gurdwara, separated from this building by a spacious terrace paved with slabs of streaked marble, is a 15 metre square hall with an 8×3 metre porch in front. The 6 metre square sanctum within the hall has above it a lotus dome topped with a gilded pinnacle and khanda as a finial. The entire wall surface has a facing of streaked marble. This building was completed in 1970. The water level of an old baoli, a stepped well 4 metre in diametre, is approached through a covered passage. The baoh has 135 marbled steps. At the lower levels on the eastern flank of the main building are a spacious hall for Guru ka Langar constructed in 1972, and 300 rooms for pilgrims and administrators.

GURDWARA QILA FATEHGARH SAHIB, situated on the northern outskirts of the town of Anandpur, marks the site of another fortress bearing this name. The present building was constructed during the late 1980\’s under the supervision of the successors of Sant Seva Singh of Qila Anandpur. The Gurdwara is a two storeyed domed building. In front of it is an old well which once served the needs of Fatehgarh Fort.

GURDWARA QILA LOHGARH SAHIB, one and a half kilometre southwest of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, marks the site of the fort of that name constructed by Guru Gobind Singh to protect the riverside flank. It was here that Bhai Bachittar Singh faced and turned back a drunken elephant which the hill chiefs, during their siege of Anandpur in 1700, had sent to batter down the gate of this fort. The present building, octagonal in shape and three storeyed high with a dome on top, was constructed during the late 1980’s.

GURDWARA HOLGARH SAHIB stands on the site of Holgarh Fort, one and a half km northwest of the town across the Charan Gariga rivulet. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh introduced in the spring of 1701, the celebration of hola on the day following the Hindu festival of colour throwing, holi. Unlike the playful sprinkling of colours as is done during holi, the Guru made hola an occasion for Sikhs to demonstrate skills alarms in simulated battle. Hola or Hola Mahalla, became thereafter an annual tourney of warlike sports in Anandpur as long as the Guru stayed there. The observance of Hola Mahalla was revived after the Sikhs had established their rule in Punjab. It is now the biggest festival of Anandpur. The mahalla or the march on this occasion starting from the Takht Sahib on the concluding day of the week long festival ends at Holgarh, where sports like fencing, coil throwing and tent pegging are held. The present building, a three storeyed octagonal, domed edifice, was constructed under the supervision of Sant Seva Singh and was completed in 1970. The sanctum is in the middle of the marbled ground floor.

GURDWARA MATA JITO JI, built within a half acre enclosure just outside Agampura village, about 2 km northwest of Anandpur marks the site where the body of Mata Jito Ji, wife of Guru Gobind Singh, was cremated in December 1700. The present three storeyed domed building was completed in 1972. The 4 metre square sanctum marked off by four pillars is in the middle of the square hall on the ground floor. The fluted lotus dome on top of the building has a gold plated pinnacle and a gilded khan da as finial.

GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB also called Damalgarh located close to the precincts of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh\’s sons who used this place for learning and practising martial skills. The double storey domed building of the shrine stands in the middle of a 20 metre square marble paved compound. Its 3 metre square sanctum is in the middle of a 15 metre square hall on the ground floor.

GURDWARA SIS GANJ SAHIB within the town is sacred to Guru Tegh Bahadur whose head was cremated here in November 1675. A memorial shrine in the form of a platform whithin a small room was got constructed over the ashes by Guru Gobind Singh himself. At the time of the evacuation of Anandpur in December 1705, Guru Gobind Singh especially entrusted it to the care of Gurbakhsh Udasi. The renovation and enlargement of the monument were carried out under the supervision of Baba Seva Singh of Anandgarh during the early 1970\’s. The original pavement in the front compound with old Nanakshahi bricks arranged in geometrical patterns is still intact. The two storey building with a pinnacled dome provides a 4.5 metre wide covered circumambulatory passage supported on exquisitively designed marble columns around the inner sanctum where the Guru Granth Sahib is seated.

ARAL BUNGA opposite Gurdwara Sis Ganj within the same compound is a small shrine housed in an old building said to have been built by a pujari, priest, Man Singh in 1889. It comprises a pentagonal room on either side of a masonry pedestal on which the Guru Granth Sahib is seated behind glass panels. The pedestal marks the spot sitting where during the obsequies of his father, Guru Gobind Singh delivered a sermon to his followers.

GURDWARA DAMDAMA SAHIB stands, along with Thara Sahib and Bhora Sahib in the same compound, close to Sis Ganj, formerly called Guru ke Mahal, i.e. residential quarters of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Damdama Sahib marks the site where the Guru used to sit while receiving and addressing visiting sangats. The ceremony of installing Guru Gobind Singh as Guru was performed here. The present domed octagonal building was constructed during the early decades of the 20th century. THARA SAHIB, an half a metre high and 5 metre square marble paved platform stands in the open space in front of Damdama Sahib. It was here that Guru Tegh Bahadur received the group of Kashmiri Pandits who called on him in 1675.

GURDWARA BHORA SAHIB, a three storeyed domed building close to Damdama Sahib, was a part of Guru ke Mahal. Here in a bhora (basement) Guru Tegh Bahadur used to retire for solitary meditation. A 1.5 metre square and half a metre high platform in the middle of the present basement marks the site of the original bhora. The Holy Book is now seated on a platform on the ground floor. Extension of this Gurdwara involving blocks for Guru ka Langar and residential accommodation is in progress.


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