ANANDPUR (31º-13'N, 76º-32'E), lit. City of Bliss, is situated on one of the lower spurs of the Śivālik range in Ropaṛ district of the Punjab. Connected to the rest of the country by rail and road, it lies 31 km north of Ropaṛ (Rūp Nagar) and 29 km south of Naṅgal Township. Being one of the supremely important pilgrimage centres of the Sikhs, it is reverently called Anandpur Sāhib. Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib, 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 Gurūs 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 Gurū Tegh Bahādur (1621-75), Nānak IX, on 19 June 1665, on a piece of land, covering the ruined mound of an older village, Mākhovāl, which the Gurū had earlier purchased for this purpose from the Rājpūt hill state of Kahlūr (Bilāspur). He named the new habitation Chakk Nānakī after his mother, and shifted here with his family from Kīratpur, 8 km south of it. But soon after, he set out on his extensive travels across the eastern parts. The development of Chakk Nānakī 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 Brāhmaṇs from Kashmīr came to the Gurū 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 Kashmīr under its Mughal governor. Gurū Tegh Bahādur 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 Dās (Later, Siṅgh), 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 Auraṅgzīb in the Chāndnī Chowk on 11 November 1675.
Back at Chakk Nānakī, the young successor, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh (1666-1708), received and cremated with exemplary courage and composure the severed head of his father, brought at great personal risk by a daring Sikh, Bhāī Jaitā. As he grew up, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh assumed a soldierly style which aroused the envy of the local ruler, Rājā Bhīm Chand of Kahlūr. To avoid an early conflict, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, accepting an invitation from the chief of another hill state, Sirmūr, to visit him, left Chakk Nānakī in 1685 to stay at Pāoṇṭā on the bank of the Yamunā. After the battle of Bhaṅgāṇī (18 September 1688) fought against the combined force of Rājpūt hill monarchs, he returned to Chakk Nānakī, which he now renamed Anandpur after one of a ring of forts (Anandgaṛh) which he, apprehending further trouble from the hill rājās, now undertook to raise. The forts were Kesgaṛh, in the centre and Anandgaṛh, Lohgaṛh, Holgaṛh, Fatehgaṛh and Tārāgaṛh around it. Bhīm Chand and his son, Ajmer Chand of Kahlūr, had not shed their chagrin over the defeat they had suffered at Bhaṅgāṇī at the hands of the Gurū, although the latter had helped them in the battle of Nadauṇ (1691) against a Mughal general sent against them by the governor of Jammū. They made an alliance with the Kaṭoch ruler of Kāṅgṛā and several other chiefs, attacking Anandpur more than once, but each time Gurū Gobind Siṅgh repulsed their onslaught.
On Baisākhī day, 30 March 1699, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh carried out the supreme task of his career converting the saṅgat into Khālsā. Instructions had been sent out during the previous year to saṅgats, or Sikh communities, in various parts not to recognize any longer the masands as the Gurū's representatives and to come to Anandpur for the following Baisākhī 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 Kesgaṛh at Anandpur. As all sat rapt in the morning service, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, according to one of the earlier sources, Kuir Siṅgh, Gurbilās Pātshāhī 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 . Gurū Gobind Siṅgh repeated his call twice. At the third call, one Dayā Rām, a Khatrī from Lahore, offered himself. The Gurū took him into an adjoining enclosure. After a while he returned, his sword dripping blood, and asked for another head. This time, Dharam Dās, a Jaṭ from Hastināpur, came forward and was led to the enclosure as had been his predecessor. Likewise, three other disciples, Mohkam Chand, a washerman from Dvārkā, Himmat, a water carrier from Jagannāth, and Sāhib Chand, a barber from Bidar, in the South, offered themselves. The fear of the saṅgat turned to amazement and wonder when, soon after, the Gurū led the five back, all dressed alike in saffron coloured gowns with neatly tied turbans on their heads and swords dangling by their sides. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh administered to the Five vows of baptism, giving them five palmsful of amritor sweetened elixir sanctified by recitation over it of holy hymns and stirred with a steel khaṇḍā, double edged sword, and introduced them to the saṅgat as his pañj piāre, Five Beloved. He announced that with the baptism of the Pañj Piāre he had inaugurated the Khālsā, a brotherhood of holy soldiers who would be distinguised by five symbols all beginning with the letter k', viz. kes (uncut hair), kaṅghā (comb), kachchhā (pair of shorts), kaṛā (steel bracelet) and kirpān (sword). The khālsā 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 Gurū himself stood up before the Paňj Piāre 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 Khālsā. It is known commonly as Khālse dī vāsī (Home of the Khālsā).
The emergence of the Khālsā caused panic among the chiefs of the surrounding hill principalities and they planned together strategy to dislodge the Gurū 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 faujdār of Sirhind in order to encircle Anandpur and force the Gurū out of the town. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh left Anandpur but, still suspicious of the rājās' intentions, encamped at the village of Hardo Namoh, 4 km south of Kīratpur, 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 Bhaṭṭ Vahīs took place on 7, 12 and 13 October 1700, were repulsed and on 14 October, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and his Sikhs broke the cordon and crossed the River Sutlej into Basohlī, a small chiefship friendly with the Gurū. This action is known as the battle of Nirmohgaṛh. As soon as the imperial troops withdrew, the Gurū reoccupied Anandpur. The hill chiefs then waited upon Emperor Auraṅgzīb and warning him of the new danger that the rise of the Khālsā spelt for his kingdom, entreated him to take some severe measures. Himself critically engaged in dealing with the Marāṭhā insurrection in the South, the emperor ordered the governor of Lahore and the faujdār 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 Gurū 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 Gurū and the Sikhs if they evacuated Anandpur. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh along with his family and men left the town during the night of 5-6 December 1705.
Before departing, the Gurū directed one of his Sikhs, Gurbakhsh, an Udāsī by faith, to stay behind to look after the local saṅgat and the shrines, especially the one commemorating the site where Gurū Tegh Bahādur's head had been cremated. Years later, as the situation permitted, Gulāb Rāi and Shyām Siṅgh, sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's first cousin, Dīp Chand, who had since the evacuation of Anandpur taken refuge with the friendly Rājā of Nāhan, came back. Gulāb Rāi purchased the town of Anandpur from the Rājā of Bilāspur and pretending to be a successor to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh established his own religious seat, remonstrances from Gurbakhsh Udāsī notwithstanding. All the four sons of Gulāb Rāi had predeceased him. His widow managed the affairs for some time, but soon died having bequeathed the gaddī to Soḍhī Surjan Siṅgh, a grandson of Shyām Siṅgh. 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 Soḍhī family until the rise of the Gurdwārā reform or the Akālī movement in the early 1920's. The shrines at Anandpur were occupied by the Akālīs on 12 January 1923; they were formally handed over to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee by the local Soḍhīs on 15 March 1923. The historic shrines are now managed by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee Amritsar, through a manager appointed by it. The Jathedār of Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib is an ex-officio member of the Shiromaṇī Committee. The shrines are :
TAKHT SRĪ KESGAṚH SĀHIB is the principal shrine at Anandpur. Resplendent in its white marble glory, the shrine stands on a hillock and marks the site of the Kesgaṛh Fort where the historic Baisākhī congregation of 1699 had taken place. The present complex was constructed during 1936-44 under the supervision of Sant Harī Siṅgh Kahārpurī. 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 Gurū Gobind Siṅgh are displayed on a low platform. The Gurū Granth Sāhib 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 khaṇḍā as a finial. On the roof, corners of the hall and the balcony are adorned with domed kiosks. Gurū kā Laṅgar is on the lower level behind the central building. The lower slopes of the Kesgaṛh hill are covered with rows of residential rooms for staff and pilgrims. This complex is collectively known as Dashmesh Nivās. A 55-metre square dīvān 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 Sāhib and close to the Ropaṛ-Naṅgal road. The relics placed in the inner sanctum of Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib include a khaṇḍā, a kaṭār (dagger), a saif (double-edged straight tapering sword), a muzzle-loading musket, a spear known as karpā barchhā, and a nāgaṇī (a kind of spear with a twisted and pointed blade). Another set of weapons also believed to have once belonged to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, 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 Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in 1966-67 are now on display here.
GURWDĀRĀ QILĀ ANANDGAṚH SĀHIB is situated on another spur, about 800 metres southeast of Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib. 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 Sevā Siṅgh (d. 1982) whose successors are now managing and further developing it. Earlier, during the 1930's, Kartār Siṅgh Kalāsvālīā had got a fort-like building constructed which is still intact on top of the hillock. The present Gurdwārā, separated from this building by a spacious terrace paved with slabs of streaked marble, is a 15-metre square hall with an 8x3 metre porch in front. The 6-metre square sanctum within the hall has above it a lotus dome topped with a gilded pinnacle and khaṇḍa 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 bāolī, a stepped well 4-metre in diametre, is approached through a covered passage. The bāolī has 135 marbled steps. At the lower levels on the eastern flank of the main building are a spacious hall for Gurū kā Laṅgar constructed in 1972, and 300 rooms for pilgrims and administrators.
GURDWĀRĀ QILĀ FATEHGAṚH SĀHIB, 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 Sevā Siṅgh of Qilā Anandpur. The Gurdwārā is a two storeyed domed building. In front of it is an old well which once served the needs of Fatehgaṛh Fort.
GURDWĀRĀ QILĀ LOHGAṚH SĀHIB, one and a half kilometre southwest of Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib, marks the site of the fort of that name constructed by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh to protect the riverside flank. It was here that Bhāī Bachittar Siṅgh 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.
GURDWĀRĀ HOLGAṚH SĀHIB stands on the site of Holgarh Fort, one and a half km northwest of the town across the Charan Gaṅgā rivulet. It was here that Gurū Gobind Siṅgh introduced in the spring of 1701, the celebration of holā on the day following the Hindu festival of colour throwing, holī. Unlike the playful sprinkling of colours as is done during holī, the Gurū made holā an occasion for Sikhs to 'demonstrate skills-at-arms in simulated battle. Holā or Holā Mahallā, became thereafter an annual tourney of warlike sports in Anandpur as long as the Gurū stayed there. The observance of Holā Mahallā was revived after the Sikhs had established their rule in Punjab. It is now the biggest festival of Anandpur. The Mahallā or the march on this occasion starting from the Takht Sāhib on the concluding day of the week-long festival ends at Holgaṛh, where sports like fencing, coit-throwing and tent-pegging are held.
The present building, a three-storeyed octagonal, domed edifice, was constructed under the supervision of Sant Sevā Siṅgh and was completed in 1970. The sanctum is in the middle of the marbled ground floor.
GURDWĀRĀ MĀTĀ JĪTO JĪ, built within a half acre enclosure just outside Agampurā village, about 2 km northwest of Anandpur marks the site where the body of Mātā Jīto Jī, wife of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, 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 khaṇḍā as finial.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB also called Damālgaṛh located close to the precincts of Takht Srī Kesgaṛh Sāhib is dedicated to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh'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.
GURDWĀRĀ SĪS GAÑJ SĀHIB within the town is sacred to Gurū Tegh Bahādur whose head was cremated here in November 1675. A memorial shrine in the form of a platform within a small room was got constructed over the ashes by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh himself. At the time of the evacuation of Anandpur in December 1705, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh especially entrusted it to the care of Gurbakhsh Udāsī. The renovation and enlargement of the monument were carried out under the supervision of Bābā Sevā Siṅgh of Anandgaṛh during the early 1970's. The original pavement in the front compound with old Nānakshāhī 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 Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated.
AKĀL BUṄGĀ opposite Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj within the same compound is a small shrine housed in an old building said to have been built by a pujārī, priest, Mān Siṅgh in 1889. It comprises a pentagonal room on either side of a masonry pedestal on which the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated behind glass panels. The pedestal marks the spot sitting where during the obsequies of his father, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh delivered a sermon to his followers.
GURDWĀRĀ DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB stands, along with Thaṛā Sāhib and Bhorā Sāhib in the same compound, close to Sīs Gañj, formerly called Gurū ke Mahal, i. e. residential quarters of Gurū Tegh Bahādur. Damdamā Sāhib marks the site where the Gurū used to sit while receiving and addressing visiting saṅgats. The ceremony of installing Gurū Gobind Siṅgh as Gurū was performed here. The present domed octagonal building was constructed during the early decades of the 20th century.
THAṚĀ SĀHIB, an half-a-metre high and 5-metre square marble-paved platform stands in the open space in front of Damdamā Sāhib. It was here that Gurū Tegh Bahādur received the group of Kashmīri Paṇḍits who called on him in 1675.
GURDWĀRĀ BHORĀ SĀHIB, a three-storeyed domed building close to Damdamā Sāhib, was a part of Gurū ke Mahal. Here in a bhorā (basement) Gurū Tegh Bahādur 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 bhorā. The Holy Book is now seated on a platform on the ground floor. Extension of this Gurdwārā involving blocks for Gurū kā Laṅgar and residential accommodation is in progress.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)