BĀBĀ BAKĀLĀ (31º-34'N, 75º-16'E), a small town in Amritsar district of the Punjab, is sacred to Gurū Hargobind and Gurū Tegh Bahādur. The original name of the place was Bakālā. As Gurū Har Krishan lay on his death-bed in Delhi, he was asked by the saṅgat to name his successor. All that the Gurū could say at that time was Bābā Bakāle' meaning that (Gurū) Tegh Bahādur, who was the brother of his (Gurū Har Krishan's) grandfather (bābā) and who was living at Bakālā, was to be the next Gurū. Bakālā, thereafter, came to be called Bābā Bakālā. Earlier, Gurū Hargobind had also resided at Bakālā with his mother, Mātā Gaṅgā, who died at this place. Several shrines perpetuate their memory.
DARBĀR SĀHIB marks the site where Gurū Tegh Bahādur was anointed Gurū 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 umbrella-shaped finial.
GURDWĀRĀ BHORĀ SĀHIB, a nine-storeyed octagonal edifice with a gilded dome topped by an ornamental pinnacle and umbrella shaped finial, marks the basement room, bhorā in Punjabi, where Gurū Tegh Bahādur used to sit in meditation. After the death of Gurū Hargobind in 1644, his youngest son, Tegh Bahādur, and his mother, Nānakī, had shifted from Kīratpur to Bakālā, where they stayed until Tegh Bahādur was anointed and proclaimed Gurū in 1664. He spent this interval in voluntary solitude and religious contemplation. Even after his formal installation on 11 August 1664 as Gurū, he continued to live in seclusion and did nothing to counter the claims of the several pretenders to the gurūship who were confusing and misleading the common Sikhs, until Makkhan Shāh, a wealthy trader and a staunch follower of the Sikh faith, came to Bakālā, discovered Tegh Bahādur sitting here in the bhorā, deeply absorbed in meditation, to be the real Gurū and publicly proclaimed the fact from the rooftop. Gurū Tegh Bahādur then actively took up the responsibility of instructing the Sikh community and guiding its affairs. He travelled extensively and made Kīratpur his headquarters, but the bhorā at Bakālā became, and has remained ever since, a sacred shrine for the Sikhs. The present building was completed in 1952.
GURDWĀRĀ CHHĀOṆĪ SĀHIB is situated in a grove of old banyan and pīpal trees. According to local tradition, Gurū Hargobind's soldiery had their camp here. The place is now occupied by the Nihaṅgs of the Taruṇā Dal, who stay here with their horses and cattle. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated in a simple, 6 metre square, room.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB, a small glass covered domed pavilion raised over a marble lined platform to the north of Darbār Sāhib and in line with Bhorā Sāhib, is the spot where, according to local tratition, Gurū Tegh Bahādur was fired at and wounded by Shīhāṅ, the Masand, at the behest of Dhīr Mall, a nephew of the Gurū and one of the pretenders to the gurūship.
GURDWĀRĀ MĀTĀ GAṄGĀ JĪ, half a kilometre northeast of Darbār Sāhib, is dedicated to Gurū Hargobind's mother, Mātā Gaṅgā, who died at Bakālā on 15 Hāṛ 1685Bk/12 June 1628. Mātā Gaṅgā had desired that her dead body should not be cremated but be immersed in the River Beās. Accordingly, the hearse was prepared and the body taken out in a procession, with the saṅgat chanting hymns. After the immersion of the dead body, the hearse was brought back to Bakālā where a symbolic cremation was carried out and a samādh built. The present Gurdwārā Mātā Gaṅgājī was constructed during the 1960's by Bābā Bishan Siṅgh Nihaṅg of the Taruṇā 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.
SHĪSH MAHAL MĀTĀ GAṄGĀ JĪ, close to Bhorā Sāhib, represents the house where Mātā Gaṅgā and, later, Mātā Nānakī lived. It is a single flat-roofed room, with glass panelled doors on three sides. The Gurū Granth Sāhib rests here for the night.
Gurdwārās Bhorā Sāhib, Darbār Sāhib, Māṅjī Sāhib and Shīsh Mahal, situated close to one another, are managed by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee through a local committee. The others are under the control of the Nihaṅgs of the Taruṇā Dal who have recently established some more shrines dedicated to Gurū Hargobind.