CHAMKAUR SĀHIB (30º-53'N, 76º-25'E) in Ropaṛ district of the Punjab was the scene of two engagements which took place here between Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and the imperial troops in the opening years of the eighteenth century. There exist six shrines in the town commemorating the events of those fateful days.
GURDWĀRĀ DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB marks the spot where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh first alighted upon reaching Chamkaur late on 6 December 1705. The site was then a garden belonging to Rāi Jagat Siṅgh, the local landlord. The Gurū sent some of his disciples to request Rāi Jagat Siṅgh to let him take shelter in his havelī. Jagat Siṅgh, for fear of the rulers' wrath, refused, but his younger brother, Rūp Chand, asserting his right as a co-owner of the house, allowed Gurū Gobind Siṅgh to enter. According to some chroniclers, the names of the owners of the property were : Budhī Chand and Gharībū. According to Gurushabad Ratnākar Mahān Kosh, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had been here once before when he was on his way to Kurukshetra in 1702. A small gurdwārā was first constructed here around 1930 by Sardār Bahādur Dharam Siṅgh (1881-1933), a well-known philanthropist of Delhi. The present building was raised in 1963 by Sant Piārā Siṅgh of Jhāṛ Sāhib. It duplicates the design of the central building of the older Gurdwārā Qatalgaṛh Sāhib-a square sanctum on the ground floor within a square hall, and a domed room above the sanctum with decorative cupolas at the corners. The Gurdwārā is managed by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee through a local committee, with offices located at Gurdwārā Qatalgaṛh Sāhib.
GURDWĀRĀ GAṚHĪ SĀHIB marks the site of the fortress-like double-storeyed house, with a high compound wall around it and only one entrance from the north, which was used by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh as a temporary citadel in the unequal battle on 7 December 1705. On occupying the house during the night of 6-7 December, he had assigned 8 Sikhs each to guarding the four sides, while another two, Madan Siṅgh and Koṭhā Siṅgh, were posted at the entrance. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, with his sons Ajīt Siṅgh and Jujhār Siṅgh and other disciples, took up position on the first floor of the house in the centre. The imperial army, now inflated with reinforcements from Ropaṛ, Sirhind and Mālerkoṭlā, arrived and surrounded the gaṛhī. The battle raged throughout the day. Successive efforts of the besiegers to storm the citadel were thwarted. As the ammunition and arrows in the fortress ran out, the Sikhs started coming out in small batches to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand fight. Two such successive sallies were led by the Sāhibzādās, Ajīt Siṅgh and Jujhār Siṅgh, 18 and 14 years old respectively, who like the other Sikhs fell fighting heroically. The valour displayed by the young sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh has been poignantly narrated by a modern Muslim poet Allahyār Khān Jogī who used to recite his Urdu poem entitled "Shahīdān-i-Wafā” from Sikh pulpits during the second and third decades of the twentieth century.
By nightfall, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was left with only five Sikhs in the fortress. These five urged him to escape so that he could rally his followers again and continue the struggle against oppression. The Gurū agreed. He gave his own attire to Saṅgat Siṅgh who resembled him somewhat in features and physical stature, and, under cover of darkness, made good his way through the encircling host slackened by the fatigue of the day's battle. Dayā Siṅgh, Dharam Siṅgh and Mān Siṅgh also escaped leaving behind only two Sikhs, Saṅgat Siṅgh and Sant Siṅgh. Next morning as the attack was resumed, the imperial troops entered the gaṛhī without much resistance, and were surprised to find only two occupants who, determined to die rather than give in, gave battle till the last.
Upon the fall of Sirhind to the Khālsā in 1764 when this part of the country came under Sikh domination, the fortress at Chamkaur came to be preserved as a sacred monument. Mahārājā Karam Siṅgh of Paṭiālā had a gurdwārā constructed here. It was called Gaṛhī Sāhib; also, Tilak Asthān (Anointment Site) in the belief that Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's act of obeying the five Sikhs with regard to his escape and giving his dress, turban and plume to Bhāī Saṅgat Siṅgh were symbolic of anointing the Khālsā as his successor to gurūship. The old Gurdwārā building has since been demolished and replaced by a four-storeyed structure. The sanctum is on the ground floor in the centre of a large dīvān hall. The building is topped by a lotus dome covered with chips of glazed tiles. There are decorative domed pavilions over the corners and walls of the main hall.
GURDWĀRĀ QATALGAṚH SĀHIB (SHĀHĪD GAÑJ), west of Gaṛhī Sāhib, is the main shrine at Chamkaur Sāhib. This marks the site where the thickest hand-to-hand fight took place on 7 December 1705 between the Mughal army and the Sikhs, including the Sāhibzādās, Ajīt Siṅgh and Jujhār Siṅgh, and three of the original five Piāre (the Five Beloved). A gurdwārā was constructed here by Sardār Hardiāl Siṅgh of Belā in 1831 but that building was replaced during the 1960's by a new complex raised under the supervision of Sant Piārā Siṅgh of Jhāṛ Sāhib and later of Sant Bishan Siṅgh of Amritsar. The main building called Mañjī Sāhib is an elegant three-storeyed domed structure standing upon a high base. The large dīvān hall contains an eight-metre square sanctum. Another vast hall close by is called Akāl Buṅgā. It was used for the daily congregations before Mañjī Sāhib was constructed. To the west of Akāl Buṅgā is an old Bāolī Sāhib still in use. The Gurū kā Laṅgar, community kitchen, is further north from Bāolī Sāhib and Akāl Buṅgā. The Gurdwārā also houses the offices of the local managing committee which administers all historical shrines at Chamkaur under the overall control of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. In addition to the daily services, largely attended assemblies take place on the first of each Bikramī month and on important anniversaries on Sikh calendar. A three-day fair called Shahīdī Joṛ Melā is held on 6, 7 and 8 Poh, usually corresponding with 20, 21 and 22 December, commemorating the martyrs of Chamkaur.
GURDWĀRĀ RAṆJĪTGAṚH is on the eastern outskirts of the town. As Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was returning from Kurukshetra to Anandpur early in 1703, it so happened that two imperial generals, Sayyid Beg and Alif Khān, were also moving with a body of troops towards Lahore. Rājā Ajmer Chand of Kahlūr, who bore hostility towards him, persuaded these generals by promises of money to attack him. A skirmish occurred on the site of the present Gurdwārā Raṇjitgaṛh. The Sikhs, though surprised by a superior force, fought tenaciously. Sayyid Beg, when he came face to face with the Gurū, was so affected by a sight of him that he immediately changed sides. Alif Khān, chagrined by his colleague's behaviour, attacked with redoubled vigour, but was repulsed. This happened on 16 Māgh 1759 Bk/ 15 January 1703. Gurdwārā Raṇjitgarh was built only recently to mark the scene of this battle.
GURDWĀRĀ SHAHĪD BURJ BHĀĪ JĪVAN SIṄGH is next to Gurdwārā Gaṛhī Sāhib and represents the site of the gate of the fortress used by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh as the bulwark of his defence in the unequal battle of 7 December 1705. The gate was guarded by Bhāī Madan Siṅgh and Bhāī Koṭhā Siṅgh, although the Gurdwārā came to be named after Bhāī Jīvan Siṅgh. Jīvan Siṅgh was the same Bhāī Jaitā who had brought Gurū Tegh Bahādur's head after his execution from Delhi to Kīratpur in 1675, and earned from Gurū Gobind Siṅgh the endearing title of 'Raṅghreṭe Gurū ke Beṭe. ' Upon his initiation into the order of the Khālsā in 1699, he had received the name of Jīvan Siṅgh. According to the Bhaṭṭ Vahīs, he was killed in a rearguard action on the bank of the Sarsā. Gurdwārā Shahīd Burj, which commemorates his martyrdom, is a small shrine of old Sirhindī bricks to which a small hall has been added lately. The original shrine in which the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated was built by Mazhabī Sikhs, the community to which Bhāī Jīvān Siṅgh originally belonged.
GURDWĀRĀ TĀṚĪ SĀHIB is situated on a low mound to the west of Gurdwārā Qatalgaṛh. When Gurū Gobind Siṅgh decided to leave the Gaṛhī at Chamkaur during the night of 7-8 December 1705, three Sikhs, Bhāī Dayā Siṅgh, Bhāī Dharam Siṅgh and Bhāī Mān Siṅgh, came out with him, too. They proceeded each in a different direction, agreeing to meet later at a common spot guided by the position of certain stars. Since he did not wish to leave unannounced, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, upon reaching the mound where now stands Gurdwārā Tāṛī (literally, a clap) Sāhib, clapped and shouted : "Here goes the Pīr of Hind (the saint of India)!" From their different points the three Sikhs also raised shouts. This baffled the besieging host, and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and the Sikhs were soon gone out of harm's way. The Gurdwārā on the mound marks the site from where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had proclaimed his departure by hand-clapping.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)