DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB, also known as Tavwaṇḍī Sābo (29º - 59' N, 75º - 5'E), a small town 28 km southeast of Baṭhiṇḍā in the Punjab, is sacred to the Sikhs as the seat of one of their five takhts or centres of highest religious authority. Damdamā Sāhib, place of repose where the Gurū had some respite after a period of continuous turmoil, was visited successively by Gurū Tegh Bahādur while travelling in these parts in the early 1670's, and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh who put up here for over nine months in 1706. Tradition also recounts a visit by Gurū Nānak during one of his journeys across the country. In the earlier half of the eighteenth century, the place became for the Sikhs a cantonment as well as a seat of learning. It gained renown especially under Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahīd (d. 1757). The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee approved, vide Resolution No. 32, dated 18 November 1966, Damdamā Sāhib as a takht, adjured the Khālsā to keep this takht in mind as they did in the past while saying their ardās, and recommended to the Punjab Government amendment to Gurdwārā Act so that the jathedār of the takht, like those of the other four takhts, could be counted as an ex officio member of the Shiromaṇī Committee. Several shrines, sarovars and buṅgās survive as relics of its historical past.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB SRĪ GURŪ TEGH BAHĀDUR PĀTSHĀHĪ NAUVĪṄ, also called Darbār Sāhib, is a flat roofed rectangular room, marking the site where Gurū Tegh Bahādur is believed to have put up and preached. Daily gatherings for religious prayers, kīrtan and discourses take place here. Sacred relics including two swords, one muzzle-loading gun, a seal and an old copy of the Gurū Granth Sāhib are preserved here in a domed cubicle behind the sanctum. Another relic, a mirror, said to have been presented to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh by the saṅgat of Delhi, is displayed in the hall. Of the two swords, one is believed to have belonged to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and the other, heavy and double-edged, to Bābā Dīp Siṅgh. The muzzle-loader is believed to be the one Gurū Gobind Siṅgh received as a present (See THAṚĀ SĀHIB below).
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB PĀTSHĀHĪ IX ate X is another shrine dedicated to Gurū Tegh Bahādur. About 100 metres to the west of Darbār Sāhib, it marks the spot where he used to sit supervising the digging of the tank, Gurūsar. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh also sanctified the site by a visit during his stay at Talvaṇḍī Sābo. The present building, constructed by the Sant Sevāk Jathā, Buṅgā Mastūāṇā, is a marble-floored hall with a circular tower topped by a domed pavilion at each corner. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated on a canopied seat of white marble, tastefully carved, in a square sanctum marked off by marble-lined pillars. Above the sanctum are two storeys of square rooms overtopped by a lotus dome. The gold- plated pinnacle has an umbrella shaped finial with a khaṇḍā on top.
GURŪSAR SAROVAR, a bathing tank, 130 x 90 metres, with a 10-metre wide marbled pavement around it, was got excavated originally by Gurū Tegh Bahādur. He is said to have inaugurated the work by digging the first few sods and carrying the earth in his doshalā or rug. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh is believed to have had the tank desilted and deepened. The lining and marble paving are works recently carried out.
GURDWĀRĀ NIVĀS ASTHĀN DAMDĀMĀ SĀHIB PĀTSHĀHĪ X, a multi-storeyed octagonal tower, adjoining the Darbār Sāhib, marks the apartments of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. According to Sākhī Pothī, when Gurū Tegh Bahādur arrived at Talvaṇḍī Sābo, he halted at the base of a huge ant-hill, which he saluted as he alighted. Questioned by the Sikhs accompanying him, he explained, "A grand temple, nine spears in height, with golden pinnacles will be erected on that spot by the great one who comes after me. Let my shrine be at the foot of his temple. " The Gurū Granth Sāhib is now seated in a domed room at the top floor of the tower.
TAKHT SRĪ DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB, adjoining the Darbār Sāhib on the east, marks the site where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh during his stay here held his daily assemblies. Gurū Tegh Bahādur had called Talvaṇḍī Sābo Gurū kī Kāshī, predicting that "many scholars, philosophers, theologians, copyists with elegant hand, students and devotees will adorn the place. " The prophecy came true when learned Sikhs poured in from far and near to be with Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Among them was Bhāī Manī Siṅgh who came from Delhi escorting Mātā Sundarī and Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ, the Gurū's consorts separated from him after the evacuation of Anandpur. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had Bhāī Manī Siṅgh prepare a fresh copy of the Gurū Granth Sāhib under his own supervision. The spot where this work was carried out is still shown the pilgrims. Copies continued to be prepared here from this recension. One such copy preserved here is believed to have been prepared by Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahīd himself. It contains 707 leaves excluding the list of contents spread over 29 leaves. It was from here that the Gurū issued his commands and letters to far-flung Sikh saṅgats. The place became in fact a centre of Sikh learning. This character it has maintained ever since as the home of what is known as Damdamī Ṭaksal, or the Damdamā School of Learning.
The present building of the Takht Srī Damdamā Sāhib, constructed during the 1970's under the supervision of Sant Sevā Siṅgh of Srī Kesgaṛh, is a spacious high-ceilinged hall, with a pavilion, at either end. The takht (throne) proper is a 2 metre high square platform lined with white marble and marked off with marble-lined columns in the southern part of the hall. This is the sanctum sanctorum on which the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated. After the evening service the Holy Book is carried to the old Mañjī Sāhib in a procession of hymn-singing devotees. The interior of the sanctum is decorated with reflecting glass pieces of varying colours set in geometrical and floral designs. Over the sanctum, above the hall roof, is a domed square room topped by a tall gold-plated pinnacle and an umbrella-shaped finial, with a khaṇḍā at the apex. Octagonal towers at the hall corners have also domed pavilions above them. All these domes are lined with glazed tiles in white, light yellow and light blue colours.
GURDWĀRĀ MĀTĀ SUNDARĪ JĪ ate MĀTĀ SĀHIB DEVĀṄ JĪ, to the southeast of the Takht Srī Damdamā Sāhib, marks the place where the holy ladies lived during their stay at Talvaṇḍī Sābo in 1706. The Gurdwārā comprises a square domed room with the Gurū Granth Sāhib seated on a platform in the middle of it.
GURDWĀRĀ LIKHANSAR is a square hall, including a domed sanctum within it, at the southeastern corner of the sarovar, holy tank. According to Bhāī Kuir Siṅgh, Gurbilās Pātshāhī X, there used to be a pool of water here in the days of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, who sitting here sometimes would have reed-pens for the writers made and then throw them into the pool. Once, Bhāī Ḍallā, the local chief converted a disciple, entreated him to explain why he ordered thousands of pens to be cut and thrown away. To quote the Sākhī Pothī the Gurū said : "Thousands of Sikhs will hereafter study the holy texts in this place and then pens will come into use. This is our Kāshī (seat of learning); those who study here will cast off their ignorance and rise to be authors, poets and commentators. "
GURDWĀRĀ JAṆḌSAR, half a kilometre to the northwest of Takht Srī Damdamā Sāhib, marks the place referred to as Jaṇḍīāṇā in old chronicles. Here Gurū Gobind Siṅgh used to disburse largesse to his warriors. The Gurdwārā now comprises a domed sanctum, with a small sarovar adjacent to it.
ṬIBBĪ SĀHIB is an open space close to a pond known as Mahalsar. Here Gurū Gobind Siṅgh trained his Sikhs in mock battles. The site continues to be the venue for the traditional Hola Mahallā and Baisākhī.
NĀNAKSAR, an 80-metre square sarovar halfway between the Takht Sāhib and Gurdwārā Jaṇḍsar, was till lately a natural pond called Nānaksar. It was so named in the belief that Gurū Nānak had stayed on the bank of it during his visit to Talvaṇḍī.
BURJ BĀBĀ DĪP SIṄGH, a 20-metre high tower with a dome at the top adjoining the northeast corner of the Takht Sāhib, was constructed by Bābā Dīp Siṅgh of the Shahīd misl, who remained at Talvaṇḍī to look after the shrines after Gurū Gobind Siṅgh had left the place to resume his travels. He is also credited with the sinking of the well which still supplies drinking water to the complex.
SAMĀDH BHĀĪ ḌALL SIṄGH, a small domed shrine standing a bare 30-metres to the south of the Takht Sāhib, marks the site where Chaudharī Ḍallā, Ḍall Siṅgh after he had received the vows of the Khālsā at the hands of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, was cremated.
THAṚĀ SĀHIB BHĀĪ BĪR SIṄGH ate DHĪR SIṄGH, a small room in the vicinity of Burj Bābā Dīp Siṅgh, has recently replaced a platform (thaṛā, in Punjabi) which marked the place where two Raṅghreṭā Sikhs, named, according to local tradition, Bīr Siṅgh and Dhīr Siṅgh, father and son respectively, offered themselves as targets for the Gurū to test a muzzle-loading gun presented to him by a Sikh. According to Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, Chaudharī Ḍallā once boasted about the loyalty and courage of his soldiers. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh asked him to provide a couple of his men as targets so that he could test the range and striking power of the new weapon. The strange demand stunned Ḍallā and his men out of their wits, and none of them did in fact come forward. The Gurū thereupon called out the two Sikhs who were at that moment busy tying their turbans. They came running, turbans in hand, each trying to be in front of the other in order to be the first to face the bullet. Ḍallā, astonished at the Sikhs' spirit of sacrifice, learnt to be humble.
BUṄGĀ MASTŪĀṆĀ SĀHIB, established in 1923, by Sant Atar Siṅgh, is not a historical shrine as such but is a prestigious institution for training young scholars in the theory and practice of the Sikh faith. It is a vast complex comprising dormitories, rows of cubicles, a dining hall, an agricultural farm and a magnificent gurdwārā with a large assembly hall.
All these shrines, other than Buṅgā Mastūāṇā Sāhib, are under the management of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, which took over control in 1963 from the family of the custodian, Captain Raṇjīt Siṅgh of Shāhzādpur.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)