FATEHGAṚH SĀHIB, GURDWĀRĀ, 5 km north of Sirhind (30º-37'N, 76º-23'E), marks the site of the execution of the two younger sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh at the behest of Wazīr Khān of Kuñjpurā, the faujdār of Sirhind. As Gurū Gobind Siṅgh evacuated Anandpur on the night of 5-6 December 1705, he was closely pursued by the host. In front ran the Sarsā swollen with rain water. Under cover of a quick rearguard action fought on the banks of the stream, he succeeded in crossing it, but the members of his family got scattered in the tumult. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's old mother, Mātā Gujarī, and her two grandsons, Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh, aged 9 and 7 years respectively, had nowhere to go until their cook, named Gaṅgū, offered to take them to his own village Kheṛī. They accompanied him to his house. But he proved deceitful and betrayed them to Jānī Khān and Mānī Khān of Moriṇḍā. The latter at once despatched them to Sirhind where they were consigned to the Cold Tower (Ṭhaṇḍā Burj) of the Fort. On 9 December 1705, Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh were produced before Wazīr Khān, who had just returned from the battle of Chamkaur. Wazīr Khān tried to lure them to embrace Islam with promises of riches and honours, but they spurned the offer. He threatened them with death as an alternative to Islam, but they remained firm. A death sentence was eventually awarded. Nawāb Sher Muhammad Khān of Mālerkoṭlā protested that it would be improper to harm the innocent children. Wazīr Khān, however, ordered them to be bricked up alive in a wall, if they still refused conversion. They were kept in the Cold Tower in that severe winter for another two days. On I1 December, they, under the orders of Wazīr Khān began to be paved with bricks standing on the ground. However, as the masonry reached above chest height, it crumbled. The next day, 12 December 1705, the Sāhibzādās were once again offered the choice of conversion or death. They chose the latter and fearlessly faced the executioner's sword. The cruelty of their murder and their fearlessness of death which they preferred to giving up their faith finds a touching narration in "Gañj-i-Shahīdāṅ" an Urdu poem by a Muslim poet, Allahyār Khān Jogī, who used to recite it from Sikh platforms during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. The aged Mātā Gujarī who had all along been confined in the Cold Tower, only a little distance away, breathed her last as the news reached her ears.
The dead bodies were kept for the night at a spot now called Bimāngaṛh, just outside the fort wall, and were cremated the following day by Seṭh Toḍar Mall, a wealthy merchant of Sirhind.
Sirhind suffered the full fury of Sikh ire when Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur marched upon it with his daring host. Wazīr Khān was killed and the city was occupied on 14 May 1710. Dīwān Suchchānand, who had explicitly championed the penalty laid upon the captives by the faujdār, was captured and tortured to death. The town, including the Fort, was razed to the ground. A memorial was raised marking the spot where the Sāhibzādās were martyred and named Fatehgaṛh.
Sirhind, however, soon fell back into the hands of the Mughals and was later conquerred by Ahmed Shāh Durrānī who appointed Zain Khān faujdār in 1761. As Zain Khān was finally defeated and killed in battle on 14 January 1764 by the Dal Khālsā and as the Sikhs occupied the country around Sirhind, no Sikh Sardār was willing to keep the accursed town. It was consequently conferred upon Bhāī Buḍḍhā Siṅgh, a pious and humble Sikh. He later sold it to Bābā Ālā Siṅgh, founder of the Paṭiālā dynasty. To honour the memory of the young martyrs, a gurdwārā was constructed on the site of the old memorial and named Fatehgaṛh Sāhib. Mahārājā Karam Siṅgh (1798-1845) of Paṭiālā had the gurdwārā built. He also gave Sirhind Nizāmat (district) the name of Fatehgaṛh Sāhib. Other shrines were, in course of time, established around the central Gurdwārā. For over a century the management of the shrines at Fatehgaṛh Sāhib remained in the hands of local priests. In 1906, a committee consisting of custodians of the different shrines was formed. In 1944, Paṭiālā government constituted an Interim Gurdwārā Board and an Improvement Committee for Gurdwārās Fatehgaṛh Sāhib and Jotī Sarūp. After the formation of the Paṭiālā and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) in July 1948, the Interim Board was amalgamated with the Dharam Arth (Religious Endowments) Board. Upon the unification of PEPSU and East Punjab into a single state of the Punjab, the gurdwārās in PEPSU passed under the control of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. Renovation and development originally planned by the Improvement Committee of 1944 were taken in hand in 1955-56.
The architectural design of the present building is Indo-Muslim, with its flat-roofed pyramidal construction over a square base, a ribbed lotus dome on top, mosaic floor and a richly patterned ceiling, radiating and cusped arches, and projecting windows. It stands on an extensive mound and commands the landscape for miles around. The three-storeyed edifice on a raised platform has a dīvān hall on the ground floor, with a basement below and a central pavilion and dome on top. The basement called Bhorā Sāhib contains the old brick enclosure believed to be the exact site of the execution of the Sāhibzādās. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated here with holy relics, hilt of a sword and a dagger and a rust-eaten fragment of a double-edged weapon. The dīvān, hall has a marble floor and an artistically patterned ceiling with the Gurū Granth Sāhib seated in the centre in a gilded pālakī, portable canopied seat, on a marble platform. The inverted lotus at the apex of the dome above and the pinnacle are covered with gold-plated sheets and have an umbrella-shaped gold finial. So are the domes of the four kiosks one at each corner of the roof. The three-storeyed gateway is topped by decorative canopied pavilions and a clock-tower.
GURDWARĀ BIMĀNGAṚH is a small, simple hut of baked bricks, 100 metres east of the main Gurdwārā. It marks the place where dead bodies of the three martyrs were kept for the night, and their hearses prepared prior to cremation. It is managed by the Nihaṅg Siṅghs.
GURUDWĀRĀ SĀHIB JOTĪ SARŪP, about 1.5 km southeast of Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib indicates the site where the mortal remains of the mother and two younger sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh were cremated.
After the deaths of Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh and of Mātā Gujarī, Seṭh Ṭoḍar Mall, a wealthy and influential citizen of Sirhind, made arrangements to perform the last rites. But no one would give him a patch of land in the locality to be used as cremation ground until one Chaudharī Attā agreed to sell him a plot. His stipulation was that Ṭoḍar Mall could take only as much space as he could cover with gold mohars. The Seṭh produced the coins and bought the piece of land he needed. He cremated the three corpses and a Sikh, Jodh Siṅgh living in Attevālī village, buried the ashes.
At the time of the conquest of Sirhind by Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur in 1710 or later by the Dal Khālsā in 1764, no memorial was raised at this place, so that when Mahārājā Karam Siṅgh of Paṭiālā got Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib rebuilt, he had to search for and determine the exact spot of cremation. The urn containing the ashes was at last discovered and he got a gurdwārā built over it in 1843 and named it Jotī Sarūp. A century later, in 1944, Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh set up a committee for the improvement of Fatehgaṛh Sāhib and Jotī Sarūp. Consequently two upper storeys and a dome were added to the building in 1955. Earlier, when a Jodhpur prince, Himmat Siṅgh, married Princess Shailendra Kaur of Paṭiālā in 1951, the Mahārājā of Jodhpur donated money for the construction of a separate shrine dedicated to the sacred memory of Mātā Gujarī. This samādh, a small square canopied platform built in white marble, stands in the south-western corner of the circumambulatory verandah on the ground floor. During the annual Sabhā festival, the most dramatic event is a mass procession on 13 Poh taken out from Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib and ending at Gurdwārā Jotī Sarūp. At the latter place, Kīrtan Sohilā and Anandu Sāhib are recited followed by supplication in memory of the martyrs. With this the programme officially comes to an end.
GUKDWĀRĀ MĀTĀ GUJARĪ is close to the main Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib. Both are, in fact, situated on the same mound of ruins of the old Fort of Sirhind. Ṭhaṇḍā Burj used to be a high tower built at a bend of the rampart of the Fort. Owing to its exposure to wind currents from all directions and to a water current from below it was a pleasant resort for the faujdār to spend his hot summer afternoons. In winter, however, it was intolerably cold. When Mātā Gujarī and her grandsons were brought to Sirhind as captives in the cold season (8 December 1705), they were detained in this Tower.
When Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur sacked Sirhind in 1710, the Cold Tower escaped destruction. But in the turbulent times that followed, the water channel running below it was blocked and disappeared, and the topmost portion of the tower fell down. After the establishment of Sikh rule in 1764, it became a revered place of pilgrimage, but its renovation had to wait until the Improvement Committee for Gurdwārās Fatehgaṛh Sāhib and Jotī Sarūp was constituted in 1944.
Actual work on the implementation of plans prepared by the Committee, however, commenced only in 1955-56. Since then except for a portion of the original Fort wall, the place has been changed into an entirely new building, modest but elegant in design, a noble memorial to the illustrious Mātā, Mother. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated in the room on the ground floor. A narrow winding staircase leads up to the first floor, a bare room with a low platform in the centre and a lotus dome above. There was a tradition, now discredited, that Mātā Gujarī, on hearing of the execution of her grandchildren, jumped down from the tower over the Fort wall. There is a small room near the foot of the stairs which was believed to be the exact spot where she fell dead. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is installed in this room as well. This shrine was further renovated in recent decades. The top room has been converted into a domed pavilion and the dome is covered with gilded copper plates.
SHAHĪD GAÑJ (I) is a low square platform with a flagpost, in the northern part of the inner compound of the main Gurdwārā. It marks the site of the cremation of Sikhs who laid down their lives at the time of Bandā Siṅgh's conquest of Sirhind in 1710. This shrine, too, is attended by the Nihaṅg Siṅghs.
SHAHĪD GAÑJ (II) is a small gurdwārā, 300 metres south of the main shrine. In the days of fierce persecution which overtook the Sikhs after Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur, decapitation of their heads was a favourite sport. It is said that once the Dal Khālsā captured 40 cart-loads of such heads being carried from Lahore for presentation to the Emperor at Delhi. These heads were cremated on the site now occupied by Gurdwārā Shahīd Gañj (II) . According to another tradition, this Shahīdgañj is a memorial to Jathedār Mallā Siṅgh who fell here fighting against Zain Khān in 1764. The present building was raised in 1955-56.
SHAHĪD GAÑJ BĀBĀ SUKKHĀ SIṄGH, half a kilometre north of the main Gurdwārā, is a memorial to a Sikh commander, Sukkhā Siṅgh, who fell a martyr here in the battle against Zain Khān in 1764.
THAṚĀ SĀHIB PĀTSHĀHĪ CHHEVĪṄ, a simple platform inside a low brick-wall enclosure, is dedicated to Gurū Hargobind who, according to local tradition, stayed here awhile during his travels through these parts.
Gurdwārā Fatehgaṛh Sāhib, with affiliated shrines, is administered directly by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. In addition to the daily programme of morning and evening services and kīrtan, largely attended assemblies are held on the first of each Bikramī month. The notable event of the year is a fair, popularly known as Sabhā, held on 11, 12 and 13 of Poh, which fall during the last week of December, to commemorate the martyrdom of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's sons, Zorāwar Siṅgh and Fateh Siṅgh, and Mātā Gujarī.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)