HEM KUṆṬ SĀHIB, GURDWĀRĀ SRĪ, lit. Receptacle of Ice, situated in the Himalayas at a height of about 15,210 feet above sea level and located in Chamolī district of Uttar Pradesh, is dedicated to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in his autobiographical work, Bachitra Nāṭak, has said that before his birth he had been meditating on the Mahā Kāl (God) at a place which he described as "Hemkuṇṭ Parvat adorned with seven peaks where earlier the king Paṇḍūrāj (a character in the epic Mahābhārata) had practised austerities." The exact spot was not known until Paṇḍit Tārā Siṅgh Narotam (1822-91), well-known Nirmalā scholar, determined its location after referring to the Mahābhārata texts (1. 119) alluded to in the Bachitra Nāṭak. Later Sant Sohan Siṅgh of Ṭehrī Gaṛhvāl actually surveyed the area and found the place in 1934, and with the financial assistance and encouragement from Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh (1872-1957), the Sikh savant, constructed a modest 3-metre square shrine in 1936. After his death on 13 February 1939, Havildār Modan Siṅgh, an ex-army sergeant, served the place with extraordinary devotion for the next 21 years. He not only maintained the shrine at Hemkuṇṭ, but also established Gurdwārās Gobind Ghāṭ (height 6,000 feet) and Gobind Dhām (height 10, 500 feet) to serve as base camps for pilgrims visiting Gurdwārā Hem Kuṇṭ Sāhib. Before his death in December 1960, Havildār Modan Siṅgh also set up Srī Hem Kuṇṭ Sāhib Management Trust. The Trust, with headquarters at Kānpur, has also replaced the building at Hem Kuṇṭ Sahib with a new and more spacious one, and has also constructed two more gurdwārās along the route -- one each at Srīnagar (Gaṛhvāl) and Joshī Maṭh -- and has been running Gurū kā Laṅgar and rest camps at all these places for the pilgrims.
Gurdwārā Hem Kuṇṭ Sāhib stands on the bank of a sweet-water lake (circumference roughly 2.5 km) in a narrow valley surrounded by high mountains capped by seven peaks (saptaśṛṅga). The place is inaccessible during winter. Even in summer it is visited only during the day, the pilgrims coming back to Gurdwārā Gobind Dhām because lack of enough oxygen at that height makes an extended stay at the top shrine impossible.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)