KĪRATPUR SĀHIB (76º-35'E, 31º-11'N), a small town in Śivālak foothills in Rūpnagar (Ropaṛ) district of the Punjab, was founded by Bābā Gurdittā under instructions from his father, Gurū Hargobind. According to the Bhaṭṭ Vahīs, the foundation was laid by Bābā Srī Chand, the aged son of Gurū Nānak, on Baisākh Pūranmāshī 1683 Bk/1 May 1626 by ceremonially planting a twig on a tract of land acquired by the Gurū from Rājā Tārā Chand of Kahlūr, a small hill state. Gurū Hargobind settled in Kīratpur after the battles of Kartārpur and Phagwāṛā in 1635. It remained the seat of the Sikh Gurūs until Gurū Tegh Bahādur founded in 1665 the new village of Chakk Nānakī (present Anandpur Sāhib), 8 km further north. The town has a number of shrines of historical importance.
GURDWĀRĀ CHARAN KAVAL PĀTSHĀHĪ PAHILĪ. Gurū Nānak stayed on this site when he visited this part of the country during one of his extensive travels. Here he held religious discourse with a Muslim divine, Pīr Buḍḍhāṇ Shāh. The Pīr lived on goat's milk which he also offered to the Gurū. As the tradition goes, the Gurū drank half of it and returned the other half to Buḍḍhaṇ Shāh, telling him to keep it till a Sikh of his came to take it. This, it is believed, was an allusion to Bābā Gurdittā until whose arrival over a hundred years later Pīr Buḍḍhāṇ Shāh was still alive (His mazār, i.e. grave, is located on a hilltop, about 200 metres to the east of Dehrā Bābā Gurdittājī and is also visited by Sikh pilgrims to Kīratpur) .
Gurdwārā Charan Kaval stands on a high base. The heavy stone walls riveting the base and the dented parapet at the top give it the appearance of a fortress. The main building was constructed by Rājā Bhūp Siṅgh of Ropaṛ during the earlier half of the nineteenth century.
GURDWĀRĀ SHĪSH MAHAL is one of a complex of six shrines which together mark the site of the buildings used by the Gurūs. Shīsh Mahal, standing in the midst of this complex, was the house in which the holy family resided after Gurū Hargobind had shifted to Kīratpur. Gurū Har Rāi and Gurū Har Krishan were born and brought up here. The old building has since been demolished and replaced by a tall and magnificent edifice. To make it a Shīsh Mahal (Glass Palace) in the literal sense, panels of decorative reflecting glass have been fixed along the whole interior, white on the ceiling and gold on the walls.
GURDWĀRĀ TAKHT KOṬ SĀHIB. Like the Akāl Takht at Amritsar, this was the seat at Kīratpur where Gurū Hargobind held his court. Important functions such as the anointing ceremony for Gurū Har Rāi (8 March 1644) and for Gurū Har Krishan (7 October 1661) were performed here. The Takht Sāhib, a square room where the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated, is on a high plinth at the northern end of a flat-roofed hall. There is a domed pavilion with a gold pinnacle on top of the Takht Sāhib.
GURDWĀRĀ SRĪ HARIMANDIR SĀHIB PĀTSHĀHĪ CHHEVĪṄ marks the site used by Gurū Hargobind for meditation or rest in seclusion. There used to be a garden around the pavilion, called Naulakkhā Bāgh, with an eight cornered fountain in it. It was perhaps in this Naulakkhā Garden that young Har Rāi once brushed past a shrub with his long flowing loose gown causing a flower to drop from its stem. He felt very grieved to have thus damaged a beautiful flower. Gurū Hargobind, his grandfather, saw him in tears. He consoled him and said : "You should always take care." The simple words stuck in the impressionable mind and when Gurū Har Rāi became Gurū, he converted this garden into a small zoo in which he left off animals captured during the chase.
The old Gurdwārā building of Sirhindī bricks and lime cast still stands. In the centre is a flat-roofed room in which the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated.
GURDWĀRĀ DAMDĀMĀ SĀHIB is a single room, with a small domed pavilion in the centre of the roof, some 20 metres west of Gurdwārā Shīsh Mahal. This was the site for daily gatherings in the time of Gurū Har Rāi.
GURŪ KĀ KHŪH is an old narrow well, about one metre in diameter, close to Gurdwārā Shīsh Mahal. Still narrower steps lead down into the well to what was probably at one time its water level, although the water table is now much lower. This was the main source of water supply for the inmates of Shīsh Mahal during the times of the Gurūs and later for the Soḍhī families residing there.
GURDWĀRĀ CHUBACHCHĀ SĀHIB, to the southwest of Damdamā Sāhib, is a low-domed building inside a small compound. Chubachchā, in Punjabi, means a circular trough of masonry work used for watering animals near wells or for feeding them with grain in the stables. Although peace had generally prevailed after Gurū Hargobind had settled in Kīratpur, Gurū Har Rāi, obeying his grandfather's injunction, had retained a contingent of 2,200 mounted soldiers. The bulk of this force was stationed near village Buṅgā, about 6 km south of Kīratpur, but a few of the animals intended for riding by the Gurū were kept at the place marked by Gurdwārā Chubachchā Sāhib. Gurū Har Rāi himself came here at times to feed the horses with his own hands. The Gurdwārā, like other shrines at Kīratpur, is under the management of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB marks the residence of Gurū Har Rāi's daughter, Bībī Rūp Kaur, and her descendants, and was taken over by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee only in 1975. Bībī Rūp Kaur was married on Maghar sudī 3, 1719 Bk/3 December 1662 to Bhāī Khem Karan, son of Bhāī Peṛ Mall, of Pasrūr (now in Siālkoṭ district in Pakistan), but soon after the marriage the couple came back and settled in Kīratpur itself. It was here that Gurū Tegh Bahādur came from Bakālā on Bhādoṅ sudī 10, 1721 Bk/21 August 1664 to condole with Bībī Rūp Kaur upon the death of her brother, Gurū Har Krishan.
The building is a double-storeyed complex of small rooms. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is placed in one of the rooms on the first floor. The shrine is especially important for its sacred relics. These include a handwritten pothī, a hand fan, an embroidered handkerchief, and an anchorite's cap. The cap is said to have been originally given by Bābā Srī Chand to his spiritual successor, Bābā Gurdittā, and the pothī contains passages from the Gurū Granth Sāhib as well as some didactic stories. Both these were presented to Bībī Rūp Kaur, along with her dowry, by her grandmother, Mātā Bassī. The hand fan and handkerchief belonged to Bībī Rūp Kaur.
GURDWĀRĀ BIBĀNGAṚH SĀHIB. Bibān, in Punjabi, means a decorated hearse. The severed head of Gurū Tegh Bahādur, executed in Delhi on 11 November 1675, was brought to Kīratpur by Bhāī Jaitā (later Jīvan Siṅgh) on 16 November 1675. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh came from Chakk Nānakī (Anandpur) to Kīratpur to receive it. Gurdwārā Bibāngaṛh Sāhib marks the spot where the sacred head was received and placed on a bibān to be carried for cremation to Anandpur in a procession chanting the sacred hymns.
BĀOLĪ SĀHIB or GURŪ KĪ BĀOLĪ is a large square-shaped well covered with a domed pavilion, with steep steps descending down to water level. The well was got sunk by Bābā Gurdittā when Kīratpur was founded, the digging having been ceremonially begun by Bābā Srī Chand.
GURDWĀRĀ DEHRĀ BĀBĀ GURDITTĀ JĪ, atop a narrow plateau, marks the spot where Bābā Gurdittā, eldest son of Gurū Hargobind, laid down his life. It was Bābā Gurdittā who had established Kīratpur in compliance of his father's wish. Sikh tradition credits Bābā Gurdittā with miraculous powers. It is said that once during a chase he accidentally killed a cow and then, out of remorse, revived the animal. When this news reached Gurū Hargobind, he summoned him and admonished him for trying to interfere with the Divine order. Bābā Gurdittā, now overtaken by an even deeper remorse for causing annoyance to his father Gurū by working a miracle, quietly left his father's presence, came to this place near the grave of Pīr Buḍḍhāṇ Shāh and quit his earthly frame. The grief-stricken family and the Sikhs came wailing. Gurū Hargobind advised everyone to be calm and accept God's will. He cremated the body on this spot. The incident took place on Chet sudī 10, 1695 Bk/15 March 1638.
The present building of the Gurdwārā and the steps leading to it were constructed by Rājā Bhūp Siṅgh of Ropaṛ. The outer compound is enclosed by high walls and is entered through a double-storeyed gateway facing north. There are domed turrets at the corners and decorative pavilions with elongated domes at mid-points of the walls. The sanctum, where the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated, stands in the centre on a two metre high pedestal. It has wide arched doors and a low dome under an old nim tree. It is believed that this tree sprouted out of a stick Bābā Gurdittā had stuck into the ground near where he lay down for his eternal rest.
GURDWĀRĀ TĪR SĀHIB is sacred to Gurū Hargobind. As one ascends the stairs towards Gurdwārā Dehrā Bābā Gurdittājī, there is a hillock on the right at the end of a spur, commanding the panoramic plain stretching towards the River Sutlej. Sitting on the hilltop, Gurū Hargobind used to hold competitions in archery. There is a local tradition that once, towards the end of his days, the Gurū shot an arrow from here which landed near the Sutlej bank. That was the place where he breathed his last. The spot is now marked by Gurdwārā Patālpurī. Gurdwārā Tīr Sāhib was until recently only a small Mañjī Sāhib. But the hills of Kīratpur being of soft clay rock are highly susceptible to erosion, and the old building in danger of collapse was demolished. A new structure has since been raised on a stone-riveted base.
GURDWĀRĀ PATĀLPURĪ SĀHIB, on the left bank of the River Sutlej, marks the site where Gurū Hargobind passed away. It is recorded that, when Gurū Hargobind saw his end near, he had a hut constructed on this site which was called Patālpurī. Designating Gurū Har Rāi as his successor, he retired to this hut spending his time in meditation until he breathed his last on 3 March 1644. Here the body was cremated with due honours. Gurū Har Rāi, who passed away on 6 October 1661, was also cremated here. Although Gurū Har Krishan died in Delhi on 30 March 1664, his ashes were, according to the Bhaṭṭ Vahīs, brought to Patālpurī and immersed in the Sutlej on Bhādoṅ sudī 11, 1721Bk/22 August 1664. (It has now become customary for Sikhs to immerse the ashes of their dead in the River Sutlej at this point.) Separate shrines for the three Gurūs were constructed. There were also several monuments in honour of the Gurūs' relations and descendants. They have all been demolished and replaced by a new Gurdwārā in a vast hall on a high plinth. Towards the river end of the hall is the prakāsh asthān for the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Another two storeys rise above the sanctum, with a dome on top.
SANT NIVĀS UDĀSĪ ĀSHRAM near Bāolī Sāhib commemorates the visit of Bābā Srī Chand, founder of the Udāsī sect. Here he is said to have given a cap and cord, emblems of the headship of the sect, to Bābā Gurdittā. According to the notice displayed at the Āshram, this visit took place on Hāṛ sudī Pūranmāshī, 1685 Bk/7 July 1628, but according to the Bhaṭṭ Vahīs he visited Kīratpur on Baisākh sudī Puranmāshī, 1683 Bk/1 May 1626, when he planted a sapling symbolizing the founding of Kīratpur and cut the ground for the bāolī.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)