PAṬNĀ (25º -37'N, 85º-10'E), ancient Pāṭalīputra, now capital of Bihār state, is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage for Sikhs. It is the birthplace of their Tenth Gurū, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, and one of their seats of high religious authority. For this reason it is designated a takht, i.e, throne. It is called Paṭnā Sāhib, with Sāhib suffixed to the name as a title of dignity and honour. The old Paṭnā city railway station has now been officially renamed Paṭnā Sāhib. Several historical shrines are located in the city.
GURDWĀRĀ PAHILĀ BĀṚĀ GĀI GHĀṬ, or simply Gurdwarā Gāi Ghāṭ, is in the 'Ālamgañj area of the old city, close to the new bridge over the River Gaṅgā. Gurū Nānak, during his visit to Paṭnā in the first decade of the sixteenth century, stayed at this place, then the residence of a pious man, Jaitā by name and a confectioner by trade. Jaitā became a Sikh and converted his house into a place of holy assembly which came to be known as Bāṛī Saṅgat or Gāi Ghāṭ Saṅgat. According to tradition, it was from here that Gurū Nānak had sent Mardānā to the city with a jewel for evaluation as a result of which Sāls Rāi, the jeweller, also became a Sikh and escorted the Gurū to his home. When Gurū Tegh Bahādur arrived in Paṭnā with his family and a retinue of Sikhs in 1666, he also stayed here at Bāṛī Saṅgat first but later shifted to Chhoṭī Saṅgat in the house that had once belonged to Sālas Rāi. In the Gāī Ghāṭ Gurdwārā two old relics are displayed : Mardānā's rebeck and Mātā Gujarī's grindstone.
TAKHT SRĪ HARIMANDAR SĀHIB is the principal shrine in Paṭnā. The place was originally the residence of Sālas Rāi, the jeweller. Gurū Nānak is said to have stayed and preached here for about three months. A religious centre known as Chhoṭī Saṅgat, the smaller assembly as distinguished from Bāṛi (larger) Saṅgat at Gāi Ghāṭ, grew up here. It was headed by Bhāī Adhrakā, an employee of Sālas Rāi. When in 1666 Gurū Tegh Bahādur came to Paṭnā, Adhrakā's descendants, who were the priests of Chhoṭī Saṅgat, escorted the Gurū and his party to this place in a procession from the Bāṛī Saṅgat. The Gurū, leaving his family at Chhoṭī Saṅgat in the care of his brother-in-law, Kirpāl Chand, proceeded further east. Here Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was born on 22 December 1666. The house where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh spent his early childhood, according to a foreigner, Charles Wilkins, who visited it in 1781, "forms a square of about forty feet, raised from the ground about six to eight steps. The hall is in the centre, divided from four other apartments by wooden arches upon pillars of the same materials, all neatly carved. The room is rather longer than it is broad." This building, originally raised in 1665 by Rājā Fateh Chand Maiṇī, gave place to one constructed by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in 1839. Further extensions were carried out in 1887 jointly by the Sikh rulers of Paṭiālā, Jīnd and Farīdkoṭ states. The central building sustained serious damage in the earthquake that rocked Bihār in 1934. The present building, the Takht Harimandar Sāhib today, was constructed under the supervision of Sant Nischal Siṅgh and Sant Kartār Siṅgh and completed in 1957. It is a magnificent five-storeyed edifice with a ribbed lotus dome on top of the sanctum and smaller domes at the corners. These corner domes have gold pinnacles while the central one carries an umbrella shaped finial. The inner sanctum, representing the room where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was born, has a circumambulatory passage around it and a huge hall in front. Its ceiling is lined with reflecting glass and its front arch is covered with gold plates, having embossed floral motifs to match the designs on the marble in the interior. There are three canopied seats in the sanctum. The central one facing the hall has the Gurū Granth Sāhib placed on it. Of the other two seats, one is occupied by the Gurū Granth Sāhib and the other by the Dasam Granth. Several relics belonging to Gurū Tegh Bahādur and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh such as wooden sandals, an old gown, several weapons as well as their hukamnāmās are preserved at the Takht Sāhib.
The administration of Takht Harimandar Sāhib was for a long time in the hands of a line of mahants. On the death of the last of them in 1930, the management was handed over to a committee of five, with Bābā Kartār Siṅgh Bedī as Sarbarāh Kār, under the general supervision of the District Judge of Paṭnā. Bābā Kartār Siṅgh was removed in 1954 on the grounds of maladministration. A new constitution was framed in 1956 after consultations with various Sikh societies and a new committee took over the control. The committee consists of 15 elected and nominated members, representing the Sikhs of Paṭnā city, Bihar and Calcutta, and nominees of bodies such as the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee and the Chief Khālsā Dīwān. Three members are the nominees of the District Judge of Paṭnā.
GURDWĀRĀ BĀL LĪLĀ MAIṆĪ SAṄGAT, situated in a lane from across Takht Harimandar Sāhib, is located in what used to be the house of Rājā Fateh Chand Maiṇī, a prominent citizen of Paṭnā. Fateh Chand and his wife were devoted followers of the Sikh faith. They were without a child, and had longed and prayed for a son. One day as the lady sat absorbed in prayer with her usual wish in her heart, child Gobind Rāi [that was the name by which Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was then known] came along, followed by his playmates, sat in her lap and lisped, "Mother, give us something to eat." This was a miracle for her. She felt as if her prayer had been answered and she had really been blessed with a son. Joyfully she fetched the only eatables readily available in the house — boiled salted gram. Fateh Chand Maiṇī was no less delighted. The couple converted their house into a saṅgat which came to be known as Maiṇī Saṅgat. To this day, the prasād at this Gurdwārā consists of boiled salted gram especially distributed to children in the morning. The Gurdwārā is served by Nirmalā priests. The building has been extended in recent years, but the old porch supported on pillars and arches of carved wood has been preserved. On the entrance door are carved the Mūl Mantra and the date Sambat 1725 Assū vādī 10, corresponding to 28 August 1668. Among the relics displayed in this Gurdwārā is a pair of shoes of embroidered velvet believed to have been Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's. There is also a karaundā tree in the compound supposed to have sprouted from a twig planted by him. The Gurdwārā has a volume of the Gurū Granth Sāhib in which the Mūl Mantra is written in the old calligraphic style of the hukamnāmās. It is believed that this is in Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's own hand.
GURDWĀRĀ GURŪ KĀ BĀGH is on the eastern edge of the old city, about 3 km from Takht Harimandar Sāhib. When Gurū Tegh Bahādur returned from Assam, he alighted on this site which was then a garden owned by Nawāb Rahīm Bakhsh and Nawāb Karīm Bakhsh. It is said that the trees in the garden had withered and almost dried up, but no sooner had the Gurū entered than they blossomed forth. The Nawāb offered the garden to the Gurū. On hearing of the Gurū's return, the whole saṅgat of Paṭnā along with child Gobind Rāi, came out to pay him homage. Gurū Tegh Bahādur was pleased to see the saṅgat and his young son. This meeting took place on Baisākh sudī 7, 1727 Bk/17 April 1670. A small shrine was built later near an imlī tree under which the Gurū had sat. Only a dried stump of that tree now remains. The old shrine was demolished to give place to a new building the construction for which was taken up by the Takht Sāhib Committee in 1971-72.
GURDWĀRĀ SRĪ GURŪ GOBIND SIṄGH GHĀṬ is a small shrine over that Ghāṭ-gate, close to Takht Harimandar Sāhib. The Gaṅgā, which has since receded further north, used to flow past this ghāṭ, or landing place. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh as a child often turned out here with his playmates. Tradition preserves many stories of these childhood days. Shiv Datt, a pious Brāhmaṇ, used to meditate daily in the morning on the riverbank. His one wish was to see his deity in flesh. One morning he did see Lord Rāma in person. He was delighted at the vision. The next moment he found himself gazing at child Gobind Rāi standing in front and smiling graciously at him. He instantly felt as if the child was the deity he had been longing to see. Shiv Datt treated Gobind Rāi so ever after. A small cave-like shrine, with idols and icons believed to have belonged to Paṇḍit Shiv Datt himself, still stands opposite to Gurdwārā Gurū Gobind Siṅgh Ghāt. The Gurdwārā is administered by Takht Harimandar Sāhib.
GURDWĀRĀ HĀṆḌĪ SĀHIB at Dānāpur, about 20 km west of Takht Harimandar Sāhib, is also sacred to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. When, summoned by Gurū Tegh Bahādur, his family left Paṭnā for the Punjab. Dānāpur was their camp at the end of the first day's journey. An old lady, named by chroniclers variously as Jamnā or Pardhānī, had offered to provide the evening meal to the party. She had cooked khichṛī, a dish of rice and lentils in a hāṇḍi, a small earthen kettle, but she saw that a large body of Paṭnā saṅgat had followed to see off young Gobind Rāi. She had neither the means nor the time to cook more food. But she had her faith. She prayed to the Gurū and started serving food to the saṅgat. It is said that the whole party was fed, but Khichṛi in the haṇḍī was not exhausted. A saṅgat was established in the lady's house which came to be called Haṇḍī Vālī Saṅgat. It was looked after for a long time by Udāsī priests until the Takht Harimandar Sāhib took it over and reconstructed it. The Gurdwārā, on the bank of a seasonal stream called Son, consists of a small hall, with a verandah on three sides and a small brick paved compound in front.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)