ACHAL SĀHIB, GURDWĀRĀ, sacred to Gurū Nānak, is located on the boundary of Sālho and Chāhal villages along the Jalandhar-Baṭālā road, 6 km south of Baṭālā (31º 49'N, 75º 12'E) in Gurdāspur district of the Punjab. The low mound on which the Gurdwārā is situated, in close proximity of the ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Kārtikeya, son of Lord Śiva, is popularly known as Achal Vaṭālā. The Achal temple had since old times been a place of pilgrimage visited by sādhūs from distant parts, especially during the annual fair held on the occasion of Śivarātri festival. Sujān Rāi Bhaṇḍārī, Khulāsat ut-Twārīkh, writing at the end of the seventeenth century, gives a graphic account of this fair. Gurū Nānak came here at the time of one such fair from Kartārpur, an habitation he had founded on the bank of the River Rāvī. In the words of the Miharbān Janam Sākhī, "As the Gurū entered Achal, the name Nānak spread everywhere among the crowds. Everyone began to say that Nānak, the renowned saint, had come. Nānak whose śabdas or hymns the world recited was himself there. Whoever was in Achal, rushed to see him. Neither a yogī was left nor a sannyāsī; neither a householder was left nor a recluse. Not a soul remained behind; whosoever there was thronged to the spot saying, “Nānak hath come, Nānak hath come. " Gurū Nānak held a long discourse with the Nāth-yogīs led by Bhaṅgar Nāth, who, according to Bhāī Gurdās, Vārāṅ, I. 40, began by questioning him, "Why hast thou soured the milk by adding vinegar to it? Whoever obtained butter by churning sour milk? Why, casting off the vestment of an Udāsī, hast thou again adopted the life of a householder?" "Bhaṅgar Nāth, " replied the Gurū, "it is thou that hast been perversely instructed. Thou didst not cleanse the vessel well, so the butter turned rancid. Abandoning home-life thou turnest an anchorite, and yet thou goest to beg at the doors of the householders. Thou wouldst have nothing to live by if they gave thee nought. " The Nāths then tried to overawe Gurū Nānak with a display of their magical powers, and challenged him to show them a miracle. But the Gurū condemned their wizardry and said, "The magic of the Siddhas is vain and futile. I rely on nothing except the holy fellowship and the Word. Besides the True Name, I possess no other miracle. " "By the Gurū's Word, " says Bhāī Gurdās, "contentment came to the Siddhas. "

        A memorial platform was raised on the site where Gurū Nānak had halted. A small gurdwārā was raised during the eighteenth century and was attended by a line ofmahants. According to revenue records, the Gurdwārā was owned by one Maṅgal Siṅgh in 1892. His son, Sundar Siṅgh, succeeded him in 1904. Sundar Siṅgh's son, Sūrat Siṅgh, was the mahant or custodian, when, around 1923, a jathā from the nearby village of Jaito Sarjā, under the leadership of Jathedār Kesar Siṅgh occupied the Gurdwārā and seven acres of land attached to it. Sūrat Siṅgh had offered no resistance. Subsequent to the passing of the Sikh Gurdwārās Act, 1925, the mangement was officially handed over to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee on 28 April 1926. The foundation of the present building was laid on 17 October 1935. The complex, completed in 1946, consists of an 8-metre square sanctum within a high ceilinged hall, with a gallery all around at mid height and a pinnacled lotus dome on top. There are square domed kiosks at the corners of the hall roof and solid lotus blossoms-in-leaves on the wall tops. Rooms for pilgrims and the Gurū kā Laṅgar are across a brick-paved courtyard close by.

        The Gurdwārā is affiliated to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, but the administration has been temporarily handed over to the successors of Sant Gurmukh Siṅgh. In addition to morning and evening services, largely-attended congregations take place on every amāvas, the last day of the dark half of the month. The biggest function of the year is the annual fair which now takes place from the ninth to the eleventh day after the Dīvālī festival. The fair, although a continuation of the time honoured pilgrimage to the Hindu temple and tank, has in recent decades become more local in its appeal and increasingly Sikh in religious character and attendance.


  1. Ṭhākar Siṅgh, Giānī, Srī Gurduāre Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
  2. Tārā Siṅgh, Srī Gur Tīrath Saṅgrahi. Amritsar, n. d.
  3. Randhir, G. S. , Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1990

John C. B. Webster