DELHI, also called Dillī (28º-40'N, 77º-13'E), the; capital of India, is also connected with Sikh history. The first, sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth Gurūs visited it. Mātā Sundarī and Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ, consorts of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, stayed here for a long time before and after the death of the Gurū. A Sikh saṅgat existed in what came to be known as Kūchā Dilvālī Siṅghāṅ in Old Delhi. After the downfall of the Mughal empire and the rise of Sikh power in the Punjab during the latter half of the eighteenth century, the confederated armies of the Dal Khālsā extended their area of operations right up to the walls of the metropolis, and in March 1783 they ransacked Malkā Gañj and Sabzī Maṇḍī and actually entered the Red Fort on 11 March 1783. The helpless Mughal emperor Shāh 'Ālam II sought mediation by Begam Samrū and came to terms with the Sikhs, who agreed to retire with their main force to the Punjab provided Sardār Baghel Siṅgh of Karoṛsiṅghīā misl was permitted to stay on in the capital with 4, 000 men till the construction of gurdwārās on sites of historical importance to the Sikhs was completed. To meet the expenses, Baghel Siṅgh was authorized to charge six ānnās in a rupee (37. 5 per cent) of all income from octroi duties in the capital. During his stay in the capital from March to December 1783, Baghel Siṅgh located seven sites and constructed gurdwārās upon them. Besides these seven, another historical shrine, Nānak Piāo, was already in existence on the outskirts of Delhi. Another, Damdamā Sāhib, dedicated to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh was established later. Like most other historical gurdwārās, these Delhi shrines had been administered severally by hereditary mahant families till the rise of the Gurdwārā reform movement in the Punjab during the early 1920's. The Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee sent a deputation comprising Dān Siṅgh Vachhoā, Harbaṅs Siṅgh Sīstānī and Gurdit Siṅgh to negotiate with the mahants the transfer of gurdwārās to Panthic management. Mahant Harī Siṅgh, B. A. , head priest of Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj Sāhib was the first to hand over the Gurdwārā and its property to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee on 19 December 1922. The mahants of most other historical gurdwārās at Delhi followed suit. The committee appointed, on 19 March 1923, a managing committee comprising Raghbīr Siṅgh and Bahādur Siṅgh. , an engineer, to take over the administration. Later, in March 1926, an 11-member committee, designated the Delhi Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee was constituted. The members included, among others, Rāi Bahādur Wasākha Siṅgh, Jodh Siṅgh, Surinderpāl Siṅgh Advocate, Nānak Singh Beant Siṅgh and Āgyāpāl Siṅgh. Chañchal Siṅgh was appointed manager.

         The partition of India, in 1947, brought about significant demographic changes in Delhi including the influx of a large number of Sikh immigrants from what then became Pakistan. The immigrants were mostly artisans, businessmen and industrialists. While attendance and the finances of the gurdwārās improved considerably, group rivalries and factionalism raised their hand, which affected the management of the gurdwārās and the functioning of the Delhi Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. In 1974, the Government of India entrusted the control of gurdwārās to the Delhi Sikh gurdwārās Management Committee (D. S. G. M. C.), a statutory body set up under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwārās Act, 1971, and independent of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee at Amritsar. The historical gurdwārās under the Committee's management include:

        GURDWĀRĀ SĪS GAÑJ SĀHIB in Chāndnī Chowk area of Old Delhi about half a kilometre west of the main Delhi railway station marks the spot where Gurū Tegh Bahādur, Nānak IX, was beheaded on 11 November 1675 under the orders of the Mughal emperor Auraṅgzīb. See TEGH BAHĀDŪR, GURŪ. The site next to the city Kotwālī where Sardār Baghel Siṅgh had established his main post was at the time occupied by a mosque which the Sardār had to demolish before raising a gurdwārā. The gurdwārā was later demolished and replaced by a mosque. The case for the demolition of this mosque and its replacement by Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj was taken up with British government after the 1857 Mutiny by Rājā Sarūp Siṅgh, ruler of the princely state of Jīnd. The local Muslims opposed the proposal and took the case to courts. Mosques and gurdwārās appeared on the site alternately during the prolonged litigation. Ultimately, the present building of Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj was raised in 1930 in consequence of the verdict of the British Privy Council. The two-storeyed hall, with only a mezzanine forming the first floor, was barely adequate for the increasing number of devotees and visitors especially after immigration of 1947, and efforts were made to acquire the adjoining Kotwālī (police post) with a view to enlarging the sitting area. Half the Kotwālī precincts were acquired by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwārās Management Committee (D. S. G. M. C.) in 1971 at a cost of Rs 1, 625, 000. The other half was offered to the Committee by government in 1983. This led to a programme of large-scale renovation and development. However, the old domed building continues to house the sanctum-sanctorum. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated on a gilded palanquin on a raised platform, the basement below which represents the exact spot of execution. The trunk of the tree under which the execution took place is also preserved behind a glass screen. The additional buildings include Gurū kā Laṅgar and Gurū Tegh Bahādur Nivās, lodgings for pilgrims. The offices of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwārās Management Committee are also located in Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj Sāhib. The Committee publishes a Punjabi religious and literary monthly, the Sīs Gañj. While all important Sikh days on the annual calendar are observed at the Gurdwārā, special programmes are earmarked in honour of Gurū Tegh Bahādur's martyrdom.

        GURDWĀRĀ RIKĀBGAÑJ SĀHIB on Paṇḍit Pant Mārg near Parliament House in New Delhi marks the place where the body of Gurū Tegh Bahādur was cremated. After the execution of the Gurū on 11 November 1675, his headless body and the severed head were left lying in the Chāndnī Chowk. The awestruck people of Delhi did not dare to come forward and claim the Gurū's remains. It was only after nightfall that, while a Raṅghreṭā Sikh, Bhāī Jaitā, picked up the head and carried it post-haste to Anandpur, the body was carried by Bhāī Lakkhī Shāh Vañjārā and his son, Nigāhīā, to their house in the Rāisīnā village (now New Delhi). Still afraid of performing an open cremation, they set the house itself on fire and collecting the ashes of the Gurū's body in an urn buried them there. When, after the death of Auraṅgzīb in 1707, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh came to Delhi to meet Prince Mu'azzam, later emperor Bahādur ShāhI, he with the help of local Sikhs located the site and raised a simple memorial thereon. Later a mosque came to be built on the site which Sardār Baghel Siṅgh had to demolish when he built Gurdwārā Rikābgañj in 1783. During the Mutiny (1857), the Muslims again demolished the Sikh shrine and rebuilt a mosque here. Sikhs took the matter to the law court which restored possession of the site to them, and they quickly rebuilt the gurdwārā. In 1914 another dispute arose, this time regarding the boundary wall of the Gurdwārā, a portion of which had been demolished by government for the purpose of straightening a road to the British Viceroy's mansion (now Rāshṭrapati Bhavan). The Sikhs protested and would have launched an agitation to oppose the proposal. Meanwhile, World War I (1914-1918) broke out on which account the protest was held in abeyance. But as soon as the war ceased, the agitation was resumed. In the end the government yielded and the Gurdwārā wall was rebuilt at public expense.


        The construction of the present building of Gurdwārā Rikābgañj Sāhib was started in 1960 and was completed in 1967-68. It is an impressive white marble structure. The two storeyed building on a high plinth comprises a high-ceilinged hall with a mezzanine at mid-height forming the first floor. It is topped by a pinnacled dome of the type of an inverted lotus, with kiosks adorning the roof corners. The basement below the hall marks the actual cremation site of Gurū Tegh Bahādur's headless body. The Gurdwārā has a vast campus. Besides, about two dozen staff quarters, a sub office of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwārās Management Committee, offices of the Kendri Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā, a 65-metre square congregation hall completed in 1980 and Gurū ka Laṅgar are located on the premises. An institution for the training of young musicians in Sikh Kīrtan is also functioning here. Sacred relics preserved in the Gurdwārā include two swords, a dagger and two kaṭārs (poniards) given by Gurū Gobind Siṅgh to Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ before her departure from Nāndeḍ in 1708.

        GURDWĀRĀ NĀNAK PIĀO (lit. a water booth) situated along Sher Shāh Sūrī Mārg, near Azādpur, on the northern outskirts of Delhi commemorates Gurū Nānak's visit to the place during which he got a well dug and a booth set up to serve water to wayfarers. The present building of the Gurdwārā replacing the older shrine was constructed during the 1980's. It is a high-ceilinged hall with a mezzanine forming its first floor. The high dome above the hall is topped by a gilded pinnacle and an umbrella-shaped finial. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated in a marble palanquin in the middle of the hall. The 40-metre square marble-lined sarovar with colonnades on three sides was built in 1978. The old well is still in use. Two educational institutions-Gurū Tegh Bahādur Institute of Electronics and a branch of Gurū Har Krishan Public School - are also functioning on the campus. A flour mill installed here supplies wheat flour to all historical gurdwārās in Delhi for Gurū kā Laṅgar as well as for kaṛāhprasād. Special congregations take place on the occasion of the death anniversary of Gurū Nānak which comes off in September-October.

        GURDWĀRĀ MAJNŪ ṬILLĀ is situated on a mound (ṭilla) on the bank of the River Yamunā beyond Timārpur Colony on the outer Ring Road of Delhi.

         According to chroniclers, a Muslim recluse lived here during the reign of Sultān Sikandar Lodhī (1488-1517). He used to ferry people across the river but was usually absorbed in prayer and penitence unmindful of his physical health and appearance. People had nicknamed him Majnū after a romantic hero of Persian folklore. Hence the name of the place Majnū kā Ṭillā (Majnū's mound) or Majnū Ṭillā.

         Gurū Nānak during his visit to Delhi met and held discourse with Majnū upon whom he impressed the importance of selfless service of mankind which was far superior to austerities for self-purification. Gurū Hargobind, Nānak VI, is also said to have halted for some time at Majnū Ṭillā on his way to Delhi summoned by Emperor Jahāṅgīr. Sardār Baghel Siṅgh established a gurdwārā here in 1783. Later Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839) had a small marble building constructed which still exists. It is a two-storeyed building comprising a hall with two cubicles at ground floor. Recently a new magnificent hall, 20-metre square, and lined with white marble slabs has been constructed close to the old building.

         Old copies of Gurū Granth Sāhib from other gurdwārās in Delhi and the neighbouring states are kept in the mezzanine of the older shrine here till their periodical disposal by consigning them reverently to fire in a small kiln especially built for this purpose. Sunday dīvāns and community meals at Gurdwārā Majnū Ṭillā attract large gatherings of devotees. The most important celebration of the year, however, is Baisākhī, the birth anniversary of the Khālsā, when largely attended dīvāns take place.

        GURDWĀRĀ BAṄGLĀ SĀHIB near the Gole Post Office about one kilometre from Connaught Place in New Delhi perpetuates the memory of Gurū Har Krishan, who stayed here in the bungalow (baṅglā) or mansion of Mirzā Rājā Jai Siṅgh during February-March 1664 when he came to Delhi summoned by Emperor Auraṅgzīb. Delhi was at that time in the grip of severe cholera and smallpox epidemics. The young Gurū started serving the sick and the destitute and, in the process, himself got smallpox infection. In order to save its spread to the inmates of Rājā Jai Siṅgh's household, the Gurū shifted to a place on the bank of the River Yamunā where he passed away on 30 March 1664. According to some chroniclers, Gurū Har Krishan breathed his last in Rājā Jai Siṅgh's house, now the site of Gurdwārā Baṅgla Sāhib, and was only taken to the bank of the Yamunā for cremation.

         Rājā Jai Siṅgh dedicated the havelī or house where the Gurū had stayed to his memory. The Mughals demolished this shrine and built a mosque in its place sometime between 1753 and 1775. Sardār Jassā Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā razed this mosque during his attack on Delhi on 1 October 1778, and Sardār Baghel Siṅgh raised Gurdwārā Baṅglā Sāhib on the site in 1783. The present building was constructed by Sikhs of Delhi after the partition of 1947. It is a two-storeyed building on a high plinth and has an allround gallery at mid-height of the rectangular domed hall. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is displayed in a wooden palanquin on the ground floor. Another single-storeyed hall, also rectangular in design, has since been constructed adjoining the main hall. The extensive Gurdwārā campus is flanked on the one side by the Gurū kā Laṅgar, community kitchen, and by a vast sheet of shimmering water, sarovar, the holy tank, on the other, and is entered through a high archway. The Gurdwārā is also served by a charitable hospital, a library and a museum named after Sardār Baghel Siṅgh. Besides the daily services, special dīvāns take place on the first of each Bikramī month and other special days on the annual Sikh calendar. The major annual celebration however is the birth anniversary of Gurū Har Krishan falling on Sāvan 10, occurring usually in July.

        GURDWĀRĀ BĀLĀ SĀHIB, near Sunlight Colony, on the outer Ring Road of Delhi, marks the site where Gurū Har Krishan was cremated. The place was then right on the bank of the Yamunā which has, however, changed its course since. The Gurū, hardly eight years old at the time of his visit to Delhi, became popular among the residents of Delhi as Bālā Pīr (lit. young prophet). Hence the name of the Gurdwārā. Mātā Sundarī and Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ, consorts of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, were also cremated at this site where a simple memorial shrine had existed when Sardār Baghel Siṅgh established a larger gurdwārā here in 1783. The present building of Gurdwārā Bālā Sāhib on an 18-acre estate was constructed in 1955. It comprises a flat-roofed hall, 30 x 25 metres. Its roof is supported by 18 columns. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated on a raised platform under a domed canopy of masonry. Samādh of Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ is also under the same roof, only a wooden partition separating it from the sanctum of Bālā Sāhib. It comprises the small kiosk with the Gurū Granth Sāhib seated inside it. It is called Aṅgīṭhā Mātā Sāhib Kaur. Mātā Sundarī's samādh is in a separate room, 8 metre square with a verandah around it, flanking the main Gurdwārā Bālā Sāhib. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated here in a marble palanquin.

         Besides the daily morning and evening services, larger dīvāns and community meals are held on the first of each Bikramī month and on every full-moon day. Most important of all is the death anniversary of Gurū Har Krishan which is observed on Chet sudī 14 occurring during March-April.

        GURDWĀRĀ MĀTĀ SUNDARĪ, behind J. P. Hospital (formerly Irwin Hospital) near Ghālib Urdu Academy in New Delhi, marks the residence of Mātā Sundarī and Mātā Sāhib Devāṅ from 1727 till their death. The holy mothers had at first been staying in a house in Kūchā Dilvālī Siṅghāṅ in Old Delhi. Following the execution of Ajīt Siṅgh Pālit (adopted son of Mātā Sundarī) in 1725, the ladies went to stay at Mathurā, but on return from there after two years they took up residence in a house which came to be called Havelī Mātā Sundarī Kī, now Gurdwārā Mātā Sundarījī. The Gurdwārā built during the 1970's is a two-storeyed flat-roofed structure with its facade decorated with projecting windows and kiosks on roof top. Besides the usual morning and evening services, special dīvāns are held on full-moon days. Still larger dīvāns take place in December every year to mark the death anniversaries of the four sons of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh.

        GURDWĀRĀ MOTĪ BĀGH is situated on the Ring Road near Dhaulā Kūāṅ in New Delhi. It marks the site where Gurū Gobind Siṅgh on his arrival at Delhi in 1707 set up his camp. The gurdwārā here was first established by Sardār Baghel Siṅgh Karoṛsiṅghīā. While its double-storeyed old building is still preserved with the Gurū Granth Sāhib presiding it, a new complex was raised in 1980 with a 22-metre square high-ceiling domed hall and a mezzanine at mid-height. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is enshrined in it in a marble palanquin under a canopy. The entire wall surface, exterior as well as interior, is lined with slabs of white marble. The major festival of the year celebrates the first installation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib in the Harimandar at Amritsar (August).

        GURDWĀRĀ DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB near Humāyūṅ's tomb on the outer Ring Road in New Delhi is where a meeting between Gurū Gobind Siṅgh and Prince Mu'azzam (later Emperor Bahādur Shāh) took place sometime in May-June 1707. The Gurū agreed to help the latter in his struggle for the throne against his younger brother, Prince 'Āzam. A gurdwārā was established later to mark the spot. Its present building constructed during 1977-84 is a 20-metre square high ceilinged, domed hall on a raised plinth with a mezzanine at mid-height forming the first floor. The entire wall surface is lined with marble slabs. The hall has three doors on each side making the building a bārādarī (lit. building with 12 doors). The inner design with arches supporting the mezzanine forming a covered passage under it, duplicates the design followed in the construction of Harimandar Sāhib at Amritsar. Domed kiosks adorn the roof corners. The most important celebration of the year is on the occasion of Holā Mohallā festival falling in March.


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Harnām Siṅgh