Wednesday 21 February 2018

084 - Gurdwara Sacha Sauda - Farooqabad (Choorkhana) & Gurdwara Sachkhand

During the last few years I visited many gurdwaras but all of them are abandoned due to the partition in 1947. Last year I had had an opportunity to visit a gurdwara which is fully functional and regular prayers are offered in it.  This is the famous and historic gurdwara Sacha Sauda about 50 kilometeres west of Lahore, near Farooqabad, old Choorkhana. The Gurdwara is located at  31°44'56.90"N;  73°47'48.24"E.

We reached there in the afternoon on 23.07.2017. The main gate of the gurdwara was close and for a moment wondered if someone was inside or not. However, a guard emerged at our knocking at the door. I was still not sure that we would be allowed inside or not. But the two or three persons at the door allowed us inside after asking us just a few general questions and checking our ID cards.

The interior of the gurdwara is very beautiful place and I was greatly impressed and it was a pleasure to see the building and the surrounding garden of the gurdwara. The administrator of the gurdwara is Bhai Gurdas Deep Singh ji. We met him in one of the many rooms at ground level, which are also used as the residential quarters of the staff. Before writing more about my visit, it is better to understand the significance of this gurdwara, which is one of the most important gurdwara of the Sikh faith, as it has a very close association with Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of the Sikh faith.

The story of the establishment of this gurdwara and its significance is given at "[gallery1]/1/" in the following words:
At the age of eighteen, Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, was sent by his father Mehta Kalu to the city to do business. His father was disappointed that Guru Sahib's mind was not into farming and other worldly work, therefore, he thought perhaps engaging him in trade would firstly, be a good profitable profession, and secondly his son would be happy all day talking to his clients about his business.
Thinking this way and choosing an auspicious day, Mehta Kalu called Bhai Mardana Ji to accompany Guru Sahib. Mehta Kalu gave twenty rupees to Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana Ji and said, 'Go with Nanak. Buy and bring some genuine goods by selling of which we may make profit. In this way if you make a profitable transaction, next time I will send you with more money to buy goods.' 
Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana Ji started from Talwandi Sabo towards Chuharkana (now known as Farooqabad) to purchase some merchandise. They had hardly gone ten or twelve miles from the village when they came across a village, where the people were starving, thirsty and sick due to lack of water and an outbreak of disease.
Guru Nanak Sahib Ji said to Bhai Mardana Ji, 'Father has asked us to carry out some profitable transaction. No bargain can be more truly profitable than to feed and clothe the needy. I cannot leave this true bargain. It is seldom that we get an opportunity to carry out some profitable transaction like this.'
Guru Nanak took all the money to the next nearest village dwelling, where he bought plentiful supply of food and brought water for these people. Guru Sahib invested the twenty rupees into what we today call 'Langar'.
Eis bhaekh ai thhaavahu gireho bhal aa jithhahu ko varas aae ||
'Instead of wearing these beggar's robes, it is better to be a householder, and give to others.'
(Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 587)
As well as bringing food and water to the villagers, Bhai Mardana Ji and Guru Sahib brought clothes for with the money that was left. Taking leave from the villagers, they started back 'empty-handed'. When his father admonished him for squandering his hard earned cash, Guru Nanak said that that was the best bargain he could have made.
Many years later, Sikhs built at the village of Sacha Sauda built a Gurdwara in memory of Guru Nanak's kindness which in due course became a popular Sikh site attracting visitors from near and far.
A land endowment of over 100 acres (250 bighas) was made to the Gurdwara during the Sikh Empire by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Gurdwara formerly administered by udasi priests was occupied by Jathedar Kartar Siṅgh Jhabbar on behalf of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on 30th December 1920. At the time of its evacuation in the wake of the partition of the country in 1947, it had a huge fortress like, three storey building with domed towers.

Magnificent facade of the Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Farooqabad. (23.07.2017.)

Another beautiful view of the gurdwara. (23.07.2017.)

The main gate   of the Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Farooqabad. (23.07.2017.)

The gurdwara building is built in the traditional architectural style of the Sikhs. The facade has three floors, with rows of rooms behind varandas. Two towers on both sides add to the beauty and grandeur of the facade.
A general view of the gurdwara. (23.07.2017.)

 Welcoming visitors to the gurdwara. (23.07.2017.)

 Entrance to the gurdwara building. (23.07.2017.)

 A beautiful peacock enjoying beautiful and serene surroundings. (23.07.2017.)

The gurdwara building is built in the traditional architectural style of the Sikhs. The facade has three floors, with rows of rooms behind verandas. There are two towers on both sides adding to the beauty and grandeur of the facade. The gurdwara is built on an elevated platform. The main staircase leads to a higher ground on which the Diwan Hall is located. This level has a row of rooms which are used for the accommodation of visitors. 

یہاں سے آگے جوتے لے جانا منع ہے۔
برائے مہربانی گوردوارہ صاحب میں سر ڈھانپ کر جائیں۔ 
Pleae take off your shoes here.
Please cover your head before entering in the Gurdawara Sahib. 

Like any other holy place, one should take off his shoes before entering it. Covering your head is another etiquette of the visits. For this purpose piece of clothes are available at the entrance of the gurdwara. 

 A Sikh child playing in the courtyard, in front of the living quarters. (23.07.2017.)

 Beautifully carved wooden gate. (23.07.2017.)

ਸਚਾ ਸੋਦਾ

سچا سودا
واہِ گرو

 Inside the main door. (23.07.2017.)

੧ ਓ
੨੫੦ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ
ਸ੍ਰ: ਲਾਭ ਸਿੰਘ ਸ੍ਰ: ਨਿਧਾਨ ਸਿੰਘ
ਸਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਸ੍ਰ: ਸ਼ਾਮ ਸਿੰਘ ਪਿੰਡ ਫਿਲੋਕੇ
ਜੀਨੇ ਕਰਾਈ ਸੰ. ੧੯੮੫

اِک اونکار
250 روپے دی سیوا
سردار لابھ سنگھ سردار نِدھان سنگھ 
سپُتر سردار شام سنگھ پنڈ پِھلوکے 
جِنے کرائی سمت 1985 (1928 ء)

 ੧ ਓ ਸਤਿ ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦ
੨੫੦ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਾਈ
ਸਰਦਾਰ ਆਗਿਆ ਸਿੰਘ ਅਤੇ ਓਨਾਦੇ
ਸਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਨੰਦਾ ਸਿੰਘ ਸੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ
ਦਿਆਲ ਸਿੰਘ ਅਤੇ ਕਰਤਾਰ ਸਿੰਘ
ਪਿੰਡ ਅਜਨਿਆਂਵਾਲਾ ਜ਼ਿਲਾ ਸ਼ੇਖੂਪੁਰਾ
ਸੰ: ਨਾਨਕ ਸ਼ਾਹੀ ੪੬੦

اِک اونکار ستِ گروپرساد
250 روپے دی سیوا کرائی
سردار آگیا سنگھ اوتے اونادے
سپُتر سردار نندا سنگھ سنت سنگھ
دیال سنگھ آتے کرتار سنگھ
پنڈ آجنیاں والا ضلع شیخوپورہ
سمت نانک شاہی 460 (1929ء)

੧ ਓ ਸਤਿ ਗੁਰਪ੍ਰਸਾਦ
ਕੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਤਿਨਾਂ ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖਾਂ
ਗੁਰ ਸੇਵਾ ਫਲ ਸਫਲ ਫਲੰਡੇ
੫੦੦ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਾਈ 
ਸੰਗਤ ਪਿੰਡ ਝਾਬਰਾਂ ਜ਼ਿਲਾ ਸ਼ੇਖੂਪੁਰਾ
ਸੰ: ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਸ਼ਾਹੀ  ੪੬੦

اِک اونکار ستِ گروپرساد
قربانڑیں دیاں گُر سِکھاں
گر سیوا پھل سپھل پھلندے
500 دی سیوا کرائی
سنگت پنڈ جھابراں ضلع شیخوپورہ
سمت گرو نانک شاہی 460 (1929ء)

੧ ਓ
੫੦੦ ਦੀ ਸੇਵਾ
ਸ੍ਰ: ਨੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਸ੍ਰ: ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਿੰਘ
ਸਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਸ੍ਰ: ਚੇਤ ਸਿੰਘ ਪਿੰਡ ਫਿਲੋਕੇ 
ਜੀ ਨੇ ਅਪਨੇ ਭ੍ਰਾਤਾ
ਸ੍ਰ: ਗਿਅਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਦੀ ਯਾਦ
ਵਿਚ ਕਰਾਈ ਸੰ: ੧੯੮੫ 

اِک اونکار
500 روپے دی سیوا کرائی
سردار نند سنگھ سردار گُرمُکھ سنگھ 
سپُتر سردار جوت سنگھ پینڈ پھلوکے
جی نے اپنے بھراتا
سردار گیان سنگھ جی دی یاد
وچ  کرائی سمت 1985  (1928ء)

The most important place in a gurdwara is called Diwan Hall, where Guru Granth Sahib the holy book is kept. Sikh faith has ten Gurus or spiritual leaders and the Granth Sahib is considered as the eleventh and living guru. So it is given the same respect which a guru deserves. The Granth Sahib is kept at an elevated place called Palki with a canopy. The person who recites the holy words of the book is called a Granthi. Bhai Gurdas Deep Singh ji is not only the administrator of the gurdwara but also its Granthi. He himself originally belongs to Chak 96 GB, district Faisalabad. His father Sardar Sarwant were six brothers, of whom four became Muslims. So now his close relatives are Sikhs as well as Muslims. And he told me that they all closely attached to one another. 

 Diwan Hall. (23.07.2017.)

 Another view of the Diwan Hall. (23.07.2017.)

 Rooms used for accommodating the visitors. (23.07.2017.)

 Nishan Sahib. (23.07.2017.)

 Interior of the Diwan Hall. (23.07.2017.)

 Sitting with Bhai Gurdas Deep Singh ji. (23.07.2017.)

 Takht (throne) in the Diwan Hall. (23.07.2017.)

Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book). (23.07.2017.)

Bhai Gurdas Deep Singh ji. (23.07.2017.)

At gurdwara, I met a family, including women and children. Initially, they puzzled me a little. They did not look Sikh and a little bit different from Punjabis. Their language too was unfamiliar. I wondered who they are and what are doing in a Sikh gurdwara. Then at first opportunity, I spoke to spoke to the head of the family. He introduced himself as Mr Prem Chand from Winder, Balochistan a small town about 60 kilometers from Karachi. He is a Hindu and a trader by profession. He follows the Nanak Panthi order and hence has great reverence for Guru Nanak. They were on a tour of holy gurdwaras in Punjab. They came all the way from Karachi to Lahore on a train and therefrom hired a taxi. They had a plan to live at Sacha Sauda from three days. They were heading to northern areas of Pakistan for sightseeing also. The meeting was very significant for me, because before meeting them I had met only one Pakistani Hindu. So it was a great pleasure to meet them. 

 Mr Prem Chand with his family. (23.07.2017.)

 A hall for the visitors, on the ground floor.  (23.07.2017.)

Another view of the hall. (23.07.2017.)

 Veranda in front of the hall. (23.07.2017.)

 A hall on the first floor. (23.07.2017.)

 A view from the upper storey. (23.07.2017.)

 On the roof. (23.07.2017.) 

 A tower on the right side. (23.07.2017.)

 A tower on the left side. (23.07.2017.)

A view to the backside of the gurdwara. (23.07.2017.)

Wall of the raised platform. (23.07.2017.)

 Langar Khana (the community kitchen). (23.07.2017.)

A beautiful view of the garden. (23.07.2017.)

 The main entrance from inside. (23.07.2017.)

Beautiful trees inside the . (23.07.2017.)

Another view of the courtyard from the balcony of a tower. (23.07.2017.)

Clean drinking water is available for the neighbours of the gurdwara. (23.07.2017.)

At a distance of less than a kilometer another important gurdwara in Sikh history is located at  31°44'40.87"N;  73°47'28.58"E. It is Gurdwara Sach Khand. The above mentioned link provides the following information about the gurdwara.

It was at this spot where Bhai Mardana had said that he was feeling hungry. Some Donkeys of a merchant laden with sugar were passing by. Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji told Bhai Mardana to ask the merchant as to what was in the saddle bags.

When Bhai Mardana asked the merchant, he lied and said that it was sand. Guru Nanak said, 'All right! Sand it will be!'. The merchant became worried lest the saying of Guru Nanak should come true. He checked the bags and found that it actually was sand.

He held Guru's feet and Sat Gur said if it were not sand what else could that be. The merchant said, 'Sir! It was sugar!". Guru Nanak said, 'All right! then sugar it will be!' The merchant checked again and found the bags were full of sugar. He sat at the feet of Guru Nanak and gave Bhai Mardana some of his sugar. There is a splendid Gurdwara with a dome built by the road at this place. Its condition is bad and if no maintenance is done it will disappear without leaving a trace.This holy Gurdwara stands gloomily in the fields on the other side of the railway line only one kilometer from Gurdwara Sri Sacha Sauda Sahib.

This holy place, like many others, was abandoned in 1947 and now it is inhabited by some malangs. They are well aware of its importance and the story of Guru Nanak associated with this place. 

Gurdwara Sachkhand. (23.07.2017.)

 A grave beside the grudwara Sachkhand. (23.07.2017.)

The entrance of the gurdwara.  (23.07.2017.)

 Inside the gurdwra Sachkhand. (23.07.2017.)

 A view of the dome from inside. (23.07.2017.)

It was my first experience to visit a fully functional gurdwara and proved to be very pleasant and enlightening. Bhai Gurdas Deep Singh's affection and manners did not let us feel for a moment that we are strangers at that place or different from them in any way. He took us on a tour of the whol gurdwara and explained the different buildings and their function. He also informed us about the history of the gurdwara. This building was constructed in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1837. After the partition of  Punjab, this gurdwara was closed and was only reopened in 2000. Since then it is fully functional and all the religious rites of the Sikh faith are performed regularly. Sikh yatrees come to visit it in large numbers in groups, on special occasions a few times every year. It is one of the most important holy places of the Sikh faiths. Langar, the institution of feeding people irrespective of their caste, creed and religion was started here.   

It is a matter of great satisfaction for all of us that the gurdwara is given the due importance and care that it deserves. But I appeal to the government of Pakistan to issue more visas and more easily to those who want to visit their holy places in Pakistan. And on this issue no need to wait or expect for reciprocal steps by the Modi sarkar, because sarkar will come and go but people and their memories will stay here. 

Tariq Amir

February 21, 2018.
Doha - Qatar. 

Thursday 8 February 2018

083 - Palace of Emperor Jahangir In Sheikhupura (Sheikhupura Fort)

When you take a first look at the fort palace of Jahangir in Sheikhupura you are impressed. Impressed by its size and grandeur. Second, you are surprised to realize that how little have you heard or read about this palace. The third feeling is that of depression on seeing such a big, beautiful and historically important place in an advanced stage of decay. 

And this fort does not exist in a faraway or remote area of Pakistan, it is just 40 kms to the west of Lahore and a few kilometers away from M2, in a big city Sheikhupura. It is located at  31°42'32.65"N;  73°59'25.24"E and spread over an area of 3.5 acres. It is a fortified palace with a huge walls, with 10 bastions, adding to its strength and beauty. 

The main gate of the fort / palace. (23.07.2017)

Another view of the main gate. (23.07.2017)

The southeastern corner. (23.07.2017)

Another view of the front of the fort. (23.07.2017)

The southern wall of the fort. (23.07.2017)

A section of the front wall. (23.07.2017)

A bastion. (23.07.2017)

The western wall, the backside. (23.07.2017)

A bastion at the northwestern corner. (23.07.2017)

A playground on the backside of the fort. (23.07.2017)

Another section of the wall on the west. (23.07.2017)

Another bastion on the western wall. (23.07.2017)

A closer view of the bastion on northwestern corner. (23.07.2017)

The northern wall. (23.07.2017)

Umair Riaz. (23.07.2017)

The fort is currently closed to the general public and visitors are not allowed inside. However, three watchmen were on duty and taking pity on our condition in that sweltering weather, they allowed us in to take a quick peek.  But unfortunately, the buildings inside are totally off limits to the visitors. As you enter the main gate you find yourself in a big deorhi. And there is a big platform which was used by the emperors or other chief occupants to ride an elephant. This section along with the gate is still in a strong condition, though all the decoration is lost and plaster is falling from the walls. On both sides of the deorhi there are ramps leading to the interior of the fort, passing through two huge arched ways. 

The ramp on the right side leads to the two main buildings of the palace. The ramp to the left side turns right along the western wall of the fort. The whole area is littered with broken pieces of different structures. 

A platform in the deorhi to mount an elephant. (23.07.2017)

Another view of the platform. (23.07.2017)

Passage to the left.  (23.07.2017)

Rooms near the main gate. (23.07.2017)

Arched passage. (23.07.2017)

A ramp leading to the main palace buildings. (23.07.2017)

A portion of the wall from inside. (23.07.2017)

A view of a parapet from inside.  (23.07.2017)

The palace inside has two distinct buildings, both were definitely built during different times and builders. But I could not find any details about the history of their construction. This place has failed to draw as much attention of historians as much it deserves. I saw a few books about the history of the Mughal architecture, but could not find anything about this palace. 

For our understanding, I shall mention the two main sections of the palace as the Building A and the Building B. The building A is more beautifully built and decorated and probably is the older of the two.   

A view of the building A. (23.07.2017)

A section of the Building A has already collapsed. (23.07.2017)

A side view of the Building A (23.07.2017)

A jharoka overlooking the main entrance. (23.07.2017)

The main entrance of the Building A. (23.07.2017)

The Building B, is more solidly built but lacks the beauty, elegance and dcorations of the Building A. This building was most probably built during the Sikh period (starting sometime in early 1760s until 1849 in this region), as suggested by its style of architecture. The caretakers allowed us only in this building just to check a few rooms on the ground floor. 

Façade of the Building B. (23.07.2017)

Another view of the building. (23.07.2017)

I, in front of the main entrance. (23.07.2017)

A side view of the building. (23.07.2017)

A section of the Building B. (23.07.2017)

A view of the building from the west side. (23.07.2017)

View from the west, the backside. (23.07.2017)

Basement can be seen through broken floors near the main entrance of Building B. (23.07.2017)

Wooden ceilings of the veranda behind the three arches. (23.07.2017)

A beautifully carved wooden door. (23.07.2017)

Behind the three arches. (23.07.2017)

A room at the ground floor of the Building B. (23.07.2017)

The inside view of a room. (23.07.2017)

Ground floor of the Building A. (23.07.2017)

A big room on the ground floor of the Building A. (23.07.2017)

On the backside of the Palace. (23.07.2017)

This was my second visit to this palace after 12 years. I did not notice any improvement or repair work, only a little more deterioration in the condition of different buildings. The last time when we visited it, we are allowed to enter the Palace A as well, and we saw colourful fresco on the wall. 

Umair Riaz, Sahibzada Shah Sultan & Tariq Amir. (L to R) (09.03.2005)

A view of the Building A. (09.03.2005)

A view of the ruins from the Building A. (09.03.2005)

A paingting showing a procession of a Sikh Sardar. (09.03.2005)

Wooden columns and colourfully painted walls of an upper floor of the Building A. (09.03.2005)

Probably Emperor Jahangir and Queen Noor Jahan. (09.03.2005)

On the roof of the building A, the highest point in the fort. (09.03.2005)

A website Oriental Architecture gives the following account of this palace.

The fort certainly dates from at least the early Mughal era or earlier, and is the product of numerous modifications over the centuries. In its present form, the fort is a rough square measuring 128 meters north to south and 115.5 meters east to west, with walls averaging 11.5 meters in height. It presents a formidable appearance, and rises easily above the cityscape in southeastern Sheikhupura where it remains a distinctive landmark.
The traditional attribution of the fort to Jahangir is partly due to the proximity of the Hiran Minar tower and hunting retreat which was definitively built by Jahangir beginning in 1606. The Badhshah Nama records multiple visits to the area by Jahangir and his son, the Emperor Shah Jahan. All of these visits took place between 1606 and 1646, after which the area was briefly held by Shah Jahan's son, prince Dara Shikoh. The fort would likely have been used as a camp for the Emperor and his retainers, providing more suitable accomodations than the exposed baradari and other pavilions at Hiran Minar. One remnant of this period may be the ruined halls and basement chambers at the northeast corner of the fort, which Jahangir and Shah Jahan may have used as a royal residence.
The most impressive buildings inside the fort are the magnificent havelis (mansions) that were largely the product of the Sikh period and the latter Mughal era (the mid 17th to early 19th centuries). One famous occupant of the havelis was Maharani Datar Kaur (died 1838), the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire.

One thing is clear that a large part of this huge structure is buried. The ground inside the fort is as much as 10 meters high from the surrounding area, almost as high as the walls of the fort. The watchman also confirmed many large chambers, which are now almost inaccessible. A proper excavation can reveal many hidden architectural treasures of this fort. 

The archaeological department is doing a good job at the nearby Hiran Minar complex. But this fort so far I think have failed to draw an attention, which it badly needs and rightly deserves. After restoration, this palace, can be used as a hotel and venue for cultural events. Anyway, if proper attention is not given, within a few decades it will just be a heap of rubble. 

Tariq Amir 

February 8, 2018.
Doha - Qatar.