Wednesday 22 June 2022

158. Forgotten Gurdwaras of Rawalpindi City

Before 1947 Hindus and Sikhs formed a large proportion of the population of Rawalpindi city and owned most of the property in the city. Large Havelis, beautiful houses, and bazaars remind us of their presence in that era. Earlier this year I made several tours of some old parts of Rawalpindi and was amazed to find some masterpieces of old architecture. Lahore is famous for its walled city, but areas around Shah Chan Chiragh have hundreds of houses that are great examples of our rich architectural heritage. I think an organization on the lines of the Walled City of Lahore Authority should be set up to take care of and promote this rich heritage.

During my tours, I was surprised to find a very large number of Hindu Temples which are mostly hidden in narrow lanes and overcrowded houses and encroachments. But that will be the subject of another post. In this post, we shall visit a few gurdwaras which are not quite famous and are almost forgotten. But before going further, I would like you to take a look at the following table to acquaint yourself with the demographics of the city and the surrounding areas before 1947. The figures are taken from the official census report of 1941.




















































Rawalpindi region was dominated by the Gakkhar tribe for a long time. Their recorded history starts with the arrival of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi and during the many time of many royal dynasties they controlled this area well into the 18th century. In 1765 Gakhar chief Mukarrab Khan was defeated by Sardar Gujar Singh a Sikh Sardar of Bhangi misl. Soon the whole area went under the control of the Sikhs. The Sikh domination lasted until 1849 when the British annexed Punjab. During this time Sikhs settled in this area and had a significant presence until 1947.

I visited a few gurdwaras early this year. Two of them are quite famous and I already have written posts on Gurdwara Singh Sabha and Gurdwara Narankari. In this post, I shall share some information about a few other gurdwaras. 

1. Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh / Damdama Sahib

Bhai Mani Singh was a close companion of Guru Gobin Singh, the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs. He was born in 1644 in Multan and died in 1738 in Lahore. He was a great scholar and warrior. He served many gurus and spend his life in the service of the Sikh community. Caught in the political turmoil during the decline of the Mughal Empire, he was martyred by the governor of Lahore, Zakaria Khan in Lahore in 1738.

He is greatly revered by the Sikhs for his services and martyrdom. This huge gurdwara was probably built in his memory during the early decades of the twentieth century. Now dozens of families are residing in this gurdwara complex and seldom allow anyone to enter. Overall the building is in shambles. It is located at  33°37'0.40"N,  73° 3'17.03"E, at the junction of Jamia Masjid Road and Hamilton Road. 

After I published this article, some friends and readers suggested that the above-mentioned gurdwara is not gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh. It is actually Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, which is built by the famous Sikh personality of Kallar Syedan Baba Khem Singh Bedi (1830 - 1905). The problem is that the occupants do not let anyone to enter the premises, so no plaque or writing could prove its true identity, even if such writing exists. Anyway, I am sharing this new piece of information with my readers and hope to find some conclusive answer to this question. So far I feel that probably it is Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, built by Baba Khem Singh Bedi. Thank you Mirza Beg sahib and Immi Gul sahib for your guidance and assistance. 

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib , Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib, Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib, Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Picture of the gurdwara, provided by Salman Khalid. (2021)

2. Gurdwara Baradari

The area around the shrine of Shah Chan Chiragh is probably the oldest locality of Rawalpindi city. The shrine itself is almost 400 years old. A gurdwara is located about fifty meters north of the shrine at  33°37'8.00"N,  73° 3'34.45"E. The current building of the gurdwara seems to be built in the third or fourth decades of the previous century. At present, the building is used by many families, who have divided it into many sections. Though they allowed us to enter but, some occupants were naturally not feeling comfortable. I am not sure, how old is this gurdwara or why it is called baradari. Perhaps an older building existed at this place before it was reconstructed later. 

Entrance of the gurdwara Baradari. (25.01.2022.)

ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰਾ ਬਰਾਦਰੀ
Gurdwara Baradari

Another view of the entrance from the street. (25.01.2022.)

3. Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Satsang

This gurdwara is situated about one kilometer northeast of Shah Chan Chiragh, in a locality still called Kartar Pura. The name suggests that in the pre-partition time it was inhabited mostly by the Sikhs or they formed a considerable part of the population. Luckily the date of construction is given, which is Samvat 1991, which corresponds or 1934 AD. The well-planned streets and the construction style of the houses also indicate that its origins are not very old. 

Despite having a fairly accurate location of the gurdwara it proved to be a little difficult to find it. It is a beautiful building and does not look like a traditional gurdwara. More details are given in the commemorative plaque below. The gurdwara is located at  33°37'26.97"N,  73° 3'46.93"E.

Facade of the gurdwra Sri Guru Nanak Satsang. (28.01.2022.)

Above is the ground floor of the gurdwara. The entrance is on the left side, the door covered with a curtain. The plaque is behind the cot, that's why we could not find it earlier, despite coming twice to this small street. We could see it only when I asked the owner about the plaque. 

Another view of the gurdwara. (28.01.2022.)

ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਸੰਗ ਕਰਤਾਰ ਪੂਰਾ
ਇਸ ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰੇ ਦਾ ਬੁਨਿਆਦੀ ਪਥਰ 
ਜੇਠ ਸ: ੧੯੯੧ ਮੁਤਾਬਿਕ ੨੦ ਮਈ ਸਨ ੧੯੩੪
ਸ੍ਰੀ ਮਾਨ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਬਹਾਦਰ ਸੋਹਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ..................... ਜੀ
ਰਯੀਸੇ ਆਜ਼ਮ ਰਾਵਲਪਿੰਡੀ ਨੇ ਰਖਇਆ

سری گورو نانک ست سنگ کرتار پورہ
اس گوردوارے دا بنیادی پتھر
جیٹھ سمت 1991 مطابق 20 مئی سن 1934
 سری مان سردار بہادر سوہن سنگھ جی ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ جی
رئیسِ اعظم راولپنڈی نے رکھیا

Sri Nanak Sat Sang , Kartarpur
The foundation stone of this gurdwara was laid on
Jeth Samvat 1991, corresponding to 20 May, 1934.
By Sriman Sardar Bhadar Sohan Singh ji ................... Ji
Raees-e-Azam of Rawalpindi.

The well of the gurdwara is still functioning. (28.01.2022.)

An adjoining house. (28.01.2022.)

Another old house in the street. (28.01.2022.)

The following three pictures were provided by Salman Qamar, who belongs to Gujranwala and has an interest in history and heritage. 

4. Gurdwara Lalkurti
Almost nothing is known about this gurdwara, which is located in Lalkurti, Rawalpindi. As the name suggests, it was developed by the British Army in the 19th century and even after independence remained an important part of cantonment area. It is a simple house, unlike traditional gurdwaras. It was probably used by the Sikh servicemen in the British Army. A Hindu temple also exists close by. The gurdwara was close at the time and nobody knew who controls this property. The temple is also not accessible. The gurdwara is located at  33°34'57.21"N,  73° 3'28.42"E

There is also some confusion about this place. A mark on google maps suggests it is a gurdwara. But as the occupants do not let anyone to enter it, so nobody is sure. I shall continue my research on this topic and request my readers also to share any information on this topic.  

A gurdwara in Lalkurti, Rawalpindi. (27.01.2022.)

Sikhara or spire of the temple. (27.01.2022.)

A beautiful old house, in front of the temple. (27.01.2022.)

I have four more gurdwaras in Rawalpindi city on my list. Hopefully, I shall visit them soon and add the information to this article. You are welcome to make your contribution and inform us about these gurdwaras or any other not listed here. 

5. Gurdwara Akalgarh
6. Gurdwara Istri
7. Gurdwara Khem Singh Bedi
8. Gurdwara Damdama Sahib

Tariq Amir
June 22, 2022.

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