India is known for being the land of multiple religions, faiths and beliefs. The true essence of this country lies in its unmatched unity amidst an unbelievable diversity. Amongst the various religions followed by the countrymen, Sikhism is an important one in addition to Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The Sikh community has a strong presence across the entire nation, owing to which there is no dearth of Sikh pilgrimage destinations. There are several venerated sites of Sikhism in India, where travellers can plan a religious visit to.
Sikhism is an Indian monotheistic religion, which was founded by Guru Nanak during the 15th century. Initially confined to some regions of Punjab, the religion gradually spread its roots across other parts of the Indian subcontinent. As the religion grew, so did the number of its followers and places of worship. There are several revered places of worship across the country, of which some are dedicated to the Sikh Gurus while others are holy shrines preserving religious relics.
When it comes to Sikh pilgrimage sites, most of them are situated within the territory of Punjab – the Sikh-dominated state. Apart from it, there are several worshipping places for Sikhs across India, which are flocked by devotees in large numbers. Some of these stand as fine examples of beautiful architecture and utmost devotion. Being travelled most of the parts of India, I can list the following places as the prime religious sites of Sikhism:
The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is in the sacred city of Amritsar and is the focal point of attraction for travelers from different parts of India and abroad. Surrounded by a holy tank, this religious edifice is perhaps the most important place of worship for the followers of Sikhism. Locals suggest that the best time to visit this shrine is when the day begins and the first ray of sunlight kisses its golden crown. This temple, also called Sri Harmandir Sahib Amritsar, is one of the most venerated sites for Sikhs and stands for brotherhood, equality and peace. As far as history is concerned, the fourth Sikh Guru Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji gave a go-ahead to the digging of Amrit Sarovar (The Holy Tank) in AD 1577. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (fifth Sikh Guru) completed the brick lining of this holy tank on 15th December, 1588 and gave a nod for the construction of the Golden Temple. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is said to have been installed in the premises of this shrine on 16th August, 1604. The most incredible experience while being at this place is taking a dip in the holy pool with the chanting of religious hymns in the background.
Regarded as the birthplace of Khalsa Panth, Anandpur Sahib is an esteemed place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs. Located about 80 km away from Chandigarh, this small town is nestled between foothills of the Shivalik range and the Sutlej River. It is the site of five holy forts constructed by Guru Gobind Singh and Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib – one of the top five pilgrimages in Sikhism. Anandpur Sahib is famous for its splendid white gurudwaras and thus, devotees gather here in large numbers to be a part of divine bliss in the pious name of the almighty. This place is significant to Sikhism followers as it has witnessed many important events, such as the foundation of Khalsa Panth and establishment of the council of five wise men, who govern religious affairs of Sikhs. Some well-known festivals that are celebrated here with great pomp and show are Baisakhi and Holla Mohalla.
Fatehgarh Sahib is a significant pilgrimage centre of Sikhs that is around 50 km to the north of Patiala. The place is referred to as the town of victory as it is where more than 1500 Sikhs razed a fort that was built during the rule of Balban. Gurudwara Fatehgarh Sahib in this town reminds of the martyrdom of the two sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji – the 10th Sikh Guru. After coming here, one can also visit Gurudwara Jyoti Sarup Sahib, a place where cremation ceremonies in honour of deceased Sikh martyrs are held. Some other places of interest for tourists visiting Fatehgarh Sahib are Rauza Sharif, Gurudwara Shaheed Ganj, Das Nami Akhara, Tomb of Nabis and Haveli Todar Mal.
It was at Damdama Sahib that Raja Ajmer Chand, along with two Mughal accomplices namely Sayyed Beg and Alaf Khan, attacked Guru Gobind Singh, but was beaten badly. Following this incident, the Mughal General become a devotee of Guru Ji. It is also the same sacred site where the Guru taught the lesson of bringing justice and goodness to the mankind, even if it meant giving personal sacrifices. Takht Sri Damdama Sahib is the place where he prepared the complete version of Guru Granth Sahib while a long stay. In addition to the main Gurudwara, the place has several other shrines like Tibbi Sahib, Jand Sahib, Gurusar and Likhansar.
Hemkund Sahib is a famous Sikh Gurudwara, which is located in Chamoli – a district in Uttarakhand. It is devoted to Guru Gobind Singh, who was the last one of the 10 Sikh Gurus and founder of Khalsa Panth. This Gurudwara is located on the bank of a glacial lake, which is encompassed by seven snow-covered peaks – each marked by a sacred Nishan Sahib (holy flag). For tourists willing to make a tour to this famous destination, the best time would be from May to September as it remains inaccessible through other parts of the year. Around this time, flowers bloom in the region and the weather is also pretty conducive for the pilgrimage.
Gurudwaras in Delhi
Delhi is regarded as a globally-known destination, when it comes to pilgrimage sites for Sikhs. In this regard, some popular names include Gurudwara Sis Ganj, Rakab Ganj Gurudwara and the famous Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. The Bangla Sahib Gurudwara witnessed the stay of the eighth Guru Sri Har Krishan, who was entirely devoted to the selfless service of the sick and poor.
This place was initially the palatial residence of Raja Jai Singh, who was a 17th century ruler. The holy pool next to this Gurudwara is said to have healing properties in its water.
Sis Ganj is one of the nine historic gurudwaras in the city while Rakab Ganj marks the cremation spot of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur – the ninth Sikh Guru.
Paonta Sahib, located on the bank of River Yamuna, is yet another place of interest for Sikh pilgrims in India. It is the location of its namesake Gurudwara, which is linked to Guru Gobind Singh and houses weapons used by him. The Gurudwara is considered the site where he wrote several religious scriptures, before heading to Anandpur Sahib for the establishment of Khalsa Panth.
Patna Sahib is a revered shrine, which is regarded as the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh Ji – born on 22nd December, 1666. The Gurudwara here is amongst the only five seats of authorities in Sikhism and was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 18th century. The site was also visited by Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur and thus, it is even more relevant and significant as a popular Sikh pilgrimage center. Several sacred relics are preserved in this Gurudwara, which include religious scriptures and weapons of armory.
Manikaran is a small town, situated in the picturesque Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh. This place is famous amongst Sikh travellers, who frequent the site for its sacred Gurudwara. Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara was built in order to commemorate the visit of Sri Guru Nanak Dev to the place. Here, one can find hot water springs, which are said to have curative and magical properties. Guru Gobind Singh is also believed to have visited this site, thus adding to its reverence as a Sikh pilgrimage spot.
Takht Sri Hazur Sahib
Takht Sri Hazur Sahib is amongst the five sacred takhts of Sikhism and is remembered as a place where Guru Gobind Singh took his last breath. It lies along the bank of the Godavari River and was built on the orders of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. This Gurudwara houses two prime religious scriptures of Sikhism – Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth.
With a multitude of Sikh pilgrimage sites, India is a wonderful religious destination for the followers of this religion. Speaking of great religious leaders and selfless sacrifice of Sikh warriors, these places invoke a feeling of pride and devotion in the minds of visitors. Some of these Gurudwaras and shrines are marvels of excellent architecture while others are reminders of historic dates in the eventful Sikh history. Having a lot of reasons to be proud of glorious historical past, these pilgrimage destinations ideally represent Sikhism – the religion that signifies a spiritual life and the oneness of God.