Sikh Gurus were great travelers, preachers and organizers. Wherever they went they advised
their followers to organize themselves in sangats and to build dharamsals for congregational
prayers. Sikh chronicles record places consecrated by the Gurus with their presence. Bhai
Gurdas sang about dharamsal in every (Sikh) home. Some of them were perhaps lost in the
vicissitudes of history, but many survived and became places of pilgrimage for the devotees.
More or less comprehensive lists of them that appeared during the Singh Sabha period are all
in Punjabi and list the shrines under each Guru to whom they are respectively related. The
present work listing them regionwise is intended to serve the twin objects of reaching the
English knowing non-Punjabi public and of being useful to prospective pilgrims and visitors
in planning their itineraries for all shrines in one or the other particular region. Some
maps and pictures provide additional help. Efforts have also been made to update the account
in the light of fresh researches.
About the Author
Since his retirement from the Army Educational Corps in 1976 after 36-year long service,
Major Gurmukh Singh has been working on the editorial staff of Encyclopaedia of Sikhism
under preparation at the Punjabi University, Patiala with Professor Harbans Singh as its
Editor-in-Chief. The author's initial assignment was to personally visit and survey
historical Gurdwaras all over the country.
These lines translated from hymns composed by Guru Ram Das, Nanak IV, point to the origin
and growth of historical, holy Sikh shrines.
The Sikh Gurus were, by and large, great travelers and great builders. The places
they visited and towns they founded, became sacred places of pilgrimage for the Sikhs, who
raised structures, more or less permanent or spacious according to their needs and means.
The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, the most widely traveled of the Gurus, had advised
his followers wherever he went, to form themselves into sangats and build dharmsals where
they should congregate for prayers and for deliberation over matters of common religious and
social concern. These dharmsals (lit. religious places) which later came to be called
Gurdwaras (lit. Guru's door or threshold) were as widely spread as were the peregrinations
of the Gurus. The places they were located at, were recorded by authors of places they were
located at, were recorded by authors of Janamsakhis, Gur-bilases and other
chronicles. Not all the places sanctified by the Gurus were perhaps recorded, and
sangats and dharmsals could not have been established at many of the recorded
ones. Even some of those established became extinct under the pressure of vicissitudes of
Sikh history or for extinct under the pressure of vicissitudes of Sikh history or for
reasons of lack of communication with the source or predominance of unsympathetic or hostile
local response. Yet many survived, and some among them flourished and became prominent.
Systematic research and listing of historical Sikh shrines was taken up in the latter part
of the nineteenth century by some tireless travelers and scholars such as Pandit Tara Singh
Narotam, Giani Gian Singh and Giani Thakar Singh. Their lists accompanied by brief
historical account of each shrine, more or less elaborate, serve as a source of historical
knowledge and as guides for interested travelers and devout pilgrims. But Gurdwaras therein
are arranged under respective Gurus, and it cannot conveniently be known whether a certain
Gurdwara is having in its neighbourhood others related to other Gurus. Moreover, these
inventories have now become rare books with no fresh editions readily available in the
market. The alphabetical arrangement in Bhai Kahn Singh's Guru Shabad Ratnakar
suffers from the same difficulty of knowing about shrines located in a particular region.
The present work has, therefore, been taken in hand with two objects in mind. One, a
region-wise listing to enable intending pilgrims to know about all historical Gurdwaras
situated in the same general area, which would facilitate the planning of their respective
itineraries. Secondly, this book would be useful to English-knowing travelers who may be
interested in visiting historical Sikh shrines or in carrying out research in Sikh history.
Besides, effort has been made to updated the account in the light of fresh researches.
The list is primarily based on the aforesaid sources. Several new Gurdwaras have
come up lately, some established by local sangats, others by religious luminaries, named
after one or the other Guru or some notable historical figure, and claimed to be historical.
As the authenticity of such claims is hard to establish, they have generally been omitted,
except in a few cases where such Gurdwaras have earned renown by popular acceptance of their
Hagiographical and poetic nature of our original sources, loaded heavily with
symbolism, imagery and other literary embellishments, coupled with human weakness for the
strange and the miraculous, and the force of tradition, have made it difficult to sift
history from legend and myth not wholly palatable to modern mind. It has been my endeavour
to circumvent such elements and to keep closer to rationalistic approach, which, incidently,
is one of the distinctive features of Sikhsim. Yet it must be borne in mind that popular
lore and tradition is a legitimate, even though secondary, source of history. Secondly, Sikh
religion has its own share of mysticism without which it is as hard to fully grasp the
existential reality as to comprehend the Ultimate Reality.
Three brief Chapters-Sikhism, Guru Gurdwara-precede the write ups on the shrines.
They are intended to provide introductory information considered necessary to rightly
understand the place and importance of historical Gurdwaras for the followers of the
My grateful thanks are due to Messrs Singh Brothers, the publishers, who first
conceived and proposed this project, and to Dr. Jodh Singh, who encouraged, guided and
assisted me in the planning and preparation of this volume. I must also acknowledge my debt
to authors whose books, given in bibliography, I have consulted.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend