S. Harpal Singh

Devotees from all over the world are flooding the city for the celebration

The Hazur Sahib Gurdwara was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh between 1830 and 1835

35 ‘langars’ which can feed about 5 lakh people a day now functional

NANDED (MAHARASHTRA): Centred around the Sikh shrines here, the most sacred of them being the Takhat Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Gurdwara, the growth of Nanded city has remained steadfast for the last 300 years as was visualised by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikhs. He had christened Nanded as ‘Abchalnagar’ or the steadfast city in October 1708 at the time of elevating the Adi Granth, the holy book of Sikhs as their perpetual Guru.

A steady flow of devotees and pilgrims from all over the world is flooding the city, now hosting the tercentenary celebration of this event and also the one marking the departure of Guru Gobind Singh to his heavenly abode on November 3, 1708.

Guru Gobind Singh had also raised the status of the gurdwara at Nanded to that of a Takhat or throne symbolising the seat of authority. The Sachkhand Hazur Sahib Gurdwara became one of the five Takhats, the others being the Akal Takhat at Amritsar’s Golden Temple complex, Takhat Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur, Takhat Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo and Takhat Patna Sahib. The first three are in Punjab and the Takhat Patna Sahib, the place of birth of Guru Gobind Singh is in Bihar.

The Hazur Sahib Gurdwara with the golden dome and intricate art work, was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh between 1830 and 1835. Nanded also has 10 other gurdwaras that have historical importance for Sikhs. The Nagina Ghat, Bandh Ghat, Maltekdi, Heera Ghat, Mata Saheb, Shikar Ghat, Sangat Sahib, Ratangarh, Gobind Bagh and Damdama Sahib (Basmat) are located in the vicinity of Nanded. The Nanaksar, Langar Sahib and Bhajangarh Sahib were later additions to the list of pilgrim sites.

Nanded had been a part of the Hyderabad State ruled by the Nizam until 1948 when Hyderabad was liberated following the famous police action. It went into Maharashtra in 1956 when the reorganisation of States on linguistic basis was done.

One of the unique aspects of the Sikh way of life like the 24-hour ‘langar’ or community kitchen is on display here. Among other things, the system of ‘langar’ envisages doing away with class and status within the community.

The NRI langar facility, opened on Saturday, serves to enhance the overall capacity to feed pilgrims during the tercentenary of the elevation of the Adi Granth. There are some 35 ‘langars’ functional here with a cumulative capacity to feed about 5 lakh people per day.

The tradition of ‘langar’ was started by the third Sikh Guru, Amardas, and it has come to be one of the main activities at community level for the Sikhs. Irrespective of the social status people eat seated on one plane that symbolises equality among the members of the community.

The ‘langar’ cannot be run without the active participation of the sevadars or volunteers who also signify the importance attached to community service.

The Langar Sahib Gurdwara here is the largest of such facilities and in Nanded, which can accommodate about three lakh people every day. There are others that have been set up by people and organisations from Punjab.

Long turban

It is simply a matter of routine for Baba Ranjit Singh, an ageing Nihang Singh of the Buddha Dal of Sangrur district in Punjab who ties his 200-metre-long turban twice every day. The bulky turban, known as the ‘sava man da damla,’ weighs about 40 kg.

The Baba is in Nanded to participate in the tercentenary celebrations. He was spotted sauntering towards the Nagina Ghat Gurdwara on the banks of river Godavari on Sunday, sporting on his head the traditional but formidable head gear.

Nihang tradition

The Nihang Singhs comprised the army of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of Sikhs and were known as Guru di ladli faujan, the beloved soldiers of the Guru.

They continue with the tradition of wearing the blue uniform of which the blue or saffron turban forms a part. Some Nihangs wear the huge sava man da damla following an incident from the life of Guru Gobind Singh’s sons.

According to Nanded journalist Ravinder Singh Modi, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh, the second son of Guru Gobind Singh was denied participation in a battle by his elder brother Sahibzada Ajit Singh on the grounds that the former was too ‘small’ or young for it. Sahibzada Jujhar Singh tried to convince his brother that he was eligible to fight alongside by tying a huge turban that made him look taller than Sahibzada Ajit Singh. The Nihangs have since then sported the larger head gear as a tribute to the young Sahibzada.

Baba Ranjit Singh bathes and washes his hair twice daily after which he ties the long turban after combing the hair. He then attaches the small versions of the arms that are carried by the Nihangs. There are nine small and one big khanda, eight small kirpans, half a dozen small spears and one simran mala or rosary visible on the turban. He also has five small arms or shastras besides two small combs tucked inside the turban. “This exercise takes only two hours,” quips Baba Ranjit Singh.