(ii) Rotary Club, Amritsar
Affiliated to the Rotary International, the Rotary Club was formed in the district in 1933. Its membership in 1969 stood at 85. Its main objects are : service above self; the encouragement and fostering of acquaintance and opportunity for fellowship; the recognition of worthiness of all useful occupations; the application of the ideal of service by every Rotarian to his personal, business and community life; and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional men. Its members meet every Thursday in the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Hall, Company Bagh, Amritsar.
In Amritsar, the club has taken steps for traffic safety by displaying traffic-safety boards in various parts of the city. The club gives scholarships to the deserving students and financial assistance to the poor for prosecuting studies. It also provides free medical service for poor patients through its medico members.
Th club has provided a hearsee for the Sewa Samiti Fire Brigade, Amritsar, and an ambulance chair at the Amritsar Railway Station for the use of invalid passengers.
(iii) Amritsar Sewa Samiti (Regd.), Amritsar
Established in 1919, the Sewa Samiti was named s the Railway Sewa Samiti. In 1924, it was renamed the Amritsar Sewa Samiti. It was registered as a voluntary social service organization in 1939.
The Samiti is functioning at the district headquarters. It is intended to cater to local needs. It has no regular source of income, but raises funds, when necessary.
The Amritsar Sewa Samiti is a multi-purpose charitable organization. It is running hree allopathic and three Ayurvedic free dispensaries, n X-Ray Clinic, a Clinical Laboratory, an Antenatal Cliinic and a B.C.G. Clinic. The Samiti helps in the eradication of tuberculosis and distributes medicines to the poor.
The Samiti also renders valuable services in locating the parents of lost children who are handed over to it, by distributing books every year to the poor and intelligent students, and by arranging cold-water booths at strategic points during the summer months.
The Samity also maintains a volunteer corps. The volunteers render voluntary service on the occasions of fairs, festivals, kumbhs and Adhkumbhs at Hardwar and Allahabad. They are also of immense help at the time of natural calamities, e.g. floods, earthquakes and epidemics.
(iv) Institute for the Blind, Amritsar
Started in 1923, it is a special Institute of its own kind. It admits children between the age of 8 and 20, irrespective of caste, colour and creed. In 1969, it had 64 students. No fee is charged. The institute imparts education up to the middle standard. It also holds training classes in re-caning of chairs, craftwork and weaving. The notable achievement of the institute is that it prepares students in music up to the standard of the Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh. The students are admitted to the different courses according to their intelligence and aptitude. The institute is equipped with the biggest Braille librry in northern India. It is also an examination centre of the Prayag Samiti, Allahabad.
The annual expenditure of the institute is about Rs.1,00,000, which is met mainly from public donations.
(v) All-India Women’s Conference, Amritsar
The Amritsar branch of the All-India Women’s Confernece was established in 1943. It is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
The conference is a non-political and non-communal voluntary social service organization, rendering meritorious service in the cause of the welfare of women and children in distress. It runs craft centres of tailoring and hand-embroidery and machine-embroidery. Through these centres, it provides the needy women with work. It holds a a nursery class for laying a sound foundation for the development of children of the low-income group. Books are provided for the poor children. To conference also runs a family planning centre under the charge of a lady doctor. During emergencies, e.g. floods, it provides the needy persons with relief.
(vi) Sewa Society Fire Brigade, Amritsar
It is a private registered organization established in 103 at Amritsar. Its main functions are to help to extinguish fire and arrange ambulance for carrying the sick and wounded persons to the hospital. The society has provided a hearse for carrying the dead to the cremation-ground. It also runs a laboratory for testing blood, urine, stool, etc. without any charge. The society helps to organize fairs and festivals. It has also installed free drinking water-booths in different parts of the city.
The society meets its expenses from donations made by the public.
(vii) Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar
It is a Sikh religious, educational, social and charitable organization. Originally, there were two Khala Diwans—one at Lahore and the other at Amritsar. They were merged into a single organization in 1902. It was registered in 1904. With the partition (1947), it lost much of its property in Pakistan.
The Chief Khalsa Diwan has its branches at Tarn Taran, Delhi, Kanpur, Bombay and Ranchi. It runs several institutions, most of which have been mentioned in the proceeding chapters on ‘Education and Culture’ and ‘Medical and Public-Health Services’. A few other institutions run by the Diwan are as under :
Central Khalsa Orphanage and Surma Singh Ashram, Amritsar.—The Central Khalsa Orphanage was started in 1904, and the Surma Singh Ashram (Home for the Blind) was added to it in 1935. It has about 80 inmates. The annual expenditure comes to about one lakh of rupees.
The inmates are trained in weaving, tailoring, and music. Most of the blind ragi jathas all over India have received training from this institution.
Bhai Vir Singh Birdh Ghar (Home for the Aged and the Infire), Tarn Taran.—It was established in 1959. The inmates, both men and women spend their time in old age in a peaceful atmosphere of devotion and piety. The needy are provided with free board and lodging. Its annual expenditure is about Rs 23,000. The number of inmates in 1968 was 20.
Khalsa Parcharak vidyala, Tarn Taran.—It was established in 1910 or thereabout to train granthis, ragis and parcharaks for the Sikh community. Besides the study of Sikh scriptures and religion, regular classes of proficiency in Punjabi are held.
(viii) Pingalwara, Amritsar
A medico-social institution, the Pingalwara was started by Bhagat Puran Singh in 1948 after his migration from Lahore. The institution is tackling the problem of sickness in the medico-social sphere in its own way. It admits all patients who are in need of care whether they are curable or incurable. They are provided not only with indoor treatment but also with meals, clothes and shelter.
In 1970, the Pingalwara had 125 mentally deranged and 60 T.B. patients, out of which 25 were incurable and 16 were orthopaedic patients.
The annual expenditure of the Pingalwara is over 2 lakhs of rupees which is met through donations and public contributions, both in cash and kind. Hundreds of persons residing outside Amritsar contribute regularly through money-orders. Occasionally, financial assistance is also received from the State Social Welfare Directorate.
The Pingalwara is also running a printing-press which prints posters and circulates articles bearing on social, religious and cultural subjects. These are distributed in schools, colleges and among the people free of cost.
(ix) Bhartiya Shiksha Kendra, Amritsar
A private registered institution established in 1954, it runs a middle school. Arrangements are also made for further studies through special tution. No fee is charged from the students. The expenditure is met from private contributions.
(x) Prem Sewak Sabha, Amritsar
A private registered body, established in 1919, it runs a Zenana Masternity Hospital with 30 beds, a Family-Planning Centre with 5 tubectomy beds, 2 allopathic dispensaries and 2 Ayurvedic dispensaries. On certain occasions, the society installs temporary dispensaries, free langars, chhabils, etc. Besides, it makes arrangements for cremating unclaimed corpses, and helps to restore lost children to their parents. The Sabha also runs a branch in Guru-ka-Mahal in the city.
The Sabha has no regular source of income. The expenses are met through private contributions/donations.
(xi) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Amritsar
It is a private registered body, established in 1919. It is affiliated to the International Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, London. It maintains an infirmary where animals are looked after and are treated for their injuries, wounds, etc. During the extremely cold season, the society brings shelterless and stray cows and calves to the infirmary where they are provided with shelter and fodder.
The main source of income of the society is the contributions made by individuals.
(xii) State After-Care Home, Amritsar
Run under the State Social Welfare Department, the Home serves a very useful purpose. It provides shelter for the deserted, homeless and abducted girls and women. Necessary shelter is also provided for those whose distress is likely to be exploited for immoral purposes. The minor homeless girls are also kept there till attain majority.
The inmates are provided with board and lodging. The Home provides foster help for the children, and gives education and employment to the needy. In certain cases, even marriages are arranged.
Since the establishment of the Home in 1957, over 800 girls and women have been admitted to it. The strength of the inmates is 1970 was over 100.
(xiii) Blood-Bank Society, Amritsar
Established in 1956-57, its main function is to secure public co-operation to organize voluntary blood donations. It also looks after the social aspects of blood transfusion and carries of an intensive propaganda to educate the masses regarding the immense utility of blood donation.
The society has a paid Organizing Secretary who combats the strong psychogenic factor prevailing among the people against donating blood. It has an ambulance, and intensive tours and undertaken to clubs, factories, schools and colleges, labour unions and other allied organizations to persuade the people to donate blood.
The society runs the blood bank on replacement basis—a realistic approach to run the bank. It has almost eliminated the commercialization of blood.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The Amritsar District lies in the north-west of the Punjab, with the Gurdaspur District on the north-east, the River Beas on the south-east, the River Satluj in the south and has its border with Pakistan on the west. It population was 15,34,916 in 1961, as against 13,67,040 in 1951. With its headquarters at Amritsar (population 3,76,295 in 1961), the district comprises 1,261 villages and 9 towns. It is well connected both by road and rail. The highway connecting Delhi with Central Asia passes through it.
Being intimately connected with the origin, growth and development of the Sikh religion, the district comprises numerous important places of historical and religious interest. These are described below in alphabetical order :
Ajnala.—The headquarters of the subdivision/tahsil of the same name, Ajnala is situated at a distance of 20 km from Amritsar on the Amritsar-Dera Baba Nanak Road. There are a Government High School, a Police-Station, a Post & Telegraph Office and a Rest-House at Ajnala. It population was 3,907 in 1961, as against 3,648 in 1951.
Ajnala is said to have been founded by one Bagga, a Jat of the Nijjar got. After him, it was named Nijjarwala or Nijjarala, which, with the lapse of time, became contracted and corrupted into Ajnala. Another origin of the word Ajnala is also mentioned. The Sakki Nala, which used to play havoc during floods, was popularly called Ajal Nala. With the lapse of time, it came to be known s Ajanala. Ever since the floods have been controlled in the area, the economic condition of the cultivators has improved.
On the encamping ground is a plain mound of earth which marks the place where a large number of dead bodies of the executed sepoys, belonging to the 26th Native Infantry Regiment, were dumped into a well during the Great Uprising of 1857. This well is known as Kalianwala Khuh from the black complexion of the Purbia sepoys.
Amritsar.—The headquarters of the district and the subdivision/ tahsil of the same name, Amritsar is situated midway between the rivers Beas and Ravi on the Grand Trunk Road, 28 km from the international Wagha border with Pakistan. It is an important railway junction and is connected by rail with Jullundur, Gurdaspur, Khem Karan and Atari. Its population was 3,76,295 in 1961, as against 3,25,747 in 1951.
Amritsar had been the biggest town in the Punjab up to the eighties of the nineteenth century when it became second to Lahore (Pakistan). This position continued up to the partition of 1947. The town suffered a great set-back on the partition when over a lakh and a half of Muslims migrated to Pakistan. The number of Hindu and Sikh migrants from Pakistan, who settled here, was much less.
Amritsar is also one of the few cities in the State which have introduced improved sanitary conditions. Double side surface drains were introduced in 1902. The city is, however, much at a disadvantage for being situated in the depression of a wide plain. The line of its main drainage is very defective. Some important places in the city are overflooded when there are heavy rains, jamming the traffic on each side of the temporarily formed streams which assume the form of nullahs till the time the water recedes. The soil consists of an upper crust of light clay which is from 6 to 10 feet deep and contains here and there thin beds of stiff clay in which are embedded small agglomerations of nodular limestone, popularly known as kankar. Below the upper crust is an indefinitely deep stratum of coarse grit with a lower layer of fine sand; this stratum contain the subsoil water. In the dry weather, the depth of this subsoil water ranges from 8 to 18 feet; in the rainy season, the subsoil water rises everywhere and comes close to the surface, and in some localities comes out and collects on the surface. In the vicinity of the city, the fall of the surface drainage is a little over one foot per mile, and the area of the whole locality is traversed by numerous irrigation channels drawn from the Upper Bari Doab Canal, which passes within two or three miles of the city. The natural defects of the position in regard to drainage produce a more or less complete waterlogging of the land.
Amritsar is not a very old city. About four hundred years ago, a few squalid huts formed the sole traces of human habitation on the site of the present city; and even long after the rise of the Sikh Common wealth to power, Amritsar, its sacred centre, remained but a comparatively small town. The site was first occupied by Guru Ram Das, who succeeded to the Sikh apostleship in 1574. The site had a small natural pool, which, in course of time, was converted into a tank and acquired the name of Amritsar or ‘Tank of Nectar’. This is he commonly accepted derivation; another derivation, however, has been suggested from the name of Guru Amar Das, the predecessor of Guru am Das. The original form of the name, in the case, would be Amarsar, or the tank of Amar (Das). The temple, or Hari Mandir, as it was at first called, was build by Guru Arjan Dev, the successor of Guru Ram Das. The centre of the tank was its site. It is said that Furu Arjan Dev obtained the assistance of Mian Mir himself in the construction of the temple, and that it was he who laid its foundation-stone.
From this time onwards, Amritsar grew in importance, its fortunes waxing and waning with the fortunes of the Sikh Commonwealth, until after the retirement of Ahmad Shah Abdali from India it became the acknowledged capital of a sovereign State. However, it was not at that time the actual residence of the Gurus. Guru Hardgobind, who laid the foundation of the warlike character of the sect, spent his time in the various parts of India, returning only occasionally to the Punjab and Amritsar. The Adi-Granth, the sacred book of the Sikhs, was not carried along with him by Guru Hargobind, during several of his travels and was finally taken to Kartarpur (in the Jullundur District) by Vahir Mal, a brother of Guru Har Rai, the successor of Guru Hargobind. Subsequently, a copy of the Adi-Granth was placed in the Hari Mandir. The modern temple, as well as a great part of the city, dates from 1764, Ahmad Shah Abdali blew up the Hari Mandir, defiled every sacred place with cows’ blood and filled the pool with dead cows thrice, i.e. in 1757, 1762 and 1764. But after his final retirement the Sikhs again flocked to Amritsar. The temple was rebuilt and the city gradually assumed its present form. It had hitherto been a collection of the residences of influential Sikhs, but, when it became, the political capital, these buildings soon became welded together into one city. The city still retains the relics of its old state in the katras or wards into which it is divided. Each of these katras in former deays represented the estate of a Sikh chief, within the limits of which he was supreme. The most ancient katras are fifteen, all others being subsequent formations.
For many years after the foundation of the Sikh supremacy, Amritsar remained in the hands of the chiefs of the Bhangi Misl; but at last, in 1802, it was seized by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and formally added to his dominions. This monarch spent large sums of money from time to time upon the Hari Mandir, which about this time began to acquire its present name of Darbar Sahib. Among other adornments, he roofed it with sheets of gilded copper—a fact to which it owes its name, i.e. the Golden Temple. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also laid out the famous garden of Ram Bagh, and build the Fort of Govindgarh. The following story is often quoted as explaining the reputation of the Amritsar tank. A girl of Patti, in the then Lahore District, the daughter of a wealthy kardar of that place, incurred her father’s displeasure, and he married her to a leper, whom she was obliged to carry about in a basket on her head. During her travels, having reached a pool, she placed the basket with the leper in it on the ground, and went to an adjoining village (Tung or Sultanwind) to get. During her absence, the leper saw a crow fall into the water, and immediately become white. He thereupon bathed in the water and became whole, one small spot of leprosy only remaining. When his wife returned, she did not recognize him and thought that she had become the victim of some deception. She took her husband before Guru Ram Das, who convinced her of her error. The spot on the edge of the tank where this event occurred is known as the Dukh Bhanjni or healer of afflictions, and an illustrated gilded copper plate marks the place. The foundation-stone of the Hari Mandir was laid by Sain Mian Mir, a Muslim Sufi saint, at the request of Guru Arjan Dev, between whom and the Sufi saint a strong friendship existed. Not being skilled in the art of laying bricks on the square, the mason found the brick had been laid askew, and accordingly adjusted it, whereupon Sain Mian Mir remarked that if the brick had been allowed to lie as he put it, the superstructure (temple) would have stood for ever, but now it won’t. Later, this prophecy proved true. Ahmad Shah Abdali’s son Prince Timur destroyed the Ramgarhian Fort and other buildings and threw the debris into the Tank of the Hari Mandir. In 1762, Ahmad Shah Abdali, after defeating and routing the sikhs at Kup (near Malerkotla, District Sangrur), an event known as ghalu ghara, gratified his rage still further by destroying the Hari Mandir and polluting the sacred tank by throwing slaughtered cows into it and committing other atrocities. Four years hereafter, i.e. 1766, the temple was rebuilt , and the city gradually improved and expanded.
The old Amritsar city was surrounded by a wall of an average height of 14 feet and had twelve gates. The wall was constructed by Ranjit Singh at an expenditure of 14 lakhs of rupees. From the Maha Singh Gate on the north-east to the Hakimanwala Gate on the south side of the city, the remains of the wall may still be seen. From the latter to the former gate along the western and northern sides of the city, the wall and the gates ere constructed during 1866 to 1868. The Ram Bagh Gate and the Maha Singh Gate are the only two of the twelve gates constructed by the Sikh Government that remain to this day. They are substantial masonry structures, capable of great defence, and have side entrances protected by strong wooden gates, elaborately strengthened with spherical-headed iron bolts and sheet iron. The Hall Gate, which leads directly to the Railway Station, the Civil Lines and the Cantonment, was constructed in 1876, and was named after Col. C.H. Hall, who was for many years the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar. This gate stands on the side of an old bastion; the area just inside the gate was occupied by the Amritsar Jail up to 1875, when the land and building were purchased by the Municipal Committee. In the beginning, the city was confined with the wall. Outside along the wall, there was a big ditch, 5 miles long, 120 yards wide and 5 yards deep, filled with water, providing security to the city. After the British occupation, there no longer remained any necessity for the ditch which was also a problem on hygienic grounds. Its filling up with debris started in 1859 and was accelerated in 1868. During the famine of 1869, as many as a hundred thousand persons were employed on the job. The work was again taken in hand in 1892. Thereafter, it became possible for the people to settle outside the walled city. The city has expanded on all sides. During the partition of 1947, a considerable part of the city was gutted. The Improvement Trust has undertaken the beautification and development of the city. Numerous ultramodern buildings have sprung up.
Amritsar was the biggest trading centre in the Punjab during he nineteenth century. Markets of different commodities were situated here, for instance, Namak Mandi, Ghee Mandi, Sowank Mandi and Kanak Mandi. With the introduction of railways, the importance of Amritsar increased manifold. It became the biggest market for cloth and general merchandise. The city catered to the requirements of the entire united Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and the N.W.F.P. (now forming Pakistan minus the new Indian Punjab State and Haryana). The traders also held monopolies in respect of the woollen products from Kashmir and other hilly areas. Imported woollen cloth was also marketed from Amritsar is general. Gold ornaments, jewellery and the ivory chura (bangles) were mostly manufactured here.
Amritsar continuous to occupy a significant place among the country’s trade centres. The rapid industrialization of the city after the partition (1947) has ushered in a new era of prosperity and stability not only for this city but for the State as a whole. The main industries are: the art-silk industry, the woollen industry, the engineering industry and the warp-kintting industry. Textile is the most important industry. The engineering industry includes machine-tools, agricultural implements, cycle parts, sewing-machine parts, fans and other allied goods, printing and paper-cutting machinery, automobile parts, bolts and nuts, wood screws, brass-wares, ball-bearings, radio and other sound equipment, etc. Besides, Amritsar has also some chemical and pharmaceutical units. A detailed account of the industries of the city has been given in the chapter on ‘Industries’.
The city has a number of educational institutions, including the Medical College, the Dental College, the Khalsa College and the recently established Guru Nanak Dev University. As on January 1, 1973, there were 108 primary schools (co-educational), 16 middle schools (11 for boys and 5 for girls), 23 high schools (10 for boys and 13 for girls), 21 higher secondary schools (13 for boys and 8 for girls), 14 arts and science colleges (8 for boys and 6 for girls), 2 Colleges of Education (one each for boys and girls), besides a few medical institutes. The Land Reclamation, Irrigation and Power Research Institute, Amritsar, is the biggest of its type in the State.
The prominent hospitals in the city are: the Victory Jubilee Hospital, the Prince of Wales Zanana Hospital, the Punjab Government Dental College and Hospital, the Lady Emerson-Seth Chatarbhuj Maternity Hospital, the Ram Lal Eye and E.N.T. Hospital, the T.B. & Chest Diseases Hospital and the Punjab Mental Hospital.
Amritsar has had a first-class Municipal Committee ever since 1868. Among the gardens and parks maintained by the municipality, mention may be made of the historic Ram Bagh (popularly known as the Company Bagh), the Seth Radha Kishan Park and the Gol Bagh. The Ram Bagh contains Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Hall and a number of clubs.
There are four rest-houses in Amritsar, viz. the Circuit House, the Canal Rest-House, the P.W.D. (B&R) Rest-House and the Sainik Rest-House. There are also many serais, of which the Serai Guru Ram Das, the Guru Nanak Bhavn, the Durgiana Mandir Serai and two others (situated opposite the railway station) are noteworthy.
The tourist facilities, available in the city, also include about 8 important hotels and 7 restaurants. Approximate charges per day for lodging in these hotels range from Rs 5 to 40 for a single room and Rs 12 to 55 for a double room.
About 150 registered taxis ply in the city and these have their stands at important places. Local but service, connecting the various parts of he city and the adjoining areas, is also available.
Under the control of the District Public Relations Officer, there is a Tourist Information Centre at Amritsar, under the charge of the Tourist Reception Officer, for the guidance of the tourists and other visitors.
Amritsar has a large number of places of historical interest, a few important ones from among them are described below :
Golden Temple.—The most important among the gurdwaras is the world-famous Golden Temple, originally known s Hari Mandir. It is built in the centre of a tank which is 500 feet long, 400 feet wide and 17 feed deep. The Temple and the ‘Darshani Deorhi’ are linked together by a long bridge, build with marble inlaid with multi-coloured stones. The parikarma, i.e. the pavement around the tank, was originally 13 feet wide. It has now been widened to 30 feet.
The Golden Temple is unique for its art and architecture. Its architectural style presents a certain character of is own, not, however, difficult to identify. Among its typical features are the chhatris or kiosks, which ornament the parapets, angles and every prominence or projection; the invariable use of the fluted dome generally covered with brass or copper gilt with a layer of gold leaves; the frequent introduction of the oriel or embowed windows with shallow elliptical cornices and support on brackets; and the enrichment of all arches by means of numerous foliations.
Standing right in the middle of a large tank, the Golden Temple is a structure of considerable antiquity dating from 1764, whereas the greater part of its architecture was added to it as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its effect is enhanced by the main building, rising from the centre. It effect is enhanced by the main building, rising from the centre of the large tank, the only approach being by a causeway of 200 feet (about 61 metres) across the water. The Golden Temple, commonly called “Darbar Sahib” or “Hari Mandir” (the temple of the Lord), and the tank have become the centre of a complex of buildings, which have grown up in the vicinity, and most of which repeat in their architectural details the characteristics of the central structure, as for instance, the balconied windows supported by carved brackets, low-fluted domes and ogee arches, and other strutural embellishments.
On the western side of the tank is an archway, called the Darshani Deorhi, opening on to the causeway, a paved approached bordered by perforated marble balustrades with elegant gilt lanterns on standards at close intervals. In the centre of the tank, this causeway opens out into a platform, 65 feet (19.8 metres) square and in the middle stands the temple proper, a square building of some 50 feed (about 15 metres) wide. In its exterior elevation, the shrine is a two-storey building, over which rises a low-fluted dome in gilded metal, whereas there are kiosks also with fluted metal cupolas at each corner. One large hall forms the interior and the whole building is richly decorated with floral designs either painted or in tempera or embossed in metal and precious stones, their skilful handling being one of the crafts, in which Sikh workmen excel. The interior of the roof of the main temple is a marvellous sheet of embossed gilded plates. The same thing is repeated on the verandahs of the first and second floors of the main temple. The paintings on the walls, which were showing signs of decay or disfiguration, have been skilfully renovated by expert hands of a generation of artists. These wall paintings have now been covered with glass frames to prevent any decay.
Both on the inner and outer walls of the main temple, a fascinating technique of fresco painting has been employed by some renowned artists, who have put concentrated efforts, both physical and mental. Inlaying of coloured stones, known as jaratkari work, has a dozen odd forms. Lehin, a well-known item in fresco painting branch of the Sikh School, is a medium of expression of the imaginative study of the artist’s own creation of idealized forms. Some such fresco paintings show a rich colourful representation and floral and zoological designs, some having mythological significance picked up from the ancient scriptures such as the destruction of demonical forces of evil by good.
The art and architecture of the Golden Temple has been admirably sustained and developed by the successive generations of its inheritors. Gian Singh, who died in 1953 at the age of 0, belonged to the distinguished line of Naqqashes (painters), which was started by Kehar Singh, who enjoyed royal patronage under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Two or three generations of Kehar Singh had continued to develop this art of fresco painting. Gian Singh was a disciple of the last survivor, Jawahar Singh, and zealously worked in the Golden Temple for 32 years. He not only drew coloured sketches of fresco designs, but also drew them on pieces of marble, which were inlaid by experts from Delhi and Rajasthan. With his death, the old school of Naqqashes has come to an end1.
Dukh Bhanjan Asthan.—To the south of the Golden Temple is situated the ‘Dukh Bhanjan Asthan’ (the place where all diseases and troubles vanish). It is said that during the days of Ramayana, nectar was brought from Ram Tirth and kept in the ground here. It so happened that Guru Arjan Dev was camping near the pond (which later became the Golden Temple Tank). Ht noticed that some black crows after a dip into the water had become white. He at once exclaimed with joy, “Here is the nectar of the Ramayana period”. He asked his followers to dig the place. They instantly carried out his instructions and the nectar was taken out and put into the pond, thereby turning the whole of its water into nectar, and named the pond as ‘Amrit Sar’ (the tank of nectar).
Chaurasti Atari.—At the end of the Guru Bazaar, this is the place where Guru Hargobind used to sit into the afternoon and hold durbar. A gurdwara now stands at this site.
Guru-Ka-Mahal.—On the way from the Chaurasti Atari to Lohgarh is the Gurdwara Guru-Ka-Mahal. This was the residence of Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Hargobind. The marriage of Guru Hargobind with Bibi Nanki was also solemnized here.
1The Tribune, Chandigarh, May 11, 1972.
Pipli Sahib.—Situated near Chowk Putlighar, this gurdwara stands in a spacious groud. It is situated at the site where Guru Arjan Dev had welcomed his disciples who had come from Kabul to help him to construct the Hari Mandir. Later, the Guru used to hold religious gatherings of his followers here.
Once, Emperor Shahjahan came for hunting to the jungle surrounding this place. Here, he heard about the great popularity of Guru Hargobind who now occupied his father’s seat. He sent a written request to the Guru, expressing his wish to see him. The Guru welcomed the Emperor at this place. The latter was highly impressed with the spiritual attainments of the Guru.
Later, Guru Hargobind started his first battle against the Turks from this place. A big jagir of land is attached to the gurdwara. The Basant fair is celebrated here with great pomp and show.
Beri Baba Buddha.—There is a ber-tree on the northern pavement of the holy tank around the Hari Mandir. Under it, the great devotee Baba Buddha used to sit and supervise the work of the labour employed for excavating the tank and constructing the temple.
Akal Takht.—Literally meaning the “Tribune of the Timeless (God)’, the Akal Takht stands to the West of the Hari Mandir. The foundation-stone of this three-storeyed building was laid by Guru Hargobind in 1607. The original structure was completed in 1609. It is said that the Guru used to sit here in public and hear the grievances o the people. All orders of political nature were issued from this place. The old and historic weapons, used by the Gurus and other prominent Sikh leaders, have been preserved at this place and are on display. The upper storey of this building is used as the ‘Baptism Place’. There is also an underground chamber in the building of the Akal Takht. It was used by Guru Hargobind as a resting-place during summer.
The Granth Sahib, the Holy Book, is brought to this place from the Hari Mandir daily at about 10 p.m. and kept here with reverence. At 4 a.m. in summer and at 5 a.m. in winter, it is again taken to the Hari Mandir in a procession. The particular place where the Granth Sahib is kept at night is called ‘Guru-ka-Kotha’ (House of the Guru). Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan Dev used to take rest at this place at night.
There is a head priest here. He is called the ‘Jathedar’. The orders issued by this Jathedar from the Akal Takht are considered ‘Divine Orders’ by the Sikhs.
Thara Sahib.—Quite close to the Akal Takht is situated the Thara Sahib. It is said that when Guru Tegh Bahadur came to pay homage to the Hari Mandir, the priests closed the doors and did not allow him to enter. A thara or platform was, therefore, erected. Standing on it, the Guru paid homage to the Hari Mandir and returned.
Baba Atal.—Baba Atal is nine-storeyed octagonal building—the highest structure in the city. It is situated to the south-west of the Hari-Mandir. A very interesting story is narrated about its construction. Atal Rai was the youngest son of Guru Hargobind. When he was nine years old, he used to play there with other boys. One day, one of his companions, named Mohan, the son of a widow, suddently died. Atal Rai went to his house and knocked at the door. When enquired about the errand of his visit, Baba Atal said that the deceased boy had to give him in the game to turn which was still due. He instantly went to the dead body of his friend and, touching it with his stick, uttered, “Get up, give me my turn first and then depart from this world if you so like”. The dead boy stood up. All were taken aback at this incident. When Guru Hargobind came to know of it, he got enraged and reprimanded Atal Rai, warning him not to interfere in the doings of God. Atal Rai took the reprimand to heart so much that he lay down in his house and never got up. In order to perpetuate his memory, this nine-storeyed monument was raised during the period 1778—84. The nine storeys symbolize the 9 years’ age of Atal Rai. It is a common belief that the people who bring cooked food and distribute it among the poor here get their desires fulfilled. Hence it is said, “Baba Atal, Pakki Pakai Ghal”.