General Information about Chhota Udepur
Chhota Udepur was among the three princely states of eastern Gujarat. The town is situated at the edge of a big lake, with blooming lillies and a boulevard with palm trees. The series of temples along the lake dotting the skyline makes a perfect setting for the colourful tribal haat.
History of Chhota Udepur
The founders of Chhota Udepur were the direct descendants of the famous Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan, who bravely fought against the invaders and immortalized in Prithviraj Raso – a romantic heroic ballad, narrating the love of Samyukta and Prithviraj. After losing a long battle at Ranthambore to Muslim invaders, the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs moved to the hills of Pavagadh via Malwa, established the capital at Mohan near Narmada and shifted the capital to Chhota Udepur.
After 1882 AD treaty with British, an era of peace prevailed and many royal and public buildings were erected in the town. The original fortification in the town lies in ruins, overgrown with shrubs and creepers and Darbar Hall burnt down few years back. Many buildings were built in early 20’s, around this fortification in the fashion of big mansions of Bombay, by the relatives of the ruler.
How to reach Chhota Udepur
The nearest airport is located at Vadodara, which is about 102 kms.
The nearest railway station is located on the Vadodara – Chhota Udepur railway line.
Chhota Udepur is connected by road with all the major cities of Gujarat like Ahmedabad and Vadodara
Tourist Attractions in Chhota Udepur
The Kali Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Kali and is worshipped by the royal family.
The Jain Derasar is a typical example of plaster-decorated buildings of Gujarat, imitating woodcarvings and figurines in plasterwrk, showing the influence of Victorian art. The arcades, with decorated pillars, the figures with musical instruments, ther dressing, headgears and hairstyles painted in an unconventional manner with bright colours, make a beautiful composition.
Kusum Vilas Palace
The Kusum Vilas Palace was designed by a famous architectural firm of Bombay – Bhatkar & Bhatkar in the early 1920. The design concept was to create a palace in a harmonious fusion of the architectural style of Champaner with modern amenities of an elevator and other functional requirements. A large porch, arcaded facade and balanced architectural treatment of the 5 storeyed central wing with receding volume, capped with a dome lends majesty to the palace.
The interiors are a blend of east and west. The carved plasters, friezes gilded with real gold are the replicas of the such architectural elements at Champaner. The British made elevator has a foyer at ground level, enclosed by the series of exquisitely carved stone jalis bringing in a etheral light effect.
The grand reception room on ground floor has large doors, a carved false ceiling, French furniture, Belgian mirrors and superb Italian marble statues. The wall paintings by an Indian artist, depicting the picturesque settings at Chhota Udepur and previous capital Mohan are most remarkable.
Prem Bhavan Palace
The Prem Bhavan Palace is located in the same palace campus of Kusum Vilas Palace and has now been converted into a heritage hotel. This hotel offers excellent accommodation, food and package tours to nearby interesting places.Read More
General Information about Champaner
Champaner, situated about 47 kms. north east of Vadodara, stands on a 882 m high in the Girnar Hills, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, Gujarat’s former capital. It is an ancient fort located at the foothills of Pavagadh. The walls at the base of the hill were once 6 kms. long and surround military, civic and religious buildings and complex water harvesting systems.
The town derives its name from the Champa tree or from Champaraja, founder of the town, a contemporary of King Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada. The entire landscape is scattered around with remains of fort walls, ruined tombs, gardens, arches, pillars and wells. In the old city, the remains of many fine mosques and palaces show a blend of Islamic and Hindu decoration styles, a unique style encouraged by Champaner’s relative isolation.
History of Champaner
Champaner was established as the Chauhan Rajput capital in the 8th century. The town derives its name from the Champa tree or from Champaraja, founder of the town, a contemporary of King Vanraj Chavda of Anhilwada. The famous Muslim king of Gujarat, Muhammad Begada captured the fort in the late 15th century after a long siege against the Khichi Chauhan Rajputs.
On a strategic trade route, it was besieged by Sultan Mahmud Begara, who succeded in taking it in 1484 AD. The fortress was the old capital of the local Rajputs who lost it in 1484 to Sultan Mahmud Beghara who renamed it Muhammadabad. It is said that it took 23 years to build his new city. Many bazaars, ton squares, royal gardens and water structures, including mosques were constructed during these years.
I also became a major trading center producing fine silk, wove and dyed textile and sword manufacturing. Its decline started after attacks by the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1535 AD. In his campaign in Gujarat, the Mughal Emperor Humayun personally led a small team that scaled the walls of the city using iron spikes and then let the rest of the army in through the main gate.
After the death of Sultan Bahadur Shah in 1536 AD, the royal capital was again moved back to Ahmedabad. With the collapse of the Empire, Champaner passed to the Mughals, Marathas and British. In 1803 AD, when the British took the town, it was overgrown with jungles and had only 500 inhabitants.
How to reach Champaner
The nearest airport is located at Vadodara, which is about 46 kms.
Champaner is a railway station on Vadodara – Godhara railway line.
Champaner is connected by road with all the major cities of Gujarat like Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
Tourist Attractions in Champaner
The Jami Masjid is intact and is a large, richly ornamented mosque modelled on the Friday Mosque at Ahmedabad. This mosque is one of the finest examples of the Sultanate architecture of Gujarat. It is an imposing structure on a high plinth with two tall minarets of 30 meter height, 172 pillars and seven mihrabs.
There are interesting Gujarati features such as oriel windows. This mosque belongs to 1513 and took 125 years to build and has a wonderful carved entrance and imposing courtyard. Inside, the ruler’s prayer hall is divided from the main space by jalis. Behind the building is an octagonal kund (lake), Hauz-i-Vazu, used for washing before prayer.
The lower fortification is the citadel or the Champaner fort. The Champaner Fort was the royal enclosure of Muhammad Begara. It is a perfect rectangle enclosed by the massive walls with huge bastions and entrance gates with carved balconies projecting from top. On the north-west of the citadel is the huge lake – Vada Talav and ruins of Sultan’s Palace.
The ruins of Khapra Zaveri Palace are located on the way from the base to Machi. From its terrace, one can have a fabulous view of the origin of Vishwamitri river. Atak gate is one of the nine gates that leads to the hilltop. It has two catapult stands for hurling stones at the enemies. Other monuments from Machi to hilltop are Makai Kothar – a granary with the fort, Kalika Temple and a shrine of Muslim Saint Sadanshah are located.
The Kalika Mata Temple is situated on the highest peak of the Pavagadh hill. This is one of the most sacred centre of the Hindu pilgrimage for devotees of the Goddess Kali. every year about one million people visit the temple. There is a rope way to reach the temple.
The another important temple is the Lakulish Temple at Chhashia Talav. It has some beautiful sculptures depicting various forms of Shiva – Dakshinamurti, Ardhanarishvara and Kalyanasundaramurti.
Jambughoda is situated about 25 kms. from Champaner. This ex-princely state of Jambughoda, turned sanctuary in 1992 covers an area of 130 square kms. lush countryside.
Information on Bhuj
Bhuj, a flourishing walled city is the most important town in the Kutch area, now it is the headquarters of the Kutch district. Bhuj was chosen by Rao Khengarji I as his capital in 1549. This city was greatly destroyed in the earthquake in 1819 and 2001.
Its name derives from the Bhujiyo Dungar, a hill, that overlooks the present Bhuj town. Bhuj is situated at the base of the fortified hill and partly round the lake. It has also been described as the Jaisalmer of Gujarat and is also very much similar like Bundi in Rajasthan.
Within the walls there is maze of enticing alleyways and many examples of fine Gujarati architecture, exuberant temple decoration and colourful inhabitants. This place is a paradise of handicrafts and lifestyle lovers. There are some villages in Bhuj which are rich in craft and culture. Embroidery is the most important handicraft in this region.
History of Bhuj
Bhuj was the capital of the former princely state of Kutch till 1947 AD. The Rajput rulers of Kutch came from Sindh in the late 15th century and settled at Bhuj. Rao Khengarji I chose the strategic location at the base of Bhujiyo Dungar and founded the city of Bhuj in 1548 AD. The need for better security arose only after the decline of Mughal power. In 1723 AD, Rao Godiji constructed the massive fort with gates and 11 meter thick masonry wall, surround the whole town.
The city wall was also armed with fifty one guns. The British took over the fort in 1819 AD and acted as peacemaker between the Kutch rulers and Bhayad Jagirdars. The treaty with the British resulted in peaceful period in the history of Kutch and the state thus became prosperous with surplus funds, enabling the rulers to undertake public and royal building projects.
Rao Pragmalji, who ruled Kutch from 1860 to 1876 AD also undertook various projects like the improvement of Mandvi harbour, construction of roads and irrigation works, hospitals, schools and jail. He also built the Prag Mahal and Ranjit Vilas Palace at Bhuj and Vijay Vilas Palace at Mandvi.
How to reach Bhuj
The nearest airport is located at Ahmedabad.
Some trains operate between Bhuj and Ahmedabad on meter gauge line and Mumbai on the broad gauge line from Gandhidham.
Bhuj is connected to some of the various cities of Gujarat. Bhuj is connected by State highway upto Bhachau to Ahmedabad by national highway No. 8A.
Tourist attractions in Bhuj
The Kutch Museum, formerly known as the Fergusson Museum, was founded by Maharao Khengarji III in 1877 AD. This museum was built by the state engineer Sir Ferguson, and thus named after him. This is remained a private exhibit for the Maharaos till independence and was renamed as the Kutch Museum.
The Kutch museum is the oldest museum in Gujarat. He is built in the Italian style and located in picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Hamirsar Lake. The museum has a large collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, various archaeological objects, arms and specimens of various crafts of the Kutch region.
The Cenotaphs Complex or Chattardi was built of red stones. These tombs were ruined by the successive earthquakes since 1819. The complex built for Rao Lakha in 1770, is one of the largest and finest complex. He is in the shape of a polygon with balconies and an intricately carved roof. Some other cenotaphs belongs to Rao Rayadhan, Rao Desai and Rao Pragmal. These cenotaphs served as memorial grounds for the royal family.
Kera is mainly known due to the 10th century old temple of Lord Shiva. This temple was damaged in the earthquake of 1819. In its original form this temple must be very beautiful as it can be seen from the remains of this temple.
Prag Mahal was constructed by Rao Pragmalji II (1838-76 AD). Rao Pragmalji appointed a famous architect, Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins to design Prag Mahal, who had earlier designed Deccan College, Sasoon Hospital, Ohel David Synagogue. Prag Mahal took about 10 years to get built at the cost of 20 lakh rupees.
Aina Mahal Palace
Aina Mahal Palace was built by Rao Lakhpatji in 1750 AD as a part of a large palace complex. It is a two storey building with Darbar Hall, hall of mirrors, and suites for royal family. In the 18th century, the Rao Lakhpatji sent a local craftsman Ramsingh Malam to Europe to perfect his skills in glassmaking, enamelling, tile making and iron founding.
After he returned back, he constructed the Aina Mahal with the hall of mirrors of Venetian glass. The Hall of mirror has white marble walls which are covered with mirrors and gilded ornaments and the floor is lined with tiles. The design and decoration of the Aina Mahal was due to the efficiency of Ramsingh Malam.
The platform above the floor is surrounded by a series of fountains operated by an elaborated system of pumps below a Venetian chandelier. Aina Mahal is a unique example of an Indian palace built in the mid-eighteenth century with European influence.
Lakhpat is located northwest of Bhuj at a distance of 170 km. This place can only be reached by road. Earlier Lakhpat was a prosperous port which yield one lac koris, (Lac means 1 lakh and kori was a Kutch monetary unit) and hence named as Lakhpat. This town was also the home to hundreds of families involved in fishing and manual labour but now it is an abandoned town. Since after the Indus river changed its course, the port dried up.
Almost 50 years ago, the town was home to hundreds of families involved in fishing and manual labour but now it is an abandoned town. The tomb is made of black stone, with four arched doors and its outer walls are decorated with floral motifs. The inside walls are engraved with passages from the holy Koran.
It also has a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) and a number of temples. It is not only the architecture but the stark loneliness and a vast view of deserted, crumbling houses which make Lakhpat a rare spectacle. Now, this place is only a barren plain of limestone rock. It also has a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) and various temples.
Bhadreshwar, about 36 kms. west along the coast from Gandhidham was important as an ancient seaport and has a temple and two mosques. The Jain Temple is attractive where the main building is surrounded by the small shrines which together reproduce the shape and form of the temple itself.
The archway leading into the enclosure, added in the mid 12th century shows Islamic influence. The Solah Khambi Masjid is the famous and one of the important mosque. This mosque is the only known Islamic structure that existed before the Muslim conquest. All its original features are intact.
General Information about Bhavnagar
Bhavnagar lies in the southeast corner of the Kathiawar peninsula in the Saurashtra plains, was founded in 1723 AD near the Gulf of Khambhat, on a carefully chosen strategic location having potential of maritime trade. Earlier, town was a flourishing port but today, various activities related to the sea takes place at the Ghogha and Alang port.
Bhavnagar grew into one of the 15th richest princely states in India during the early 20th century. Today, the city of Bhavnagar is the home of several lakes and temples. This city is also associated with the Mahatma Gandhi, who went to the university. Bhavnagar is a busy industrial centre that makes a useful base for journeys to nearby Jain temples at Palitana and the Velavadar National Park.
History of Bhavnagar
Bhavnagar was founded by Bhav Singh ji Gohil in 1723 AD near the Gulf of Khambhat. Till independence, was ruled by the Gohil Rajput clan. The Gohil Rajputs came to Gujarat from Marwar in 1260 AD and Sejakpur, Umrala and Sihor were their three capitals. Originally, Bhavnagar was the capital of a state of the same name and ruled by the Suryavanshi Rajputs from Marwar.
The rulers of Bhavnagar also shifted their residence to Motibag and Nilambag Palace. For almost two centuries, the city remained a major port and established trade with Africa, Mozambique, Singapore and the Persian Gulf. Bhavnagar has long been an important cotton trading post, but now supplement its survival on diamonds, plastics and ship parts.
Bhavnagar lock gate keeps ships afloat in the port at low tide. The trade resulted in the high rate of urbanization, surplus wealth and cosmopolitan culture of the town. The tangled bazaars and crumbling wooden houses of the old city feel remarkably untouched by the outside world. The present state owes much to the vision of the past ruler Sir Takhtsinhji Gohil (1869-96 AD).
During the rule of Takhtsinhji, the Barton Library, High Court, Alfred High School and Sir Takhtsinhji Hospital were constructed.
How to reach Bhavnagar
Regular flights are available for Bhavnagar from Mumbai.
The nearest railway station is located on the Ahmedabad – Bhavnagar railway line.
Bhavnagar is located about 200 kms from Ahmedabad and 178 kms from Rajkot.
Tourist Attractions in Bhavnagar
The Takhteshwar Temple is a historic temple, located on a small hill. This temple provides good views of the city and the Gulf of Cambay.
Gaurishankar Lake is a very popular place for the evening stroll, picnic and bird watching. Ducks, geese, pelicans, cranes and other wading birds can be seen on the banks of this lake. On the banks of the lake, the Bhav Vilas Palace is located which is owned by a relative of the family.
Barton Museum & Gandhi Smriti
Gandhi Smriti and Barton museum belongs to the 1895 AD. This museum has a fine collection of farming tools, beadwork, wood carvings, religious carvings, weapons, musical instruments, betel nut cutters, coins, stamps, sculpture, skeletons and various folk arts objects which represent the culture of the Saurashtra region.
This memorial also houses photographs and some of the items related to Mahatma Gandhi which reminds of the Mahatma Gandhi as a student of Bhavnagar university. This museum also has a library that consists of the books and photographs of Mahatma Gandhi.
Barton Library is a beautiful two storey building, appropriately designed for a road junction. It has two wings and a central tower, constructed in ashlar stone masonry, with Gothic arch windows and a sloping roof with Mangalore tiles. This library is one of the oldest libraries of Gujarat and also houses a museum.
Nilambagh Palace is a heritage hotel in Bhavnagar. This palace was designed by a German architect, as a royal residence for the erstwhile Maharajas in 1859 AD which was later converted into a heritage hotel. This palace is a magnificent building that is set amidst huge estate of 10 acres. It combines elements of Indian architecture with a modern outlook.
Gangajalia temple is dedicated to Ganga Devi. This temple is built in white marble located in the middle of a former tank. This temple has a chhatri, pavilion and bridge, built of white marble. It was designed by Sir John Griffith, principal or Sir J J School of Arts, Bombay.
Takhat Singhji Hospital
Takhat Singhji Hospital was designed in 1979-83 by Sir William Emmerson, the architect of Victoria Memorial and Crawford Market.
Earlier Victoria park was the famous game reserve. Various interesting wildlife animals and birds are still found in this park. Antelope, jackal, blue bull, hare and hyena are the various animals which are found in this place. The marshes in the park also attracts many ducks and birds.
Alang is situated on the coast between Bhavnagar and Talaja. Alang is the India’s largest ship breaking site, where supertankers, container ships, warships and other vessels are dismantled by hand by 20000 workers day and night. A huge ship takes around two to three months to pull apart.
In 2002, Greenspce visited the yard posing as buyers, gathering material and photographs to support its protests against the dangerous conditions for workers at the yard and the toxic waste produced through ship breaking. Their actions have had some success. In February 2006, French President Jacques Chirac was forced to recall an asbestos-laden French ship to Europe.
These protests have made it more difficult for foreign tourists to visit the yard, but authorities can be lax. A few kilometres along the road approaching the shipyard is a fascinating curious collection of junk shops selling things pulled off the ships.
Velavadar National Park
This is one of the best national park in India to view the blackbuck. Also known as the Blackbuck National Park, was established in the year 1976 in the Bhal region of Saurashtra at Velavadar. This national park is situated about 72 kms from the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, covers an area of 36 square km and comprises of grasslands and scrubby plains.
This park was primarily a “vidi” (grassland) of the Maharaja of the princely state of Bhavnagar. It is surrounded by wastelands and agriculture fields in the northern side. The National park has been classified as 4B Gujarat-Rajwada biotic province of semi-arid bio-geographical zone.
Wildlife attractions in the Velavadar National Park
The Velavadar National park is known for the successful conservation of the blackbuck, wolf and the lesser Florican. Earlier, the blackbucks and the Lesser Floricans were found only in the open plains throughout the country, but now they are found only in the Velavadar National Park. The blackbuck is the most graceful and beautiful Indian animal.
Besides these animals, the Park also provides a suitable habitat to the endangered Indian wolf, Jackal, Indian fox, Jungle cat, Blue bull antelope, Wild pigs, Hares and Rodents. This park also attracts various migratory birds like the sandgrouse and larks during the winter. Velavadar National Park is also an excellent place to see a large number of harriers roosts and other birds.
Best time to visit
Although the Velavadar National Park is open throughout the year, but the period between October to mid-June is considered to be the best time to visit the park. Evening is the best time to view these animals.
How to reach
The nearest airport is located at Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad. Bhavnagar is located at a distance of 72 km.
The nearest railway station are located at Ahmedabad and Dhola, which is about 52 km away.
The Velavadar National Park is easily connected with various cities in Gujarat.
General Information about Ahmedabad
Population: 3.5 million
Area: 104 square kms.
Altitude: 53 m.
Languages: Gujarati, Hindi, English
Best season: October to March
Ahmedabad, also known as Amdavad is the second largest city of west India and the largest city in Gujarat, was the former state capital of Gujarat. Ahmed Shah I founded this city on the banks of the Sabarmati river in 1411. Ahmedabad is also known for its association with the Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation and is one of the India’s foremost industrial centres.
It is a place where tradition and modernity co-exist in perfect harmony. Sir Thomas Roe also described Ahmedabad as a “goodly city as large as London”. In summers the temperature is around 41 degree Celsius and in winters it is around 12 degree Celsius. The best season to visit the Ahmedabad is from October to March. Gujarati, Hindi and English are the common languages which are spoken in Ahmedabad.
History of Ahmedabad
The city was originally the Karnavati that was founded on the left banks of the Sabarmati river by Karna Solanki between 1063 and 1093 AD. It was re-established by the Ahmed Shah I in 1411 AD on the banks of the Sabarmati river. This city was considered as one of the finest cities of India in the 17th century. But in the 18th century this city went through a period of decline.
In the 19th century the industrial strength raised up the city. Ahmedabad’s cotton industry received patronage under its Sultans. The first mill was established by Rancholal Chotalal in 1859, and today there are 80 mills in Ahmedabad. In 1915, Ahmedabad became famous due to the Dandi March started by the Mahatma Gandhi.
Shopping in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad has a long tradition in craftsmanship. Under Gujarati Sultans and Mughal Viceroys it was one of the most brilliant Indian cities. Its jewellers and goldsmiths are renowned, copper and brassworkers produce very fine screens and pandans (betel boxes). The carpenter produce fine shisham wood articles. There are also skilled stonemasons, producers of lacquer boxes, ivory carvers and hand block printers using vegetable dyes and embroiderers producing exquisite pieces with beads and mirrors.
These complement the modern industries such as pharmaceuticals and textiles. Tie-and-die fabrics, khari work with gold and silver thread embossing, printed textiles, gold and silver thread embroidery, Patola silk saris, Sankheda lacquered furniture, mirror-work embroidered skirts and blouse material, bead-work, handicrafts, woodwork, brass articles, appliquéd work and silver jewellery are some of the major items of Ahmedabad.
Festivals in Ahmedabad
Makar Sankranti and Navaratri are the two major festivals which are celebrated in Ahmedabad. Makar Sankranti festival is celebrated in the mid of January and marks the end of the winter season and the starting of the northern journey of the sun. It is celebrated with kite flying, accompanied by colourful street markets and festivities.
People of all ages join in, preparing in detail for the event. Navaratri festival is celebrated in the month of September – October and has a special significance in the city which prepares for it for weeks and celebrates it for 9 days with a great deal of music and dancing, mainly the Garba Ras dance.
How to reach Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad is connected by air with Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Aurangabad, Hyderbad, Patna, Srinagar, Vadodara and Bangalore. Some airlines also operates flight between Ahmedabad, London and New York via Mumbai.
Ahmedabad is directly connected with Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Agra, Bhopal, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Porbandar.
Ahmedabad is connected by road with all the major cities in India.
Gandhi Ashram, also known as the Sabarmati ashram is located on the banks of the Sabarmati River, about 7 kms north of Ahmedabad. This ashram is one of the important tourist attraction and the beautiful ashram complex of Ahmedabad. This Ashram was set up by the Mahatma Gandhi in 1915 and one of the most moving memorial.
This ashram was the Mahatma Gandhi’s headquarters during the struggle for India’s independence. His ashram still makes handicraft, handmade paper and spinning wheels. His living quarter is still preserved as a small museum and there is a library and a memorial centre.
Sidi Bashir Mosque
Sidi Bashir Mosque is known for its two shaking minarets, one of an architectural wonder. These two tall towers are connected by a bridge which was once the entrance to the old mosque. This was destroyed by the Marathas in 1753 and has now been replaced by a modern one. When one minaret is shaken, the others also get shake in sympathy. This was done so due to the protection against earthquakes.
These two shaking minarets lost half their height in the great earthquake of 1819, and in 1957 these minarets were completely destroyed. 260 columns support the roof of the mosque. Hathee Singh Jain Temple Hathee Singh Jain Temple is located just outside the Delhi Gate in the north of the old city.
Jain temple was built in 1850 by a rich Jain merchant and is one of the Ahmedabad’s best ornated Jain temple. This temple is dedicated to Dharamanath, the 15th Jain Tirthankar. The temple is built of pure white marble and profusely decorated with rich carvings.
Sidi Saiyad Mosque
Sidi Saiyad mosque was built by Sidi Saiyad, a general of Abysinian origin in the 1573. This mosque is located close to he river and was once part of the old citadel wall. This is one of the Ahmedabad’s most stunning building and best known for its intricate perforated stone work and has beautiful carved stone windows which depict the intricate intervening of the branches of the kalpa tree.
Calico Museum of Textiles
Today, the Calico Museum of Textiles is widely regarded as one of the finest textiles museums in the world. This museum was started in Calico Textile Mill. The museum is housed inside one of Gujarat’s famous carved wooden haveli in Shahi Bagh Gardens. This museum was inaugurated by Pandit Nehru in 1948, and is now managed by the Sarabhai foundation.
Calico Museum of Textiles has excellent collection of antique and modern textiles including heavy brocades, fine embroideries, sarees, carpets, turbans, rare tapestries, wall hangings, Maharaja’s costumes, old weaving machines and royal Mughal tents. It also houses an excellent collection of Jain manuscripts.
Kankaria Lake is located in the south-east of Ahmedabad. This lake is a polygonal artificial lake which has 34 sides and was constructed in 1451 by the Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak. In the centre of the lake an island summer palace is situated which is known as Nagina Wadi.
This lake was frequently visited by the Mughal emperor Jahangir and his empress Noor Jahan. Now, this lake is a popular picnic spot and is surrounded by a children park, zoo, boat club, garden and natural history museum. The Ghattamendal pavilion in the center houses an aquarium.
Jama Masjid was built in 1423 by Ahmed Shah and described as one of the most beautiful mosque in India. This mosque is believed to have been built by using the salvaged items from the demolished Hindu and Jain temples.
This mosque is built of yellow sandstone and combines the best of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. Inside the mosque the large black slab by the main arch is the base of a Jain idol, that is buried upside down for the Muslims to tread on.
Immediately to the west of the entrance to Ahmed Shah’s mosque is the triumphal archway known as Tin Darwaza or Triple Gateway, which once led to the outer court of the royal citadel. At a later period it was surrounded by the tamarind and palm trees, but is now crowded by shops, considerably diminishing its effect.
Although it is on a comparatively small scale, being only 12 m high, Percy Brown compares it to a Roman triple archways built by Constantine in the 4th century. He particularly draws attention to the fineness of the pointed arches, the best in India.
Ahmed Shah’s Mosque
The Ahmed Shah’s Mosque is situated southwest of the Bhadra Fort and dating from 1414. The Ahmed Shah’s Mosque was once of the city’s earliest mosques. It has an elaborately carved ceiling with a circular symmetry reminding of the Hindu and Jain temples and beautiful pillars and jalis.
Tomb of Ahmed Shah
The tomb of Ahmed Shah was constructed after his death in 1442 by his son Muhammad Shah in the square Ahmed Shah had designed for the purpose.
This tomb stands outside the Jama Masjid’s east gate and includes the cenotaphs of his son and grandson. The central tomb is square with porticos on each side, a central dome, a coloured marble floor and stone jali screens. Women are allowed to go into the central chamber. Across the street is his queen’s tomb, now a market and in poor shape. There are eight large marble tombs and some smaller tombs on a platform inside a rectangular courtyard surrounded by a cloister.
Rani Sipri’s Mosque
The Rani Sipri’s Mosque is situated to the southeast of the centre of the Ahmedabad city. This small mosque is also known as the Masjid-e-Nagira or Jewel of the Mosque due to its graceful construction, with slender minarets-again a blend of styles. It is said to have been commissioned in 1514 by the Rani Asni, wife of Sultan Mahmud Begara. She is also buried here. The square tomb with jali screens stands in front of the mosque.
Rani Rupmati’s Mosque
Rani Rupmati’s Mosque is situated to the south of the Delhi Gate. This mosque was built between 1430 and 1440 and was named after the Hindu wife of the Sultan. This mosque incorporates Hindu and Islamic design. Rani Rupmati was the princess of Dhar and the Hindu wife of Sultan.
It has a high central arch and two minarets which were damaged in the great earthquake of 1819. The roof carries three domes, each above an entrance. The carvings in the gallery and the mihrabs are particularly attractive. The dome is elevated to allow light in around its base. The Rani Rupmati’s tomb lies to the north-east. The tombs are decorated with Hindu motifs.
Swaminarayan Temple is situated in the old Ahmedabad city. This glorious, multicoloured, woodcarved temple looks like a grand haveli dating from 1850, enclosed in a large courtyard.
Excursions from Ahmedabad
Sarkhej Sarkhej is situated about 8 kms. southwest of the city centre and a suburb of Ahmedabad. Sarkhej was once a country retreat of the Muslim rulers. It is known for its Rauza, the fine architectural complex of mosques, palaces, pavilions and tombs, all grouped around a stepped tank.
The style shows distinct Hindu influence. By the entrance is the tomb of Sultan Mahmud Begadaa, with geometric jalis casting patterns of light on the floor.
Shaikh Ahmed Khattu lived at Sarkhej and built this mosque with a great open space in front of the prayer hall, surrounded by the domes. The Dutch established an indigo factory nearby.
Vishala is situated about 5 kms. from Ahmedabad. It is purposefully built showpiece of a collection of huts along clay paths which capture the spirit of a traditional Gujarati village. It began as an excellent vegetarian restaurant in 1978 but has grown since to include a museum, live performances of music, dance and puppet shows as well as craftsman at work and an excellent shop.
Pots, handloom linens, hand crafted shoes, clothes, brassware or embroidery from Vishala. Here you can sit cross-legged at low tables, eat on green leaves and drink from clay tumblers. The portions are generous and there is a large variety of traditional dishes, breads, chutneys, ending with an Indian sweet and nutty ice-cream.
The Utensils Museum has an exceptional collection of rare brass and copper utensils, water pots, old betel nut boxes and containers used for temple rituals.
Adalaj is situated about 17 kms. north of Ahmedabad. The baoli or step-well at Adalaj Vav is one of the finest step well in India. Queen Rudabai built this well in 1499 to provide the traveller with a cool and pleasant refuge from the summer heat. A long flight of steps descends to the water.
It has three entrances leading to a huge platform that rests on 16 pillars, with corners marked by shrines. Ornately carved pillars and cross beams create open spaces and four storey that are quite striking. The octagonal well is five storey deep. The baoli is decorated with exquisite stone carvings, subjects range from eroticism to buttermilk.
Dada Hari Vav
Dada Hari Vav was built in 1499 by a woman of Sultan Begara’s harem. This wav has steps to lower platforms, terminating at a small, octagonal well. The depths are cool, even on a hottest day. Neglected and often borne dry, it is a fascinating place. The best time to visit and photograph the well is between 10 to 11 AM (earlier in the summers and later in the winters), at other times the sun does not penetrate to the various levels.
Mata Bhavani’s Well
Mata Bhavani’s Well is about 200 kms. north of Dada Hari Vav. Thought to be several hundred years older, it is less ornate and used as a simple Hindu temple.
Gujarat Science City
The Gujarat Science City is an educational theme park situated on the road to Gandhinagar. The features of this science city are an IMAX theatre, the interactive Hall of Science, a 30 seater Thrill Ride Simulator, a spot lit Musical fountain and an Energy Education Park.
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is situated about 60 kms. south west of Ahmedabad. Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is the famous bird sanctuary in Gujarat. The Nalsarovar lake is a seasonal lake spread over an area of 115 square km. This extensive lake is surrounded by the iron flat plains and is known for its water birds.
About thousand species of birds like flamingoes and other water birds migrate in the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary during winter. Various variety of birds like kingfishers, egrets, darters, storks, cormorants, jacanas, moorhens, coots, grebes and ducks can be seen in this sanctuary. The best time to visit this sanctuary is in the months of December and January
Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh guru, was born in 1469 in Talwandi. His father was Mehta Kalu and his mother was Mata Tripta. His older sister was Bibi Nanaki. From birth, Guru Ji was seen as a special figure and was God himself in a human form. As the founder of a new religion, Guru Nanak set down strong foundations for his successors and his followers.
One of the most important beliefs of Sikhism that Guru Nanak Dev Ji set down is that it’s necessary to help the needy and the poor. Guru Ji was always ready to help the poor and he served food to them. In fact, Guru Ji often invited the needy and the poor into his house. Another example of Guru Ji helping the poor and the needy occurred while he was a storekeeper. Guru Nanak Dev Ji used to spend a large part of his wages in order to feed the poor and the hungry.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji also taught us that there is one God and he is the Truth and Ultimate Reality. To emphasize this point, Guru Ji said, “There is neither Hindu nor Muslim.” In God’s eyes, the labels of Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, etc. don’t mean anything. Guru Ji also taught that God has created the universe and he is everywhere. In order to spread these messages, Guru Nanak Dev Ji took four long journeys. On these journeys, Guru Ji got many followers and was able to relate his message to many people.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught us that all human beings regardless of skin color, wealth, caste, and gender are created equal. When Guru Ji left this world at the age of 70, in 1539, he had laid down the foundations for a great religion.
Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504-1552)
Guru Angad Dev Ji was the second Sikh Guru. Like Guru Nanak Dev Ji, he was God in the form of a human. Guru Ji was born in 1504 at Harike, which is located in the Ferozepur district. His father was Bhai Pheru and his mother was Mata Daya Kaur.
When Guru Angad Dev Ji was born, he was a follower of the Hindu goddess Durga and he paid yearly tributes. At this time, his name was Bhai Lehna. On one of his trips to pay tribute, he stopped at Kartarpur, where he met Guru Nanak Dev Ji. After many years of service, Guru Nanak Dev Ji deemed Bhai Lehna to be the best person to carry out his mission. In 1539, Bhai Lehna became Guru Angad Dev Ji.
One of the most important contributions by Guru Angad Dev Ji was his new script for Punjabi. This new script was called Gurmukhi. Gurmukhi was at first used for the Guru’s writings only in order to make these scripture available for the common people. Guru Ji himself taught Punjabi to his followers.
Guru Angad Dev Ji made major contributions to Sikhism. Without him, Sikhs might not have Gurmukhi today. Guru Ji went to his heavenly abode in 1552 at the age of 48 years.
Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574)
Guru Amar Das Ji was the third Sikh Guru and like his predecessors he was God in the form of a human. Guru Ji was born in 1479 at Basarke, which is in Amritsar district. His father was Bhai Tej Bhan and his mother was Mata Lakhmi. At birth, Guru Ji’s name was Sri Amardas.
Guru Amar Das Ji was born a Hindu and he became a Sikh after hearing some of Guru Nanak’s hymns recited by Bibi Amro. Bibi Amro was the wife of Guru Amar Das Ji’s nephew and Guru Angad Dev Ji’s daughter. Upon meeting with Guru Angad Dev Ji, Sri Amardas became a Sikh and did daily service for him. After years of devotion to Guru Angad Dev Ji, Sri Amardas was named Guru Amar Das Ji in 1522.
Guru Amar Das Ji believed in the equality of all humans. When people of lower classes were having difficulty getting water, Guru Ji had a well dug at Goindwal. The water of this well could be drawn by people of all castes and classes.
The Guru Ji also ordered anyone who wished to see him, regardless of status, must first sit with commoners and share the same food in Langar. This belief couldn’t have been shown any stronger than when Akbar came and sat in Langar before meeting Guru Ji.
Guru Amar Das Ji did a lot for the Sikh cause. Although Langar was around before, Guru Ji formalized its rules. Guru Amar Das Ji also sent many missionaries around to spread the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Guru Amar Das Ji left this world in 1574 at the age of 95 years.
Guru Ram Das Ji (1534-1581)
Guru Ram Das Ji was the fourth Sikh Guru and was God in the form of a human. He was born at Lahore in 1534. The Guru’s name at birth was Sri Jetha. His father was Bhai Hardas and his mother was Mata Daya Kaur.
Sri Jetha was a very pious man and he gained the favor of Guru Amar Das Ji. Guru Amar Das Ji decided to marry his younger daughter, Bibi Bhani, to Sri Jetha. After many years of service to Guru Amar Das Ji, Sri Jetha became Guru Ram Das Ji in 1574.
Guru Ram Das Ji’s major accomplishment during his seven year Guruship was to make the present-day city of Amritsar, which means Pool of Nectar. Inside the city, Guru Ji authorized the building of the sacred Pool of Immortality, or Amritsar Sarovar (Tank).
Traders, businessmen, and craftsmen were encouraged to settle in Amritsar. The city soon became a big trading post and a religious center for the Sikhs. Another of Guru Ji’s contributions was the Lawan, a four-part hymn that is recited at the Anand Karaj, the Sikh wedding ceremony.
Guru Ram Das Ji’s building of Amritsar was a major contribution to Sikhism. To this day, Amritsar is the most important city in Sikhism, and it is the location of the holiest temple in Sikhism. The Lawan helped to formalize Sikh marriages. Guru Ram Das Ji left for his heavenly abode in 1581 and at the age of 47 years.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606)
Guru Arjan Dev Ji was the fifth Guru of the Sikhs and he was also God in the form of a human. He was born at Amritsar in 1563. His father was Guru Ram Das Ji and his mother was Mata Bhani. At birth, his name was Bhai Arjan Dev.
Bhai Arjan Dev was instructed by Guru Ram Das Ji to go to Lahore and stay there until he was called. After two years, Bhai Arjan Dev sent a letter to his father, but Guru Ram Das Ji never received it. Soon Bhai Arjan Dev sent another one and it was received by Guru Ram Das Ji. Upon reading the letter, Guru Ram Das Ji sent for Bhai Arjan Dev. In 1581, Bhai Arjan Dev became Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji made many religious contributions to the Sikh cause. Out of all the Gurus, he wrote the most hymns. His most famous composition is the Sukhmani Sahib path, or the Peace Hymns. Guru Ji collected all the hymns of his predecessors along with some Hindu and Muslim hymns and compiled the Adi Granth, which is called Guru Granth Sahib Ji today.
Guru Ji built the Harmandar Sahib, or the House of God in the middle of the Amritsar Sarovar. Today, many people call the Harmandar Sahib the Golden Temple because it is plated with gold. Guru Ji also made contributions that were for the good of everyone. This is because Guru Ji opened a lepers home at Tarn Taran.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji made contributions to Sikhism till the day he left this world. Guru Ji was martyred by being tortured for five straight days upon the orders of Emperor Jahangir because of his beliefs and teachings. In this way, Guru Arjan Dev Ji became the first Sikh martyr and thus led the Sikhs to become saint-soldiers instead of just saints. Guru Arjan left this world in 1606 at the age of 43.
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (1595-1644)
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was the sixth Guru of the Sikhs and like all the others, he was God in the form of a human. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was at Amritsar in 1595. His father was Guru Arjan Dev Ji and his mother was Mata Ganga. At birth his name was Bhai Hargobind.
Bhai Hargobind was Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s only son, and therefore seemed to be a likely candidate to ascend to the Guruship. This was partially due to the fact the ‘Gur Gaddi’, or Guru’s seat, had stayed in the family lately. Once again, it did. Bhai Hargobind became Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji in 1606, a few days before Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred.
At the enthronement ceremony, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji asked for two swords. One of the swords was called Miri and it was the mark of being the leader and guide of the Sikhs in worldly matters. The other sword was called Piri and it was the mark of being the leader and guide of the Sikhs in religious matters.
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji contributed many things to the Sikh cause. He was the first Guru who emphasized that Sikhs be Saint-Soldiers in order to protect the downtrodden. For this purpose, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji trained his followers in military ways.
These steps caused the Emperor to get jealous and he had Guru Ji imprisoned. However, the Guru was released because the Emperor started to get sick. When the Guru was released, he also had 52 imprisoned rulers released with him. Due to this, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji became to be known as Bandi Chhor, or the liberator.
Even though Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji put a emphasis on Sikhs being Saint-Soldiers, his first priority was that Sikhs should be saints and always remember God. After having spread the message of Guru Nanak Dev Ji as well as having fought many battles against the Mughal forces, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji went to his heavenly abode in 1644 at the age of 49.
Guru Har Rai Ji (1630-1661)
Guru Har Rai Ji was the seventh Guru of the Sikhs and he was God in the form of a human. Guru Har Rai Ji was born at Kiratpur in 1630. His father was Baba Gurditta and his mother was Mata Nihal Kaur. At birth his name was Bhai Har Rai.
The recent tradition of the Guru’s son becoming the next Guru changed a little bit in the case of Bhai Har Rai. However, Bhai Har Rai was from Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji’s family. In fact, Baba Gurditta, Bhai Har Rai’s father, was the oldest son of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Bhai Har Rai became Guru Har Rai Ji in 1644.
Guru Har Rai Ji was one of the most gentle and kind-hearted Gurus. He made a few contributions to Sikhs as well as the general public. His most important contribution was the creation of a hospital where medicines and treatment were free for everyone.
At this time, this was very rare because it was hard to find true medicines and most of them were really expensive. Guru Ji’s hospital became very famous and the Emperor’s son received medicine from it.
Guru Har Rai Ji was both a strong and kind Guru. He was the commander of a very strong army but he used it minimally. This is due to the fact that Guru Ji wanted to help people instead of hurt them. Guru Har Rai Ji left this world in 1661 at the age of 31.
Guru Har Krishan Ji (1656-1664)
Guru Har Krishan Ji was the eighth Guru of the Sikhs and like his predecessors was God in the form of a human. Guru Ji was born at Kiratpur in 1656. His father was Guru Har Rai Ji and his mother was Mata Kishan Kaur. Guru Har Krishan’s name at birth was Bhai Har Krishan.
Guru Har Krishan Ji was the second of two sons for Guru Har Rai Ji. His older brother was Sri Ram Rai but he fell out of his father’s favor when he joined Aurangzeb’s court. These were the circumstances under which Bhai Har Krishan became Guru Har Krishan Ji in 1661.
Guru Har Krishan Ji helped many people at a time when a deadly Smallpox epidemic was raging through Delhi. Guru Ji displayed great spiritual leadership and courage by going into Delhi and by being in contact with many ill people. Guru Ji served and healed many of the sick.
While Guru Har Krishan Ji was helping the sick, he himself contracted a severe Smallpox. This was partially because he was constantly near people who had the disease. Such was the way that Guru Ji went to his heavenly abode in 1664 at the age of 8.
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-1675)
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was the ninth Guru of the Sikhs and he was God in the form of a human. Guru Ji was born at Amritsar in 1621. His father was Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and his mother was Mata Nankee. At birth, his name was Bhai Teg Bahadur.
Bhai Teg Bahadur was a very pious man and the grand-uncle of Guru Har Krishan Ji. In Sikhism, many people just say that this relationship is like a grandfather. This is why Guru Har Krishan Ji, upon leaving for his heavenly abode, said “Baba Bakale.” This literally means “Grandfather in Bakale.” At this time, Bhai Teg Bahadur became Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji made major contributions to Sikhism. Guru Ji took traveled to many places in order to spread the message of Sikhism. During the Guru Ji’s time, Aurangzeb was forcefully converting Hindus into Islam. While Guru Ji was at Patna Sahib, some Hindu pundits from Kashmir came to him in order to get his advice.
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji said that it would be necessary for some spiritual leader to give up his life for the cause. At this time, Bhai Gobind Rai, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji’s son said that there could be no one better than Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.
Upon hearing these words, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji knew that Bhai Gobind Rai was ready to become the Guru and now he could sacrifice his life for the cause. Guru Ji was arrested by Aurangzeb’s forces along with three Sikhs. After torturing these Sikhs to death, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was given three choices:
Convert to Islam;
Perform a miracle;
Prepare to die.
Guru Ji choose to die instead of taking the other choices. In this way, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was martyred in 1675 at the age of 54.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708)
Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Guru of the Sikhs and like his predecessors was God in the form of a human. Guru Ji was born at Patna Sahib in 1666. His father was Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and his mother was Mata Gujri. At birth his name was Bhai Gobind Rai.
As a child, Bhai Gobind Rai had always been interested in war games. In fact, he would often teach his friends how to use particular weapons. At the age of 11, Bhai Gobind Rai told his father that he should sacrifice his own life for the Hindu cause.
With these words, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji knew that his son was ready for the Guruship and had him enthroned. It was at this time that Bhai Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Rai Ji.
The most important contribution of Guru Gobind Rai Ji to Sikhism was the formal baptism ceremony. On Vaisakhi day, March 30, 1699, Guru Gobind Rai Ji started forming the Khalsa by baptizing the ‘Panj Pyara’, or the five beloved ones. Then Guru Ji asked them to baptize him.
It was at this time that Guru Gobind Rai Ji became Guru Gobind Singh Ji. After baptizing hundreds of people, the Khalsa was ready. The Khalsa was a big step forward for the Sikhs. After being formed, the Khalsa fought many battles to defend themselves against mighty Mughal armies who were far superior in numbers and equipment. Another major contribution of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was compiling the Adi Granth, which included verses from the first five and the ninth Gurus.
After having fought many battles and having formed a Sikh brotherhood that would stand against anything, Guru Gobind Singh Ji knew that he had achieved his goal. With this in mind, Guru Ji declared that the Adi Granth would now be Guru Granth Sahib Ji. After doing this, Guru Gobind Singh left this world in 1708 at the age of 42 years.
Guru Granth Sahib Ji (1708-Present)
Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the Sikh Holy Scripture. The fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, collected all the sacred writings of the first five Gurus and also those of many saints whose views were in accord with the Sikh teachings. He compiled these into one large volume and named it the Adi Granth in 1604. Later on, Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji added the writings of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji and completed it in 1705. He declared that there would be no more Gurus in human form after him and that the Sikhs will recognize ‘Adi Granth’ as their Guru. Thus in 1708, the Adi Granth became Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Guru Granth Sahib Ji is written in the Gurmukhi script. Guru Granth Sahib Ji is exactly 1430 pages of hymns. However, many people call the pages ‘Angs’, or body parts, because they believe that Guru Granth Sahib Ji is human. The hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji have been laid out in a very musical and well planned manner devised by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. The hymns have been arranged according to the ‘Raga’, or melody, in which they are meant to be sung.
Guru Granth Sahib begins with the ‘Mool Mantra’ which contains Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s description of God. The hymns from Guru Granth Sahib Ji contain the philosophy of Sikhism and it is the central part the Sikh Culture. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji teaches us many things. These include:
Love of God and as well as mankind
Service to God and the community
Equality of man and woman
Respect and tolerance for other religions
Some more teachings from Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Sikhs have great devotion for Guru Granth Sahib. It is placed on a ‘Palki’, or decorated seat, which is kept on a ‘Takkat’, or a raised platform, at a prominent position in the Gurdwara hall. It is covered with ‘Ramalaas’, or a richly embroidered cloth called . Above Guru Granth Sahib Ji is a colorful ‘Chandni’, or canopy.
Every day Guru Granth Sahib Ji is installed and a hymn is read from a page opened at random. This is called the ‘Hukam’, or the order of the day. This whole process is called ‘Prakash’. The professional singers ‘Ragees’ sing ‘Keertan’, or hymns in praise of God.
A ‘Granthi’ performs all ceremonies and conducts prayers. During the singing of the hymns the Granthi sits behind Guru Granth Sahib Ji and occasionally waves a ‘Chaur’, or fan, over the Guru. The Chaur and Chandni are symbols of Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s authority. After the evening prayers the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously closed and taken to its ‘Sukh-Asan’, or place of rest.
A continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib Ji from beginning to end by a number of readers is called an ‘Akhand Path’ and it usually takes 48 hours to complete. It is done on special occasions like births, weddings, moving to new homes, and other special occasions.
There are many important values that are taught to the Sikhs in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Sikhism is by far the youngest religion in the world. However, surprisingly, it is the fifth largest in the number of followers. The followers of Sikhism call themselves Sikhs. The word Sikh means a disciple, and it is a good fit. Sikhs believe in one God and the teachings of the ten Gurus, which are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.
The Sikh religion is strictly monotheistic, believing in One Supreme God. The description given for God is Absolute yet all pervading, The eternal, The Creator, The cause of causes, Without enmity, Without hate, Both immanent in His creation and beyond it.
The basic postulate of Sikhism is that life is not sinful in its origin and thus God abides in it. The Sikhs do not recognize the caste system, nor do they believe in Idol – worship, rituals, or superstitions. Sikhism consists of practical living, rendering service to humanity, and engendering tolerance and brotherly love towards all.
The Sikh Gurus did not advocate retirement from the world in order to attain salvation. It can be achieved by any one who earns an honest living and leads a normal life.
There are many important aspects of the Sikh religion. Some of these are:
Sikhism – world’s 5th largest religion. 26 million followers worldwide. Over 500 years old. Originated in India bullet Sikhism is a distinct religion, having no links with Hinduism or Islam.
When the Sikh religion was founded, it had 10 Gurus to lead it. The word Guru means “A teacher and guide in spiritual and philosophical matters.” However, the Gurus were more than just that. The Gurus were the leaders of the Sikhs in religious matters, and in later times, they also became the leaders of the Sikhs in worldly matters.
In fact, the Gurus were God in the form of a human being. All the Gurus made their contributions and a new religion “Sikhism” was formed.
The ten Gurus are:
Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539)
Guru Angad Dev Ji (1504-1552)
Guru Amar Das Ji (1479-1574)
Guru Ram Das Ji (1534-1581)
Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563-1606)
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (1595-1644)
Guru Har Rai Ji (1630-1661)
Guru Har Krishan Ji (1656-1664)
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-1675)
Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708)
Guru Granth Sahib Ji (1708-Present)
More information about it.
Summary Chart of Sikh Gurus
Sikhs religion – Beliefs
The Sikh Gurus practiced what they preached for well over 200 years and the Sikh beliefs are born out of their examples and sacred writings. Due to this, Sikhs have a strong base when it comes to beliefs. Some of the major Sikh beliefs are:
God is the Creator of the Universe
God isn’t born and will never die
God is present everywhere
All human beings are equal
People of all religions and races are welcome in Sikh Gurdwaras
Women have equal status with men in religious services and ceremonies
Birth and Death
After a person dies, his soul is born again in another body, human or animal
One’s next life depends on his deeds in the past life
The human life is supreme and it is through this life that we can achieve oneness with God
Finding God takes us out of this life cycle
Sikhs are a peace loving people and stand for Truth and Justice
Guru Gobind Singh Ji said, “It is right to use force as a last resort when all other peaceful means fail.”
The four basic principles for living a good life and leaving the life cycle
Naam Japna or Simran (Meditation)
One of the basic principles for living a good life
Simran helps you get closer to God
Simran brings a peace of mind
Kirat Karni (Work)
The second basic principle for living a good life
Sikhs should only accept what they have earned by honesty and hard work
Sikhs shouldn’t take away what rightfully belongs to others
Guru Nanak Dev Ji said, “Taking away other’s right is as sinful as pork to a Muslim and beef to a Hindu.”
Wand Chakna (Charity Donations)
Sikhs should give to the poor and needy in the form of charity
Sikhs should share with others
Sewa (Service to Humanity and God)
Sewa is a major part of Sikhism and many people do it at the Gurdwara
A great example of Sewa is the story of Bhai Kanahya, who in a battle gave water to both Sikhs and Mughals
Bhai Kanahya was asked by Guru Gobind Singh Ji why he was doing it and Bhai Kanahya said, “I do not see a friend or foe, I only see your face everywhere.”
Bhai Kanahya was blessed and started the first Red Cross
Guru Gobind Singh Ji said, “Realize that the human race is one.”
Gurdwaras: Place of God
The word ‘Gurdwara’ means Guru’s home. It is the Sikh place of worship. Gurdwaras, or Sikh Temples, were built at important Sikh historical places in memory of events that had occurred there. It is not easy to name each and everyone. However, like all religions, Sikhism has some Gurdwaras that have more historical significance than others. Harmandir Sahib is the most famous and world known Gurdwara.
Gurdwaras have been built all over the world where there is a Sikh population. The first Gurdwara in north America was built in 1912 in Stockton. A Gurdwara not only serves as a place of worship and singing hymns but also serves as a center to promote Sikh culture and knowledge of Sikh history. Rooms are set aside in Gurdwara buildings for schools/libraries to promote the teaching of Punjabi, religious education, music etc.
The Gurdwara provides religious and community service. ‘Nishan Sahib’ (Sikh Flag) flies high on every Sikh Gurdwara. The Gurdwara building has a Congregation hall and a langar hall. They might be your neighbors but you never knew and you did not feel comfortable asking them. In most of the big cities there are Gurdwaras where they hold congregations on Sundays.
Harmandir Sahib is commonly called Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple. The Golden Temple name is given because it is covered in the gold plating. It is the most holy and chief shrine for the Sikhs. It was built by Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Amritsar. It is built in the middle of a square tank called Sarovar. It has four doors, one in each direction, indicating it is open to all. Golden Temple is known world wide. Visitors from all over the world visit this Gurdwara.
The Akal Takhat is the oldest and the first Takhat of the Sikhs. It is inside the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar. It was built by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. The Akal Takhat is the political center or in other words the highest seat of justice and worldly activity of the Sikhs.
Keshgarh Sahib is a very important Gurdwara at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. This is the place where Guru Gobind Singh Ji had started the Khalsa Order by creating Khalsa brotherhood on the Baisakhi of 1699 AD, explaining the Panj Pyaras and five K’s.
Damdama Sahib is located in Talwandi Sabo in Punjab. Guru Gobind Singh Ji stayed here for nearly a year and prepared the Guru Granth Sahib Ji by revising and recompiling scriptures and this revised version is the eternal Guru of the Sikhs.
Patna Sahib, also Known as Sri Harmander Sahib is a very important Gurdwara in Patna, Bihar. It is the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Hazoor sahib is a very important Gurdwara in the City of Nanded in Maharashtra. Guru Gobind Singh Ji went for his heavenly abode here. It was here that he passed the permanent Guruship to Guru Granth Sahib Ji before his heavenly abode.
The Baptism ceremony, or Amrit Sanskar, is a central part of Sikhism. Guru Gobind Singh Ji made it a requirement for the Sikhs. He clarified that Sikhs’ life is incomplete without baptism. Many people believe that it is necessary for one to meet God after their death. In fact, the Guru’s and many Sikh saints today put a lot of emphasis on taking Amrit. Due to these reasons, Amrit Sanskar has a lot to do with Sikh Culture. A Sikh is supposed to submit to God’s will after taking Amrit and he should serve the poor and the downtrodden. The Sikh is prohibited from the 4 things after taking Amrit:
Smoking, drinking and drugs
Sikhs religion Symbols – what do they signify
In the Sikh religion, there are quite a few symbols. However, only some of these symbols apply to all people. What I mean is that some of the major symbols of Sikhism only apply to those people that have been baptized. The major Sikh Symbols are:
The words Ek-Onkar have a firm place in Sikhism and it symbolizes a lot. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji opens with these words. Ek-Onkar means ‘There is one God.’ Many Gurdwaras and Sikh organizations use this symbol on letters and other documents. In fact, many Sikhs also use this symbol on their letters. This constant repetition of Ek-Onkar is done so that Sikhs are constantly reminded that there is only one God in the universe.
The Khanda, like Ek-Onkar is a very important symbol in Sikhism. The Khanda is commonly seen in Gurdwaras and on the Sikh flag. The Khanda symbolizes God’s Universal and Creative Power. In it’s center is a double edged sword, which symbolizes the primal and almighty power of the creator. The ‘Chakra’ or the circle is a symbol of the continuity. The two swords on the outside are symbols of the spiritual and political balance in the universe.
Kesh is one the ‘Panj Kakar’ or ‘Five Ks’ that people have after being baptized. However, Kesh, or uncut hair from everywhere on their body, is one of the two Ski’s that most people have, even if they aren’t baptized. Sikh males tie their hair into a ‘Joora’, or bun.
They cover this with a ‘Pag’, or turban. At a younger age, people cover their Joora with a ‘Patka’, a smaller turban. Most females either braid their hair or put it in a bun on the back of their head. There are some women who tie and cover their hair like the men do. A lot of emphasis is put on Kesh because it is the body in the natural way that it was created by God.
The Kangha is another of the Panj Kakar, and it primarily in the possession of people who have been baptized. It is a comb and used for the cleanliness of the hair. Sikhs are asked to clean their hair in the morning and at bed time.
The Kara is the third of the Panj Kakar and it is the other Kakar that most people where, regardless of the fact whether they are baptized or not. The Kara is an iron or steel bracelet that binds the Sikh, who is wearing it, to God. The Kara is used to remind the Sikh to do the right deeds. The Kara is usually worn in the predominant hand so that the Sikh can see the Kara whenever he does anything.
The Kachhera is yet another of the Panj Kakar and it’s worn by people who have been baptized. It ensures agility and freedom of movement. Kachhera is a form of boxer shorts that symbolize chastity and sexual restraint.
Nishan Sahib is the name for the Khalsa Flag. Saffron in color and of triangle shape it is a religious flag. It has a black Khanda in the middle. The flag post is also covered in saffron cloth and has a metallic Khanda at the top. Sighting of a Nishan Sahib gives the idea that there is a Gurdwara around.Read More
Sikh culture is composed of many different aspects. Like in all cultures, Sikh culture consists of many festivals and ceremonies. In fact, there are songs sung in religious practices also, but they are different from normal songs because they are hymns in praise of God.
99.9% of people with turbans in US are Sikhs.
Used to cover long, uncut hair and provides the distinct identity.
Approx. 15 feet of cloth wrapped neatly around the head every time it is put on
Symbolizes discipline, integrity, humility, and spirituality. Religious requirement – must be worn at all times in public
A turban is not a hat. It cannot be casually taken on and off. It must be carefully retied each time it is removed
Turbans are a mandatory part of Sikh faith, not a social custom
Sikhs feel humiliated if asked to remove their turban in public, as doing so exposes an intimate part of their body
Sikh Americans are easily identified by their colorful turbans and unshorn hair
More about Sikhs turbans.
Sikh festivals are occasions for Sikhs to rededicate themselves to the Faith. Even martyrdoms and death anniversaries of the Gurus are festivals to inspire the faithful and remind them of their history and the value of sacrifice for a good cause. People of various faiths are invited to these celebrations to give them a view of the Sikh faith and way of life.
Baisakhi is a New Year Festival in the Sikh calendar. Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji on this day by performing the Amrit ceremony in 1699. Traditionally, on this day which usually falls on 13th April, ‘Nishan Sahib’, the Sikh Flag, is replaced by a new one. A service in the open compound is held, led by ‘Panj Pyara’. The Flag post is taken down and ‘Chola’, the flag cloth, is removed and the flag post is cleaned and washed. It is covered with a new ‘Chola’ and re-hoisted. The ceremony is completed by an Ardas. The whole scene is very inspiring.
In common with other festivals, ‘Akhand Path’ (continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib for 48 hours) is arranged to 2 days earlier and ‘Bhog’ (completion ceremony) takes place on the morning of Baisakhi. This is followed by the singing of divine hymns. Later, learned preachers give talks on the importance of Baisakhi.
Amrit ceremony is performed at most places for those ready to take Amrit. Competitions are held in sports, martial arts, poetry and essay writing on the festival theme. In addition the Sikh men, women and children take part in ‘Sewa’ in Langar which stays open throughout the three days for the worshipers.
Diwali means the Festival of Lights. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali because Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on Diwali day after his release from Gwalior jail. He had also got 52 princes freed from prison. That is why this festival is very important for the residents of Amritsar. The Golden Tempe complex is illuminated and wonderful displays of fireworks are held. Priceless historic treasures and weapons used by the Gurus are put on display..
The Indian festival of lights held around October 25th. Guru Amar Das institutionalized this as one of the special days when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings at Goindwal. In 1577 the foundation stone of The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali.
On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior fort. Sikhs have continued this annual celebration with lamps being lit outside gurdwaras and sweets distributed to all. The largest gathering happens at The Golden Temple which is lit up with thousands of lights.
An annual festival of thousands held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singh’s carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding.
There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. The festival culminates in a large parade headed by the Nishan Sahibs of the gurdwaras in the region. Hola Mohalla is held around March 17.
There are special ceremonies for events like birth, initiation, marriage and death in a Sikh family. They are done to seek blessing from God and to renew the spirit of devotion and service. All Sikh ceremonies are held in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and include singing of hymns, Ardas, or a formal prayer suitable to the occasion, Hukamnama, or a random reading from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji that is the order of the day, and distribution of Karah Parshad, or sacred pudding made from flour, butter, sugar and water. Langar is provided for all the guests. Some of the major Sikh Ceremonies are:
After the birth of a child, the mother and the child, when in good health, go to the Gurdwara with their relatives and friends for the naming ceremony. The Granthi or a senior member of the congregation stirs water and sugar crystals in a bowl with a ‘Khanda’ placed in front of the Guru Granth Sahib while reading the ‘Mool Mantra’ and the first five verses of the ‘Japji Sahib’. A few drops of this holy water are then put into the child’s mouth and the remaining is given to the mother to drink.
Hymns are recited or sung to bless the child. Then ‘Ardas’ is recited and the ‘Hukam’ read. The child’s name is chosen to begin with the first letter of the ‘Hukam’. The title of Singh (lion) is given to the male and Kaur (princess) to the female child. For example if the first letter is ‘R’, the child may be named Ranjit Singh in case of a boy. or Ranjit Kaur in case of a girl. Karah Parshad is distributed to the congregation. The use of caste or surname in addition to one’s personal name is discouraged.
A very important and exciting event in the life of a Sikh boy comes when he starts tying the turban. Sometimes the family will have a special function to celebrate the occasion. It is called Dastar Bandi. He is seated in front of Guru Granth Sahib. An elder relation ties the turban on his head. The Granthi explains why he must keep long hair and wear a turban. Prayers are said to invoke Guru’s blessing on the boy.
Anand Karaj – Marriage Ceremony
The Sikh marriage is called ‘Anand Karaj’ which means the ceremony of joy. The Sikh wedding is held in the morning in a Gurdwara. The bridegroom dressed in fine clothes accompanied by his family and friends reaches the Gurdwara Sahib where the brides relatives and friends receive them. After the
Milni ceremony (close relatives of the couple garland each other in a spirit of goodwill) and refreshments, everyone enters the Gurdwara congregation hall where bride sits alongside the bridegroom facing the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. A short prayer is said and then the wedding ceremony begins and the Ragees sing the hymn of ‘Palla’ which is bridegroom’s scarf. The brides father gives the Palla into the hands of bride which is symbolic of giving away the bride.
This is followed by ‘Lavaan’, the wedding ceremony. It consists of four verses. The first verse is recited by the Granthi while the couple sits. Then the Ragees sing the same verse and the couple walk gracefully clockwise around the Guru Granth Sahib the bride following the bridegroom. Same way the other three verses are recited.
The six verses of ‘Anand Sahib’ (the hymns of joy) are then sung followed by the Ardas. Order of the day is read from Guru Granth Sahib Ji followed by the distribution of Karah Parshad. Lunch is provided by the brides family. Usually a reception is held later in the evening in a hall.
This is the sacred ceremony for the initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood. It should be taken only by those who are fully mature enough to realize the commitment required and the significance. The initiate may be a man or woman of any caste or previous religion. Generally they are encouraged to start behaving, acting and looking like a Sikh before seeking baptism.
The baptism is done in a quiet place away from distractions where Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been installed. The initiate is required to wash their hair, cover their head, wear clean clothes and the 5K’s before presenting themselves before 6 amritdhari Sikhs (those who are already baptized). Five amritdhari Sikhs will conduct the ceremony while one reads Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The principals of Sikhism are explained to the initiate and this is followed by Ardas and taking of the Hukam (opening of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to a random page and reading of a hymn). Amrit (sweet sugar water) is prepared in a steel bowl and stirred with a Kirpan by the five beloved ones while Japuji, Jaap, Ten Sawayyas, Bainti Chaupai and 6 verses from Anand Sahib are recited.
This is followed by Ardas and the initiate drinking the Amrit five times in cupped hands and exclaiming Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (The Pure Belong to God, Victory to God). Amrit is then sprinkled on the hair and eyes of the initiate and any leftover is drunk by all present. This is followed by an explanation of the code of conduct and discipline required for a Khalsa.
The Khalsa is required to wear the 5K’s and abstain from 1) cutting hair, 2) eating Muslim halal meat, 3) cohabiting with a person other than ones spouse and 4) using intoxicants such as tobacco. Other breaches of the code of conduct are also explained before Ardas is once again repeated. This is followed by taking Hukam and eating of Karah Parshad (sacred pudding) from a common bowl. If a person does not have a Sikh name, they take a new name at this time.
In Sikhism death is considered a natural process and God’s will. Any public displays of grief at the funeral such as wailing or crying out loud are discouraged. Cremation is the preferred method of disposal, although if it is not possible any other method such as burial or submergence at sea are acceptable.
Worship of the dead with gravestones, etc. is discouraged, because the body is considered to be only the shell, the person’s soul is their real essence. The body is usually bathed and clothed by family members and taken to the cremation grounds. There hymns are recited which induce feeling of detachment are recited by the congregation. As the body is being cremated, Kirtan Sohila the nighttime prayer is recited and Ardas is offered.
The ashes are disposed of by immersing them in the nearest river. A non continuos reading of the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken and timed to conclude on the tenth day. This may be undertaken at home or in the Gurdwara. The conclusion of this ceremony marks the end of the mourning period.
Important anniversaries associated with the lives of the Gurus are referred to as Gurpurbs. These are usually marked at gurdwaras with Akhand Path (continuos cover to cover reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) concluding on the specific day. There is also kirtan (musical recitation of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as well as katha (lectures on Sikhism).
Some places also have nagar kirtan, where there is a procession with Sri Guru Granth Sahib led by 5 Sikhs carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Free sweets and langar are also offered to the general public outside some gurdwaras.
Among the larger Gurpurb celebrations are:
Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Founder’s Day)
First installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Golden Temple by Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji
Birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji
Martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji
Martyrdom of the Sahibzadas
This is the time when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next, it is the start of the new month in the Indian calendar. The beginning of the new month is announced in the gurdwaras by the reading of portions of Bara Maha, Song of the 12 Months, by Guru Arjan Dev (pg. 133) or sometimes Bara Maha by Guru Nanak Dev (pg. 1107).
This day just marks the beginning of the new month and is not treated as being greater or better than any other day.
Q: What are Sikh turbans made of?
A: Sikh Turbans are made of semitransparent cotton fabric.
Q: How long are Sikh turbans?
A: Sikhs wear turbans of varying length, but most are generally between 15 to 20 feet. However, the turbans are very light and do not weigh much.
Q: How is a turban tied?
A: Adults usually wrap the length of the turban around the head five-to-six times in a clockwise direction and then tuck in the ends.
Q: Does the color of a turban mean anything?
A: No, Sikhs generally wear turbans which match their clothes because it is part of their dress.
Q: Do Sikh children also wear turbans?
A: Generally no. Sikh children wear a small piece of cloth, like a bandana, on their head called a “Patka”. However, some children wear turbans also.
Q: Do Sikhs sleep in their turbans?
A: Since a turban is part of their dress, Sikhs wear it when they go out of the house. When they reach home, they may or may not wear a turban and they generally sleep without a turban at nighttime. However, some Sikhs sleep with a small piece of cloth, or Patka, on their head.
Q: When do Sikh children start wearing turbans?
A: There is no set rule but generally when they are in their late teens and start getting a beard.
Q: Do Sikhs wear turbans when playing sports or swimming?
A: Usually not as Sikhs prefer to wear a “Patka” when they play sports or swim.
Q: How long does it take to tie a turban?
A: About 5 minutes.
Q: Is a turban a kind of hat?
A: No, unlike a hat – a turban cannot be casually put on or taken off. It has to be retied, one turn at a time, each time it is taken off.
Q: Do Sikhs take off their turbans in public?
A: It is considered very disgraceful to take off a turban in public. Sikhs feel very offended if somebody takes off their turban or asks them to remove it.
Q: Is a turban a religious requirement or a social custom?
A: Sikhs don’t cut their hair, because they like to live the way God has created them. The turban is to cover the hair – so it is also a religious requirement. It is not a social custom.
Q: Do women also wear turbans?
A: Usually not. However, some baptized women wear turbans.
Sikhism is a distinct religion that originated in India in 1469 with the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The Khalsa was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. In these 537 years, Sikhs have endured through many tough times.
The major time periods in Sikh History are:
Guru’s Period Era
Banda Singh Bahadur Era
Religious Persecution Era
Sikh Kingdom Era
Sikhism is now the World’s 5th largest religion with 26 million followers worldwide. The picture below shows the location of India, the homeland of Sikhs.
Guru’s Period Era
The first Sikh prophet, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was born in 1469 and the 10th and last Sikh prophet, Guru Gobind Singh Ji went to his heavenly abode in 1708. This time period lasted for more than 239 long years.
The Sikh religion progressed very well during this time, under the Guru’s proper guidance. While Guru Nanak Dev Ji started the Sikh religion by preaching against the caste system, animal sacrifice, and fasting, Guru Gobind Singh Ji completed its form by requiring all Sikhs to get baptized.
Many Sikhs, who were very close to Guru Sahib, wrote Rehatnamas based on his teachings, which are called the Sikh code of conduct. All the Gurus preached for service to humanity, sharing with the needy, and praising God.
Guru Angad Dev Ji, the 2nd Guru, developed the Gurmukhi script of the Punjabi language. Guru Amar Das Ji, the 3rd Guru, wrote the hymns, which are sung at the death ceremony. Guru Ram Das Ji, the 4th Guru, wrote the hymns which are sung at the time of marriage. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the 5th Guru, compiled all the hymns of first four Gurus and himself into Adi Granth. Guru Gobind Singh Ji added the 9th Guru’s hymns into the Adi Granth and completed Granth Sahib. In 1708, he asked Sikhs to follow Granth Sahib and declared that Granth Sahib will be eternal Guru of the Sikhs in the future.
So by the time Guru Gobind Singh Ji went to his heavenly abode, the Sikhs had their own language, own holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji, own religious places, own baptism ceremony, own code of conduct, own marriage, and own death ceremony.
The Sikh religion is completely independent from all other religions.
Banda Singh Bahadur Era
Banda Singh’s original name was Madho Dass and he had many spiritual powers. He renounced the world lived in Nanded, South India. Guru Gobind Singh Ji reached there in 1708 and preached to him that renouncing the world may not be the right path, when the poor are being treated unfairly by the rich in this world. He became the Guru’s follower and got baptized and changed his name to Banda Singh. Guru Ji sent him to Punjab in northern India, along with 5 Sikhs to fight the tyrants.
He came to Punjab, collected an army and started attacking the small rulers of villages and towns. Ultimately, he had enough soldiers to fight with the ruler of Sirhind, who had mercilessly killed the two innocent young children of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Sirhind army was composed of 25,000 men with cannons and elephants. Banda Singh had a smaller army with no artillery. But Banda Singh’s army had something which other side lacked.
They were ready to fight with religious fervor and to avenge the deaths of two innocent children of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. There was a fierce fight outside of Sirhind. Originally the Sirhind army started moving forward due to their superiority. Then Banda Singh prayed and used one of the five arrows given to him by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who asked him to use them during these times. It tilted the scales. Now Banda Singh’s army started moving forward. Ultimately, Banda Singh led his army to victory in that battle.
He entered Sirhind and punished the cruel rulers. The ruler of Sirhind got killed, as with many of his advisors. He established the first Sikh kingdom. He made his close advisors the rulers of Sirhind and other towns. He established a new fort near Nahan and gave it a name of Lohgarh. That became Banda Singh’s capital.
Banda Singh ruled only short time but he made a great contribution for the poor people of Punjab. He ordered that ordinary peasants, who were doing agricultural work for the landlords, will actually be the real land owners. So he helped the poor and downtrodden people. He started his own currency in the name of Guru Nanak — Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Banda Singh’s kingdom stretched all the area of Punjab between Delhi and Lahore.
The Emperor of Delhi didn’t like Banda Singh’s rise. He ordered the Lahore ruler to collect all the army and attack Banda Singh. The Hindu and Muslim rulers of other towns and cities also obeyed to emperor’s orders and joined the Lahore army. Banda Singh was in the Gurdaspur area when he was attacked from all sides.
The Sikhs fought with bravery, but they were encircled from all sides. Ultimately, they fell back to Gurdas Nangal fort. There they remained encircled for eight long months. They ran out of ammunition and all rations. Many died due to hunger. The remaining were half dead due to hunger. Ultimately they were made prisoners in December 1715.
Banda Singh and 740 of his associates were brought to Delhi as prisoners. There they were given the choice to embrace Islam or get ready to die. All of them refused the forced conversion and were ultimately killed. Banda Singh and his four year old innocent child were brought out of prison. They were given the same choice but they refused. Ultimately Banda Singh’s four year old son was killed and his the child’s heart was forcibly put into Banda Singh’s mouth. Then he was killed limb by limb. He was martyred in 1716.
Religious Persecution Era
Banda Singh was martyred in 1716. The religious persecution of the Sikhs started immediately after that. They were outlawed by the Government. No laws protected their lands or property. They were attacked and murdered and their houses were looted. Thousands of Sikhs lost their lives like this. The remaining Sikhs retreated into the forests.
They survived on vegetables, fruits and even the roots of the trees. But they didn’t feel discouraged. They firmly believed in Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s prophecy that the Sikhs would rule the country one day. Some time they will come out of the forests to attack the government forces. The Government was getting more frustrated with them.
Therefore the Government decided to deal with them once and for all. A proclamation was made that the Sikhs should be wiped out from the face of earth. It was declared that financial sums will be given to the people who will kill the Sikhs and will bring their heads as a proof to the capital. This practice went on for many years.
Everyday money was given to the people who brought the heads of the Sikhs. Sikh women and children were arrested and brought to Lahore, the capital. There all children were killed and their body parts were put into their mothers laps.
The religious persecution went on for about 50 years. But the Government was weakened by the attacks from Ahmad Shah, an afghan king. Ahmad Shah reached all the way to Delhi and killed thousands of people. He imprisoned about 20,000 young Hindu girls and was taking them to Afghanistan to make them slaves.
Sikhs attacked his convey and released a good portion of those girls and sent them safely back to their homes. This infuriated Ahmad Shah. The next year, he again attacked India. Sikhs started retreating towards the safer areas. Ahmad Shah followed them and encircled them. There was a fierce fight and 70% of the Sikh community was slaughtered in one single day. This black day is also known as holocaust day in Sikh history. Ahmad Shah also destroyed the Sikhism’s holiest place, the Golden Temple.
Sikhs regrouped and got ready to fight the tyrants. Ultimately they became strong enough to defeat the tyrants and started ruling the area around 1760s.
Sikh Kingdom Era
As mentioned in the previous section, the Sikhs became strong enough to rule the area of Punjab by 1760s. They even conquered the capital of Lahore in the 1770s. However, they were divided into 12 different groups under the local leaders. They were all independent of each other as there was no main leader.
Maharaja Ranjeet Singh filled that whole. He was born in 1780 and he conquered Lahore in 1799, at the age of 19. He gained more and more territory every year he ruled Punjab for 40 years. He had a vast empire by the time he died in 1839 at the age of 59. His kingdom was so vast that he had to divide his kingdom into 4 different states, and he appointed Governors for those states.
He won territory in far away places. In fact, the present day boundaries between Pakistan and Afghanistan and also between Northern India and China were defined his kingdom. He was so strong that invaders from Afghanistan stopped attacking India very year. On the east, the Tibet Government, or present day China, signed a peace treaty with him. In the South, the British also signed a peace treaty with him, which defined his kingdom’s boundaries.
He was a very kind and fair ruler and he never gave the capital punishment to anybody during his 40 year rule. He would go to common people in the evening and at night in disguise to find out their problems and their feelings about his kingdom. He would change his policies based on the true feedback from the people. The British were very impressed with his personality. He also had many European Generals, especially French, in his army. Even the Russian Government sent their ministers to his kingdom.
The Sikhs went through religious persecution for more than 50 long years, as described before. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s kingdom gave them the opportunity to settle down into civilian life. The Sikh community prospered during his time. He built many Gurdwaras during his period. He put all the Gold on Sikhism’s most sacred place in Amritsar, that’s why it is now known as Golden Temple.
Maharaja Ranjeet Singh died in 1839 at the age of 59.
The sons and advisers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh started fighting among themselves after his death and many of them were killed. The British bought the Generals of the Army and then attacked the Sikh kingdom. So the Sikh kingdom era ended in 1849, and the British annexed Punjab with the rest of India, where they were already ruling.
The British knew that Sikhs are great warriors so they rewarded the Sikhs with jobs in their army and won over them. The Sikhs proved to very beneficial to the British in many wars that they fought in. The British also gave lands to the Sikhs who retired from the Army. This induced more Sikhs into the army. By the time British left India and the country became independent, Sikhs constituted about 80 percent of the Army.
The British sent Sikhs to many battles far and near. The Sikhs fought for the British in the two world wars at places like Germany, Belgium, Italy, North Africa, Iraq, Burma, Singapore and China. 83,000 Sikh soldiers died and 146,000 were wounded while fighting in the 2 world wars. Some Sikhs were decorated with the “Victoria Cross Medal” — the highest war time medal. Sikh soldiers were also part of the victory parade in London after the second world war.
Punjab made a lot of progress during the colonial era. Many cities were connected by railroads and by paved roads. Schools were opened in all the towns, where English was also taught, which helped Sikhs when they started immigrating to western countries. The big cities had colleges also. The British generally tried not to interfere in the Sikhs’ religious affairs.
The Indians’ struggle for independence started in the 1920s and continued till 1947, when the British left India. The Sikhs were at the forefront of the independence struggle also. The British tried many freedom fighters, and hanged hundreds of them. They sent thousands to lifetime imprisonments at a prison on an island thousands of miles in the ocean. The vast majority of them (80 to 90 percent) were Sikhs.
Ultimately, the British left India in 1947. But they divided the country into two parts before leaving. The Muslim majority area became Pakistan and the Sikh and Hindu majority area became India. Punjab also got divided. The West portion was included in Pakistan and the east portion became part of India.
Religious riots broke out immediately and there was a mass migration of the population. About one million people lost their lives in the next two months. Millions more were displaced and were left without homes.
Sikhs started immigrating to the United States in 1897. Some Sikhs came straight from India, while others came from the far east, where they had immigrated decades ago. There were thousands of Sikhs living in California and the other western states by the end of the first decade of the 20th century. But the vast majority of them were singles because they couldn’t bring their families due to the strict immigration laws.
They couldn’t buy property and land due to the immigration laws either. So the majority of them either returned to India after a few years, or married women of Mexican ancestry. Early Sikhs mainly worked on agricultural or railroad construction jobs. Some of them worked in mines and lumber mills also. They built their first US Gurdwara in Stockton, California in 1912, which is still in operation today.
Bhagat Singh, was one of the educated Sikhs, who came to study at Berkeley University in 1912. When the announcement was made that anybody who would serve in US Army during first world war , would be given citizenship he joined US Army in 1914. He proudly served during the first world war and was honorably discharged at the end of the war in 1918.
But he was denied citizenship because he was not Caucasian. He fought his case in courts and went all the way to US Supreme Court, but ultimately lost. He ended up marrying a local woman and ended up staying here. He did his PhD and worked as a professor. He wrote more than a dozen books in his field of expertise.
Dalip Singh Saund was another Sikh who came to study at Berkeley University. He completed his PhD in Mathematics but couldn’t get a job due to the strict immigration laws. He started working in the agricultural fields and ultimately became a successful farmer. When immigration laws changed in 1940s, he got his citizenship. He became a judge in 1950s. He then ran for the US Congress in the 1950s from Riverside county of California and was a US Congressman for 3 consecutive terms.
Immigration of the Sikhs almost stopped after 1915 due to the strict immigration laws. The population of the Sikhs dwindled. There were only few hundred Sikhs living in California at the end of second world war. When the immigration laws changed in 1965, a new wave of Sikhs started coming. Most of them were educated and they got jobs in almost every profession.
Wherever they settled, they also built Gurdwaras. There are hundreds of Gurdwaras in the United States today. Some of them joined the US Army and proudly served. The Police forces in New York, Los Angeles, and the California National Guard have turbaned Sikh police officers. Since pioneer Sikhs got jobs in agriculture, they settled in California’s central valley.
Due to that, 10% of Yuba City’s population is Sikh. Sikhs get together on the first Sunday of every November to celebrate the anniversary of the first installation of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. There are an estimated 40 to 50 thousand Sikhs in the parade, which gives a big boost to Yuba City’s economy.
Early Sikhs Immigrants and their Role in Nation Building
1906 – Sikh Immigrant track workers pose for a picture (Photo courtesy Plumas County Museum, Quincy, CA.
1909 – Sikh Workers on the Pacific & Eastern Railroad in Oregon (Photo courtesy of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Medford, Oregon)
1912 Sikh Farm Workers – Sacramento Valley (Photo Courtesy of The Tide of Turbans: Asian Indians In America by Ronald Takaki)
Bhagat Singh (1892-1967) (Photo courtesy of the Thind Family) Served in the US Army during 1st World War (1914-18). Honorably discharged from the US army On Dec 16, 1918
Sikhs are thriving in India in the post-independence period. Sikhs can be seen in all the high posts in every aspect of the country. The present Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh. Gen. J.J. Singh, the Indian Army Chief, is also a Sikh. The Sikhs have served in very high posts of the Government and the private industry as well.
60% of the population in Punjab is Sikh, and Punjab is the most prosperous state in India. Sikhs have started immigrating to Western countries in the post-independence period. They generally have migrated to the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. One million Sikhs live in North America. 2% of Canada’s population is Sikh, as well as 10 of its Parliament members. Canada’s ex-health Minister and ex-premier of British Colombia are also Sikhs.
In America, Sikh Americans continue to contribute to all facets of the US economy. The first Asian American Congressman was a Sikh. The “father of Fiber Optics”, the chief marketing officer of Palm Inc, and America’s largest peach grower are all Sikhs. The largest Federal Court security contractor for the US Marshals service is Sikh owned. Sikhs are seen in most of the professions in America today.