Bidar’s Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib: Sikhism’s southern sojourn
India –They call it a land full of different cultures, various ethnicities, a hundred languages and a range of traditions. This diverse land where art and culture, practice and perception, fashion and food, everything changes every few kilometers; the experience of India is truly amazing. But what is more fascinating is when these cultures intermingle, and co-exist harmoniously to bring about sparks of joy and happiness in the lives of many. They make us realize how India is truly unified in spite of its diversity.
The Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib, a Sikh holy shrine situated in Bidar is a perfect example of this.
Ruled by the Chalukyan Empire , The Delhi Sultanate and The Nizam of Hyderabad; Bidar has been an important centre for not only the southern Indian history, but also a destination for Sikhism’s southern sojourn, making it the holiest shrine of the Sikhs after the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Let’s delve in to the rich spiritual history of The Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib.
In 1512, when Guru Nanak visited South India, after touring through Khandwa and Nagpur during his second missionary tour, he stayed temporarily at the outskirts of Bidar along with his companion Mardana at a place which today is the Nanak Jhira Bidar Gurudwara. The sermons and teachings of the Guru during his layover at Bidar attracted a lot of followers; both Hindus and Muslims and soon people came to listen to the Guru to seek his blessings.
Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib is located amidst the slopes of the hilly terrain of Bidar. It was built in 1948 and stands tall and mighty in the valley surrounded by beautiful laterite hills. The Gurudwara has three main halls called the Darbar Sahib, Diwan Hall and Langar Hall. In the Sukhaasan room, Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikh is placed. A separate room called the Likhari Room has been made to accept and issue receipts.
There also lies a spring besides the Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib which has a fascinating mythological reference, and explains how the Gurudwara got its name. According to the Sikh history, the people residing in Bidar were wretched due to the shortage of the water supply in town. The Guru moved by their predicament, decided to help the people and save them from this tragic condition. Touching the hillside with his toe and removing some rubble in the process, while uttering the Sat Kartar, he caused a fountain of sweet water to flow out from this hillside and the place was labeled as Nanak Jhira. The cool and crystal clear spring flows till date, and its water is collected in a small Holy Water Tank called Amrit Kund where pilgrims take a dip, as it is believed to have cleansing and medicative powers.
Bidar is also home of Bhai Sahib Singh, one of the Panj Pyare (five beloved ones), who offered to sacrifice their heads and were later baptized as the first members of the Khalsa. Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib attracts not only Sikh pilgrims, but tourists from different religions, places and from all walks of life. All are welcomed warmly to the Gurudwara and fed in the Langar, indiscriminate. Through Bhajans and Kirtans, Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib celebrates the spirit and the essence of Sikhism. Festivities like Guru Purnima and Guru Nanak Jayanti are given special significance and they too are revered with religious songs and prayers. The Gurudwara today is managed by a Sikh committee all of whom who reside in Bidar.
A great example of cultural intermingling is how the Sikhs in Bidar have happily adopted Idli and Sambhar as their breakfast, while the Kannadikas enjoy the occasional Punjabi cuisine in the Punjabi restaurants that have sprung up in Bidar, in the last few decades. The establishment of the Gurudwara has attracted many Sikhs who serve as Sewaks in the holy shrine, to come and settle down in Bidar. “Both the cultures have influenced each other in a good way”, says Darbara Singh; the manager of the Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib. The Gurudwara has also funded and opened up schools and hospitals.
Bidar also houses a Sikh museum which holds important Sikh artifacts and archives and portrays their chivalrous history by putting up information about all the Sikh brave hearts who sacrificed their lives for the nation’s independence. The museum is also a popular tourist attraction.
With magnificent forts, pristine temples and divine dargahs, the city of whispering monuments, Bidar posseses one of the most attractive heritage and cultural hubs of India. The Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib is one of these marvels that treasure in itself the true essence of Sikhism.
“To preserve these monuments, we need to maintain it, look after it every single day. We clean the Gurudwara every day and put in all our efforts to see that no harm comes to it. This is the first step towards heritage and cultural conservation”,
says Darbara Singh, who looks after the upkeep of the Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib personally.
However, there have been a few concerns regarding the contamination of the spring water- The Jhira. According to a recent report in The Hindu,
part of the towns business comes from these crowds who gather at the spot built around water. It stands to reason therefore that special attention should be paid to the spring and great care taken of this water resource. It is likely that the sacred ‘Jhira’ will first be contaminated by the bad water and if steps are not taken quickly, may also run dry due to lack of recharge of waters in the hills.
The Gurudwara has built a tunnel at the point where the spring emerges, complete with a glass panel that enables viewing of the Jhira, at the same time protecting it from pollution. Studies say that, science and research particularly hydrology and geology should play an active role in determining the effective steps that can be taken to recharge the ground water and not let it contaminate.
India is blessed to have such diverse architectural treasures. Each state has its own charms, its own touch, and its contribution to the nation’s heritage. However, it’s the unity in diversity; the ability to adjust and adapt so conveniently, that truly gives India its beauty. Such cultural diversity should not only be preserved and protected but also applauded and appreciated and The Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib of Bidar is its perfect testament.
Written by: Devyani Nigoshkar
GoUNESCO is funded by Go Heritage Runs an award-winning fun run series at heritage sites across the country. Our next run in Bidar is on Sunday, December 10, 2017 and all participants will received handcrafted Bidri souvenir medals. Sign up here!