Anandpur Sahib Fort

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Anandpur Sahib Fort on the Chandigarh- Nangal Road, and accessible by the Ambala-Sirhind-Ropar-Nagal rail route, is steeped in Sikh history, culture and traditions. Located approximately 45 km from Ropar and 22 km from Nangal, the site, amidst the tranquil backdrop of the Shivalik Mountains, has been witness to several principal battles in Sikh history.

The Bareilly-Una Himachal Express is a direct train from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib. There are ample buses plying at regular intervals from Delhi and Chandigarh to Anandpur Sahib. All buses going to Una in Himachal Pradesh pass through Anandpur Sahib. Chandigarh is the closest airport.

The town, situated on the left bank of the mighty Sutlej River, was established by the ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur, and the origins of the Khalsa Panth can be traced here. Gurdwara Guru Ka Mahal was built by Guru Tegh Bahadur for his residence and it was here that sons of Guru Gobind Singh were born. Also, it is here that the Kashmiri Pandits approached Guru Tegh Bahadur to save them form oppression by the Mughals. Gurdwara Sisgani commemorates the spot where the head of Guru Tegh Bahadur was cremated when it was brought to Anandpur Sahib by Bhai Jaita from Delhi, after his martyrdom in Chandni Chowk in 1675. The Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Museum was set up here documenting his memory and Sikh history of his time.

Guru Gobind Singh came to this town in 1674 when he was eight years old and spent about 25 years here. Gurdwara Keshgarh Sahib is the most important of the shrines as it is here that Khalsa was created by him in 1699 on the day of Baisakhi (13th April). Gurdwaras Keshgarh, Anandgarh, Lohgarh and Fatehgarh mark the spots where once stood four fortresses built by Guru Gobind Singh who fought many pitched battles against Mughal and Rajput forces.

One principal fort exists with five others encircling the town, linked by earthworks and underground tunnels which provided a substantial defence which bore the brunt of a series of Mughal attacks. Keshgarh, the main fort, functioning as a gurdwara today, was constructed by the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh. Construction began in 1689 and took 10 years to complete. This site is particularly significant, serving as the place where congregations were held by the Guru, and where the revelation of Khalsa and the first initiation (Khande Di Pahul) took place.

The foundation stone of the fort was laid on 31st March, 1689 and subsequently became the military headquarters of the courageous Sikh army. Guru Gobind Singh spent nearly 16 years in this fort, as not only was it sturdy, but also strategically located on a hill-top. During Aurangzeb’s rule, the town was invaded by the Mughal army who under the former emperor’s orders arrived to take the 10th and final Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh captive. The Sikh Guru is said to have displayed great valor as he intelligently divided the Khalsa army into five battalions, ensuring a stiffer task for the Mughals if they were to conquer the town.

On the southern side of the city is Lohgarh (fort of steel). Designed to protect the riverside aspect of Anandpur, it also functioned as factory for manufacturing arms and ammunition for the Sikh army. It is here that Bhai Bachchittar Singh faced and turned back a drunken elephant which the hill chiefs, during their siege of Anandpur in 1700, had sent to batter down the gate of this fort.

Holgarh, the fort of colour, is located in the north-west corner of Anandpur. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh celebrated Hola Mohala in the spring of 1701. Unlike the Hindu festival of Holi, the Guru made Hola Mohala an occasion for Sikhs to demonstrate military skills through simulated battles.

The remaining three forts are Anandgarh, the fort of bliss, located in the centre of the town; Fatehgarh, the fort of victory named in honour of the Guru’s son, Sahibzada Fateh Singh, on the northern outskirts; and Taragarh, built on a hill outside the town to stop the advance of enemy armies before they reached Anandpur.

While most of the forts have been reduced to a wretched state, the principal fort, Keshgarh, still remains standing and serves as a reminder to these momentous historical events. The gurdwara of Kesar Sahib or Kesgarh Sahib, is one of the four seats of authority for Sikhism and the fort around it was built in 1699. A total of twelve relics from the life of Guru Gobind Singh and six martyrs of Sikhism are preserved here. Furthermore, another unique feature of the fort is its underground well that can be accessed by a steep flight of stairs. In total, 22 gurdwaras exist in and around Anandpur. A few walls of the fort existed on the northern side until 1985, but were removed to make room for a new building. The other fort walls were destroyed to make way for a circular road around the town. Nevertheless, the gurdwara perched on a hill is an impressive sight. During the tri-centenary celebrations of the Khalsa Panth in 1999, a sound and light show depicting the history of the Sikhs in general and Anandpur Sahib in particular was held in this gurudwara every evening. This show commences each year during the Hola Mohala and Baisakhi celebrations in March/April.

 

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