Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gurudwara Nanak Shahi the main Sikh Gurudwara in Bangladesh

Gurudwara Nanak Shahi the main Sikh Gurudwara in Bangladesh, is situated on the campus of the university of dhaka near the arts faculty building. It is believed to have been built on the initiative of a Sikh priest, Almast, sent by the sixth Sikh guru, Hargobind Singh (1595-1644), during the reign of Emperor jahangir. Some others believe it was built by the ninth Sikh guru, Teg Bahadur Singh (1621-75), and that from here communication was maintained with other Sikh Gurudwaras in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

This shrine commemorates Guru Nanak's visit to Dacca. For some years in the recent past, the place had suffered neglect, and it was on the 2nd January 1972, after the liberation of Bangladesh, that Sri Guru Granth Sahib was installed again at the shrine. The room where the congregation met was 9 by 9 meters. Towards the left is an ancient tank, newly cleared of debris, with a baoli in its midst.

The Gurudwara was founded by a missionary sent to Bangladesh by Baba Gurditta, son of Guru Hargobing (6th Guru) within 17th century and was completed in 1830. Religious celebrations include weekly prayers every Friday. Social functions such as Baishakhi are celebrated. Old relics-an old handwritten volume of Guru Granth Sahib, a copy of the Portrait of Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Teg Bahdur's sandals are preserved here Suitable accommodation is available for visitors.

Gurudwara Nanakshahi in Ramana behind the public library adjoining the Dacca University campus, was originally an Udasi Charan-Paduka founded by Baba Nath, successor of Bhai Almast, in memory of Guru Nanak Dev. When Guru Tegh Bahadur was at Dacca during the late 1660s, Bhai Nattha was the Udasi mahant and Baba Bulaki Das the Guru's masand here. On the eve of the Partition, possession and priesthood was the subject of court cases between Baba Tribeni Das and another claimant Gobind Das, and later between Tribeni Das and one Manik Lal. Ultimately Tribeni Das was adjudged the lawful guardian of the Gurudwara, but in the wake of the Partition, he left for India never to return. A Sikh, Swarn Singh looked after this place in his absence. After the creation of Bangladesh after Indo-Pak war, a Sikh deputation was sent from Takht Sri Patna Sahib to Dacca. With the help of Sikh soldiers the members of the deputation led by Captain Bhag Singh of Calcutta recovered possession of the Gurudwara, cleaned it and held a congregation in it on 2nd January, 1972. Even Sayyad Nazar-ul-Islam, then acting President of Bangla Desh attended the congregation and gave assurance about the safety and reconstruction of this and the other Gurudwaras.

The Gurudwara is open to all, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex. The place of prayer is known as 'darbar sahib' and has entrances on all sides, unlike other places of worship. At the northern end of the prayer hall a copy of the holy book of the Sikhs, the granth shahib, is kept on a wooden platform. A pair of wooden sandals, believed to belong to Guru Teg Bahadur Singh, has been preserved in a glass box just under the Granth Sahib.

The daily religious rites at the Gurudwara include reading from the Granth Sahib and recital of prayers. Every Friday a weekly assembly is held from 11 am to 1 pm. The chief granthi reads from the Granth Sahib. kirtan and prayers continue for over two hours. The prayer service ends with the distribution of food. There are also arrangements to distribute food in the morning. Sikhs regard this as a way of enhancing understanding among people. A weekly congregation is held by it in Gurdwara Nanakshahi, on every Friday, which is attended mostly by the devoted staff of the Indian High Commission, some Sikh devotees from the neighbouring lands and some devout Hindu residents of Dhaka.

There are also about eight or nine smaller Gurudwaras in different parts of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Gurudwara Management Committee runs the affairs of these Gurudwaras with financial support from the devotees, foreign visitors, donors and grants from the Bangladesh government.

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