Some weeks back,my passion for travel took me to Gujarat. I was amazed to come across a lesser known facet of Sikh history. I saw evidence of the visit of Guru Nanak Sahib to Gujarat and also learnt that except for some scholars, Sikhs had forgotten about this place and other places visited by Guru Nanak. Better late than never. It is time to connect the dots of history and discover our rich heritage linked to our founder Guru Ji. During his second Udasi (travels) from 1506-13 and fourth Udasi from 1519-21, Guru Nanak Sahib travelled to Mecca through the then to the Port of Basta Bandher, in the then province of Sind. Today, this place is called Lakhpat and is about 135 kilometers from the town of Bhuj on the edges of the Cori Creek on the tip of the border between India and Pakistan.
Lakhpat fort is about 20 kilometers from Korini village where there is also a big Sarovar to the memory of Guru Nanak Dev ji Sahib’s visit. Lakpat was so named, it is said, as the daily income from sailings of inbound and outbound ships to shore exceeded one lakh cories (the then local currency).
Today the Sindhu River no longer flows on its banks as it was diverted during the great earthquake of Bhuj in 1819 to the west to an area what is now in Pakistan’s Sind province. Even today in the soil you can find millions of shells from the dried bed of the Sindhu River.
Since 1947, the Lakhpat Fort is housing the lat outpost of the Border Security Force and is hope to some 400-500 people within its walls and several Temples and Sufi Darghas. It also has Gurdawara Pehili Padshai “Lakhpat Gurdawara”. There is Hatkeshwar Temple that houses fossilized shells, The Gosh Mohmmad Kuba, Darghah of Syed Pir Shah and Nanai Mai Darghah -all stand witness to the glorious past. Legend has it that the place visited by Guru Nanak was the house of a Brahman and is located within the fort of Lakhpat. According to the local people, that house was converted into a Gurdwara some two hundred years ago and vast tracts of land were bestowed on the Gurdwara for upkeep, maintenance and regular expenses of the shrine.
The Gurdwara complex comprises of a main building that has a courtyard and a separate structure which is a two storied gateway on the western side with massive wooden doors. The internal and external walls have paintings in line patterned with floral motifs of the period -ships, flowers, royal personage, etc. The walls have graffiti by religious travellers in old Gurmukhi script. Constructed in limestone, the Gurdwara has on its walls statues of elephants, flowers, Chabutras and statues in human and animal form embedded to its walls. The verandah has exquisitely carved wooden columns. The whole arena has a touch of the old and a beautiful nostalgic charm to it.
The main room has relics associated with Guru Nanak Sahib, which relics, it is said, were bestowed by Guru Sahib to the Brahmin in whose house Guru Sahib stayed. These include Charan paduka -khdawans or wooden footwear and a Palki of the great Guru, both of which are housed in asealed glass enclosure, where there is Parkash of Guru Granth Sahib. As much as I know, these are perhaps the holiest relics of Guru Nanak Sahib on Indian soil. In the adjacent room within a wooden and glass panel are kept old handwritten Gurmukhi religious books and old religious scriptures It will come as a surprise to Sikhs, that the Gurdawara was restored to its present immaculate state by the strenuous efforts of United Nations volunteer programme for a seven month period between February and September 2003.
Thanks to their efforts, the assistance of the local community and the Sikh Sangat from Gandhidham, the Gurdwara has the unique distinction of being awarded the Asia Pacific Heritage Conservation award for the year 2004 by UNESCO. Carried out under the aegis of CRCI (Cultural Resources Conservation Initiative), it was a major conservation project.
Conferring the award UNESCO stated “the restoration of this Sikh house of worship demonstrates a sophisticated holistic understanding of both the technical and social aspects of conservation; careful attention to detail and sensitive repair work have ensured the retention of the building’s historic character. The emphasis on involving and empowering the community ensures the long term survival of the historic building and its associated cultural traditions.” From what I learnt, more than $ 43,000 grant was made by UNESCO to bring restore the holy place to its pristine glory, with conservation architects and masons brought in from Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to assist in restoration work .
Those desiring to feel the ambience of the visit of Guru Nanak Sahib can visit the can visit the Gurdwara Sahib, to which a Yatri Niwas, Langar Hall, Diwan Hall, modern amenities are being added.
The care taker of the Gurdwara Sahib who is overseeing the work is S. Lakha Singh from Baruch and the Granthi Sahib Bhai Sukhchain Singh can be contacted at 0091 9909606367 for arrangements to travel and stay.
Gurpreet Singh Anand lives in Delhi. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org