After Naina Devi Temple in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, our next destination was Anandpur Sahib which is just 12 kilometers away in the foothills while getting down from Naina Devi. The town has lots of childhood memories for me as my grand-parental house is situated very near to this town in the village Agampur Sahib. Till the time I moved to college, we would be spending our 2-month long summer vacations at our grand-parental house located here. At the same time, all our cousins will also descend down to the place and we all would have lots of fun together.

As that was the era when there were no Facebook, Instagram, Google and internet, the definition of fun meant going around the town, strolling through the market doing window shopping and if lucky enough to have some money in the pocket, then enjoying some delicacies from street vendors. Last but the most important part of these outings would be going to temples and gurudwaras. I still remember that once my grandmother took me to the town as she had to meet her friends. That day I had a blast as my grandma took me to many shops and was generous to let me enjoy the delicacies.

Over the years, I visited the town market as well as Gurudwara many times along with my cousins. On none of those occasions, I could take any pictures as a camera used to be an expensive item and a luxury to afford. None of us nor anyone in our close circle possessed the camera. One of the purposes of my current visit was to take the pictures of the place as well as explore the rich history albeit from a different angle.

Gurudwara Shri Keshgarh Sahib is also known as "Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib" and is one of the five highest holy Sikh institutions in India. The city of Anandpur Sahib was originally created in 1665 by Guru Teg Bahadur as Chak Nanaki. His son and the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji, added greatly to the city's size and gave it the new name of the City of Bliss (Anandpur).

Anandpur Sahib is the birthplace of the Khalsa religion. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh ji sent invitations or letters of authority (hukmanamas) to his followers throughout the Indian sub-continent and asked them to gather at Anandpur Sahib on March 30, 1699, the day of Vaisakhi.

Guru Gobind Singh addressed the congregation from the entryway of a tent that was pitched on a hill (now called Keshgarh Sahib). He took out his sword and asked for a volunteer who was willing to sacrifice his head for the noble cause of the sect and for Guru. No one answered his first or second call but on the third call, a person called Daya Ram (later known as Bhai Daya Singh) came forward and offered his head to the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh took the volunteer inside the tent, and emerged shortly, with blood dripping from his sword. He then asked for another volunteer for sacrifice. One more volunteer came forward, and entered the tent with him. The Guru again emerged with blood on his sword. The same process happened three more times.

After doing the same five times, all the five volunteers came out of the tent. They were all unharmed. These five, who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their Guru, were called Panj Pyare ("the five beloved ones"). These five volunteers were: Daya Ram (Bhai Daya Singh), Dharam Das (Bhai Dharam Singh), Himmat Rai (Bhai Himmat Singh), Mohkam Chand (Bhai Mohkam Singh), and Sahib Chand (Bhai Sahib Singh). He then proclaimed that the Panj Pyare would be the embodiment of the Guru himself: he said whenever and wherever five baptized (Amritdhari) Sikhs come together, the Guru would be present. All those who receive Amrit from five baptized Sikhs will be infused with the spirit of courage and strength to sacrifice. Thus with these principles he established Panth Khalsa.

It is believed that every new member of the Khalsa panth is the citizen of Anandpur Sahib and their birthplace is the Keshgarh Sahib. With this history in mind, we headed straight for Gurudwara. I had wanted to see the place and connect the dots with history.

Since it was not a holiday, we did not face long queues. On holidays or on festivals, it is usual to find rush of devotees at the place. Within no time we reached the darbar sahib. On the way, we saw the inscription at the entrance which detailed the history of the place. The kirtan was going on at the sanctorium. There were armaments of Guru Gobind Singhji on display. After being inside for about 15 minutes, we came out and headed for Langar (the community meal).

If you are interested in exploring history and especially the religious history of the world, then a visit to Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib is a must.

Reaching Anandpur Sahib

Anandpur sahib is well connected with rail, road and air connection. Nearest big city is Chandigarh which is about 100 km away. There are direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Srinagar. Direct flights are expected to start soon connecting Chandigarh with Dubai. There are direct trains from Delhi. The road connecting Anandpur Sahib with Chandigarh is very good and it takes less than two hours to reach.