Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund Sahib Gurdwara is a holy Sikh shrine located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. With a setting of a glacial lake encircled by 7 mountain peaks and each peak is adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff, it's situated in the Himalaya at a height of 15,200 ft as per the Survey of India. It's approachable only by foot from Govindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath route.

Hemkunt Sahib has a Gurudwara which is a Sikh prayer-place called Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib Ji, dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666–1708), the 10th Sikh Guru, which has a honorable mention in the Dasam Granth, a piece of work narrated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself. So this particular shrine holds prominence among people who trust in Dasam Granth.

In the Indian epic and Puranic literature, mountain chain landscapes are described as the dwelling house places of gods and goddesses. Journeying shrines mark the places where the landforms themselves - rivers, lakes, mountains and forests - are said to have acquired sanctified qualities. High above the tree line, in the mid of a natural rock garden of ferns, flowers and moss, is one such holy place: a blue-green lake fed by water which cascades down from the encompassing mountain walls.


Bachitira Natak is  an autobiographical account of the incarnated life of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji as a powerful youth who was called into existence during the Sati Yug, the “era of truth”  which constitute the first of four ages as per Hindu Mythology, to wage a battle with fierce demons that terrorized mortals and gods including Hindu deities and gods. After destroying them, the youth, referred to as Dust Daman, the 'destroyer of evil', was ordained by God to travel to Hemkunt Sapt  Sring to meditate. Guru Gobind Singh's own account in Bachitra Natak completes this story. Once realizing his oneness with God through meditation and austere discipline, he was born again in Kal Yug which is the 'age of darkness' as the son of the ninth Guru and his wife. After his father attained martyrdom, he became the last and 10th living Guru of the Sikhs.

In the above verses, the Guru Ji tells of his origins. He describes the place Hemkunt Parbat as Sapt Sring, the "lake of ice" among "mountains" adorned with "7 peaks", as the same place where King Pandu, father of the 5 Pandav brothers of Mahabharata fame, practiced yoga. There, the Guru Ji did intense meditation and austerities until he merged with God. Because his earthly parents had served God, God was pleased with them and gave a commandment that the Guru Ji to be born to them. In the mortal world he would carry out a mission to teach the true religion and rid people of the evil ways. He was reluctant to leave his state of union with the creator, but God compelled Him to do so. In this way the Guru Ji took birth into this world.

The exploration and discovery of Hemkunt Sahib came out of the need of  Sikhs to erect shrines to honour places consecrated by the visit of the tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh Ji throughout his life. Though Bachitra Natak was enclosed within the Dasam Adi Granth your within the 1730s, Sikhs apparently didn't take into account the yearning for Hemkunt or Sapt Sring till the late 19th century. It didn't become an area of journey till the 20th century. Pandit Tara Singh Narotam, a 19th century scholar from the Nirmala Sikh Sect, was the first Sikh to trace the geographical location of Hemkunt. He wrote of Hemkunt among the 508 Sikh shrines he presented in Sri Gur Tirath Sangrah (first revealed in 1884). Much later, famed Sikh scholar Bhai Vir Singh was instrumental in developing Hemkunt once it had been in a sense, re-discovered by another Sikh in search of the Guru's tap asthan.

Sohan Singh was a retired granthi from the Indian army and was operating in a gurdwara (a Sikh temple) in Tehri Garhwal. In 1932, he scanned the outline of Hemkunt in Bhai Vir Singh's Sri Kalgidhar Chamatkar (1929). This account of the place and also the meditation of an excellent yogi there was supported the story of Guru Gobind Singh's life and former life as told in Bachitra Natak and also the Suraj [Prakash] Adi Granth.

In 1930, Sant Sohan Singh, a retired granthi from the Indian Army, claimed to have found Hemkunt as expressed in Bachitra Natak. To some extent he was supported by Bhai Vir Singh, a romantic poet of Punjab who belonged to landed gentry. Bachitra Natak was somehow able to capture the imagination of Sikhs mostly due to the attractive poetry, songs and verses that resonated to their sentiments and music. Sohan Singh died around 1937 and was helped by a Sikh soldier, Havildar Modan Singh of the Bengal Sappers and Miners who then laid the foundation of the very first building and opened its access to the general public through Govindghat. Later, he went on to reside here and stayed there till his death in 1960. The Sikh spiritual organizations selected Hemkunt as a special place for worship for the Sikhs.

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