Patna is a great place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs. It is the birth-place of Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Guru. Patna has a number of Sikh shrines, besides the famous Harmandir commemorating the birth-place of Guru Govind Singh. It is in a lane named Harmandirki Gali, opposite the Patna City Post Office and within the jurisdiction of the Chank thana. The area was known as the Haveli of Salus Rai Johari in the 17th Century. It is said that Sri Nanak Deva, the first Guru of the Sikhs, had come to Patna and stayed at this place for several months.
The Harmandir temple is -about 9 miles east from the Patna Junction Railway Station and Steamer Ghat, 2 miles north from the Patna City Station and about 12 miles east from the Patna Aerodrome. The place is well-linked by regular bus services run by the State Transport Corporation. The Transport Corporation on theoccasion of Guru Govind Singh’s birth anniversary runs special bus services. Rickshaws, taxis, ekkas and carriages are available at Patna City, Steamer Ghat, Aerodrome and Patna Junction.
Guru Govind Singh was born in a house near the Chauk in Patna City on 7th Paus Sudi, 1723 Vikrami Samvat,corresponding to 22nd December, 1666 A.D. Chronologically ranking tenth in the hierarchy of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Govind Singh combined the irrepressible patriotism of Mazzini with the organizing capacity of Garibaldi. He had an inborn revolutionary idealism and vision.
Six years of his childhood were spent in Patna. According to the chronicles, a Hindu devotee, Pandit Shiva Dutta, and three Muslimnoblemen and divines, Nawab Rahim Bux, Peer Arif Deen and Syed Bhikhan Shah, discovered in the child a divine gift and became his admirers. The local chieftain, Raja Fateh Chand, and his consort became so devoted that they consecrated to him their palace where stands today the Maini Sangat Gurudwara.
From his childhood young Govind Rai, as he was -called, displayed a remarkable degree, of leadership and inclination towards the arms. His father, Guru Teg Bahadur, toured Bengal and Kamrup provinces over a number -of years and ultimately returned with his family to Anandpur, a township of his own making, nestling in the Shivalik Hills of the Punjab.
The most formative part of Guru Govind Singh's life was spent at Anandpur, a place within a short distance of the modern Bhakra dam. Guru Govind Singh, as is well known, founded the Khalsa sect and he also introduced the surname of ‘Singh’.
Over the sacred spot of the birth-place of Guru Govind Singh a temple was built. The present temple is a vast improvement on its predecessor built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, "the lion of the Punjab", sometime in the first quarter of the 19th century. This temple is considered to be one of the four sacred places of the Sikhs and a large number of Sikhs from all over India and abroad visit the temple.
The number of non-Sikh visitors to Harmandir is also very large. It is almost a bounden duty of a Sikh coming to Patna for any reason to visit this temple on the very first day. The present five-storey temple was built during 1954-62 at a cost of fifteen lakhs -of rupees
The temple faces the west and its height is 108 feet. At its entrance there is a verandah 90 feet by 46 feet. There is another verandah for the priests, 25 feet by 13 feet and, after that, there is a marble hall about 25 feet by 12 ½ feet. Here is kept an all-gold palki (palanquin), on which there is a picture of Guru Govind Singh, who was born in this room.
The palanquin is a work of exquisite craftsmanship. A little unplastered spot, about 3 feet by 2 feet, is preserved as a memorial of the exact spot where Guru Govind Singh was born. The height of the all-gold palki is about 5 feet. There is a well on the right side of the palki, which is known as Matajika Kuan It is said that once the wells of the locality were all salt except for the water of the well of Mataji.
The ladies of the locality used to take water from the well, which is in the temple. When Govind Rai was a child of four or five, he used to break the earthen pitchers of the ladies. The ladies complained to his mother that her son (Govind Rai) was in the habit of breaking their water pots. His mother gave some money to each of them to purchase a bronze pot.
They did so. But when the ladies came again to take water, Govind Rai broke the pitchers with his arrows. They again complained to the Mataji. She became angry with Govind Rai and upbraided him, saying that he should know that the water of all the wells in the neighborhood, except this one, was saltish. This story of the impish pranks of the child is very fondly related.
Near the all-gold palki, there are nine sacred relies of Guru Govind Singh, which have been preserved. They are: (1) a volume of Shri Guru Granth Sahib reverently called Bara-Sahib hearing the autograph of Shri Guru Govind Singh; (2) A contemporary oil painting of Shri Guru Govind Singh, called Chhabi Sahib; (3) Cradle (Paugura Sahib), gold-plated, used for the child Guru; (4) Dagger worn bv the child Guru; (5) 4 arrows used by the child Guru; (6) Goli Chakras, Khanda, tigerclaw dagger, comb, sandals of ivory, all used by the child Guru; (-i) Sandal-wood sandals of Guru Teg Bahadur; (8) A weaving frame of Bhakta Kabir; and (9) Album ofPhotostat copies of the Hukumnanws (sacred epistles) of Guru Govind Singh.
At the centre of the courtyard of the temple stands an exceptionally long pole of sal wood about 80 feet high, covered with iron pikes. This flag-staff was presented to the temple by Maharaja Jung Bahadur of Nepal. There is anunderground hall about 90 feet by 46 feet. It is for the purpose of shelter to the pilgrims who come on the occasion of the birth-day of Guru Govind Singh.
On the second story of the temple the priests read the Vedas, translated into Gurumukhi. On the third storey a museum is going to be established in which all the sacred relies will be placed.
So far as the architecture of the temple is concerned, t he whole temple is built on modern lines. It is a magnificent edifice and marble slabs have been liberally used. The masons have been able to give a wonderful face-lift to the old temple. There is an all-gold kalasa on the amalaka of the temple.
The premises of the temple contain, besides the shrine, the dharmashala, and the langar where the visitors could take their meal free of cost.
On the occasion of the birth-day of Guru Govind Singh a big procession is organized. This is attended by Sikh pilgrims from different-parts of the country and abroad. Hindus of Patna freely join the procession. The procession starts from Gaighat, near the Gulzarbagh Government Printing Press and terminates at Harmandir Gali. Gaighat, it is said, was the first camp of Guru Teg Bahadur, the father of Guru Govind Singh. Here also there is a Gurudwara.
The Granth Sahib is placed in the all-gold palki on the huge truck. The truck carrying the Granth Sahib leads the procession followed by thousands of the devotees and visitors. The followers of Sikh religion sing the prayers of the Guru and recite the lines composed by Guru Govind Singh. There is jubilation all over with music and songs.
The pilgrims visiting the temple have to follow the rules of entering a Sikh temple and the head has to be covered and shoes have to be left out. They offer their respect to the Granth Sahib or Bara Sahib and offer ardas or Kara Prasad. This prasad is prepared in a special shop of the temple. No prasad is allowed to be offered from any other shop. Every day about 1000 visitors, including Sikhs and Hindus, come to pay their respect to the temple and get prasad (halwa) from the priest.
Regarding the facilities for the stay of pilgrims, there is a dharmashala, containing 55 rooms, on the east of the temple and a big underground hall below the temple. The pilgrims do not have to pay anything for their stay to the Managing Committee that runs the temple. They can stay there for five days without any charge. After that, the permission of the Manager of the 'Managing Committee becomes essential. They also get their meal free of cost from the langar. But generally the pilgrims make voluntary donations to the temple. At meal-time they get chapaties, dal, vegetables, ghee and papad in meal utensils.
The local Hindu cleanses the utensils used by the pilgrims and Sikh ladies and they consider it to be their sacred duty and an act of service to the pilgrim guests. Daily about 300 pilgrims, including many local visitors, takes their meal both morning and evening time. On the occasion of the birth-day of the Guru about 5000 visitors take their meal here.
As regards the routine of the rituals, the birth-place of Guru Sahib is daily bathed at 3 a.m. by Ganga jal and Gulabjal and this is followed by the offerings of prasad arti with the reciting of hymns by the priests accompanied by the ringing of bells. In the evening, at 7 p.m., arti is also performed with the reciting of hymns by the priests.