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Hemkunt Sahib, Uttarakhand, India

Uttarakhand, India Sustainer of people and vanquisher of evil
Sikhism

The Gurudwaras are religious places of worship for Sikhs. The word Gurudwara means door to the Guru (Teacher). Apart from the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar, India has many magnificent Gurudwaras and one such gem is the Hemkunt Sahib on the shores of Lake Hemkund at an Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Gurudwara Hemkunt Sahib holds a very special status amongst Sikhs and is dedicated to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It is situated at an altitude of 4329 meters amongst the Himalayas. The place where the Gurudwara is situated was earlier known as Lokpal (meaning sustainer of the people) by the residents. The Gurudwara is in absolute tranquil setting surrounded by seven mountain peaks and on the shore of mesmerizing Lake Hemkund. The cliff of each of the peaks is decorated with the Nishan Saheb (Sikh flag).

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Overview

History and Belief

Hemkunt finds mention in ancient scriptures. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, mentioned a place called Hemkunt Parbat Sapat Sring in his autobiographical memoir Dasam Granth. The mention of Hemkunt is in section known as Bachitra Natak (meaning resplendent drama). He described it as the place where King Pandu (forefather of Pandavas from Mahabhatatha, another holy scripture of Hindus) had practiced yoga. Guru Gobind Singh performed severe meditation at this spot and left his body to unite with the God. However in order to fulfill the wishes of his parents who were ardent devotees, God sent him again in this world to teach true religion and win over evil. [V1]  As mark of respect for their tenth Guru who had dedicated his life to service the mankind, Sikhs wanted to construct a Gurudwara at the same place as described in Dasam Granth.  

 

The search of the place started and it was seriously taken up with full fervor and enthusiasm by Sohan Singh in 1933. Sohan Singh was a Granthi (priest) working in Gurudwara at Tehri Garhwal at Uttarakhand. His inspiration came from the renowned Sikh scholar Bhai Veer Sing’s description of Hemkund in his Granth (holy book)[V2]  Sri Kalgidhar. This book also included excerpts of Dasam Granth and Sri Gur Pratap Suraj [V3] Granth (originally published in 1843 and popularly known as Suraj Prakash), which was penned by Bhai Santokh Singh who was hagiographical writer. In his Granth, he reflected on his imaginations pertaining to Guru Gobind Singh’s Tap[V4] [VSNK/5]  Asthan (meditation place).

 

In the year 1934 Sohan Singh succeeded in finding the Guru’s Tap Asthan. However, his findings were met with much skepticism. After many failed attempts, ultimately in the same year, he was able to convince Bhai Veer Singh about his finding and thus initiated his journey for the construction of Gurudwara at the shores of the lake Hemkund.

 

Initially, Bhai Veer Singh donated Rs. 2100 for purchasing the supplies for the construction of the Gurudwara [V6] [VSNK/7] to Sohan Singh. Later, while purchasing equipment for the construction he met Bhai Modan Singh who was a Havildar[V8]  (a soldier or police officer corresponding to a sergeant) in Indian army and described[V9]  his cause. Impressed by Sohan Singh’s intitiative, Bhai Modan Singh offered to join in his cause and a tin shed was built.  During the construction, Bhai Modan singh dared rain, cold and wild animals in hollowed trunk of a tree. The tree still stands in the Gurudwara compound.

 

The inspiration for the current structure of the Gurudwara came from Mata Ram Kaur in the year 1960. It is believed that she had a vision from Guru Gobind Singh himself. She approached Gobind Ghat and narrated her purpose. Initially, the management was apprehensive, however after hearing intricate details of the place that came in her vision, they were convinced.

 

Her inspired vision led to the current magnificent structure.

 

 


Architecture

The construction of Gurudwara at such high altitude was a big and tough process. The biggest challenge was to build a structure that can withstand the adverse weather. Another challenge was to carry all the material manually for 15 kilometers from Gobind Ghat to Hemkund. To accomplish this, Indian Army came to the rescue. Major General Harikirat Singh Engineer-in chief of Indian Army, who visited the site took upon him to build the Gurudwara. Initially he appointed architect Siali to head the design and construction effort. While Colonel M.S.Sethi of B.R.T.P designed specialized equipment and structure that could be carried across from Gobind Dham to Hemkund, structural plans were created by Major C.P Ghosh an engineer from M.E.S and Professor K.A. Patel from the school of planning and architecture.

A mockup of the final design was constructed at Gurudwara Rakabganj at New Delhi. This structure was then disassembled and all the pipes & materials were numbered sequentially and sent to Hemkund for reassembly.

The beautiful surroundings where the temple is constructed complement the herculean effort undertaken to construct it. After enduring tough trek from Gobind Ghat to Ghangria (Gobind Dham) and then to Hemkunt Sahib, devotees and tourists are treated to mesmerizing and surreal environs. The Gurudwara is located on the shores of pristine Lake Hemkund and surrounded by seven snowcapped peaks from all sides. These surreal environs instill divine faith and lead to isolation from all worldly desires and pain.

The Gurudwara is uniquely designed in the form of an inverted lotus. This design serves a specific purpose as it allows it to withstand heavy amount of snowfall in winter season. The Gurudwara has two-storeys. The lower storey was built first while the second floor was completed in the year 1994. One can enter the Gurudwara from any of the five entrances. The entrances are open to people of all faith and religion.

In the lower floor, beneath a brass canopy the holy Granth, Guru Granth Sahib is placed. The Granth was installed in the year 1994.

In the year 2013, heavy floods caused extensive damage to route and structure of Gurudwara. Many facilities like the parking complex and Gurudwara at Gobind Ghat were swept away in the river.

 

 

 

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3 interesting Facts & Myths about Hemkunt Sahib, Uttarakhand, India

  • ·Hemkund had significant historical significance amongst the locals prior to its discovery by Sikhs. The folklores connect it to one of the chapters of Hindu sacred book Ramayana. It is believed that Lakshamana who was Lord Rama’s brother, during his war with Ravana’s son Meghnada got mortally wounded. He could be cured only on administering a herb called Sanjeevani which was believed to be available in the Himalayas. Lord Hanuman, the monkey God then flew from Lanka but could not identify the herb and flew with the total mountain in the hand. On administering the herb Lakshmana was miraculously cured. Hence locals named the lake as Lokpal or savior of the people.  A temple called Lakshman temple is located along with Hemkunt Sahib on the shores of the Lake. This temple was present prior to the construction of Gurudwara and in order to respect feelings of the Locals, the temple was expanded along with the Gurudwara from time to time. Locals and other natives usually came here annually on foot clad in minimalistic attire to preserve the sanctity of the temple and used to pray for healthy male progeny;  

  • ·The route to Gurudwara open s in May and devotees throng to clear the route of ice and other obstacles, this is known as KAR SEWA (service) to the devotees and they take part in the KAR SEWA with great enthusiasm.    

  • ·Among being the only Gurudwara that is situated at such high altitude, this is the first and only pentagonal gurudwara in the world.

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Programs

Daily programs

The services at Gurudwara are held at 10:00 am and 01:00 pm daily. The services include Ardas (the Sikh prayer) and Hukumnama (the command of the Guru included in Guru Granth Sahib).

When group of devotees reach the Gurudwara, the Granthi (the priest) explains them the importance of the Darshan and the Ishnan (the Holy Bath). He narrates them the story of Hemkunt as included in Dasam Granth and Bachitra Natak. Afterwards devotes join in singing Shabad (hymns in praise of the Guru) with the Granthi and he unfolds the Rumalas donated by devotees.

After this ceremony, Ardas service is repeated again. Post Darshan devotees can take a dip in the Holy Hemkund lake. Water of the lake has been channeled to the Gurudwara so that ladies can also take dip in holy waters.

As there are no staying facilities at Hemkunt Sahib all the pilgrims reaching Gurudwara have to return on the same day.

Travel

How to travel

Usually the Gurudwara opens in May and closes from October. After October, due to heavy snowfall, the Gurudwara and the road leading to Gurudwara are blocked and hard to access.

Rishikesh is the nearest city which is 294 kilometers away from Hemkunt Sahib. Rishikesh is prime pilgrim spot and is easily accessible from all the major cities in India.

By air, one can reach The Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun in Uttaranchal state of India. From here Rishikesh is 15 kilometers away.

Haridwar is another major city in vicinity to Rishikesh. Haridwar is well connected to all major cities in India by rail and bus. After reaching Haridwar, though one can avail another train to Rishikesh but as these trains are slow, bus is preferable.

After reaching Rishikesh, one has to travel to Joshimath and then Gobind Ghat. This can be done in car, taxi, bus etc. After reaching Gobind Ghat, the journey has to be undertaken by foot. Gurudwara is approximately 15 KMs from Gobind Ghat. From Gobind Ghat one has to reach Ghangria (also known as Gobind Dham) which is 6 kilometers away from Hemkunt Sahib. For this journey, one can also avail mules for children and old people. While the journey is tough and perilous, the tranquil surroundings, River Alaknanda flowing by and the surrounding peaks fill tourists and pilgrims with divine enthusiasm.

As Hotels and stay facilities are available only at Gobind Ghat, one needs to return on the same day before 5 pm from Hemkunt sahib. 

Recently helicopter service has also been started between Gobind Ghat and Ghangria (Gobind Dham)

 

VISITING DAYS/HOURS

10:00 AM to 05:00 pm

Travel Tips

  • It is preferable to carry raincoat, first aid kit, torch and cells along as electricity at Ghangria is available only till 10:00 pm.
  • As there are no staying facility at Gurudwara and one needs to return on the same day, so planning the trip properly is highly preferable.

 

See Hemkunt Sahib, Uttarakhand, India on map

Nearby Attraction

  • Badrinath: Badrinath is one most revered and holy Dhams (holy place) in India. This temple is on the banks of Holy Alaknanda river and is 21 kilometers form Gobind Ghat. This is an ancient temple which was set up by Guru Adi Shakaracharya and the presiding deity here is Lord Vishnu;
  • Joshimath: This math (monastery) was also established by Guru Adi Shankacharya. It was home to Lord Badrinath in winters. Joshimath is 26 kilometers before Gobindghat;
  • Auli: Auli is a fantastic spot, At an elevation of 3050 meters above the sea level it is the destination for winter sports at Uttarakhand. A cable car runs from Auli to Joshimath which is one of the longest cable car in Asia;
  • Mana: Mana is on Indi-Tibetan order and is one the last village of India. Mana is 26 kilometers away from Gobind Ghat and has many attractions such as Bheem Pul, Vyas Gufa and Ganesh Gufa.
  • Valley of Flowers: This is situated 3 kilometers form Gobind Dham. It is a beautiful valley that is kept in pristine condition. It has been declared as national park by Indian government and all activities are regulated. It is believed that the Brahma Kamal blossoms here once in every 12 years.    

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