Paonta Sahib is a town in the Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
It is an important religious center for Sikhs and sacred to the memory of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who stayed here soon after his father Guru Tegh Bahadur's execution when he became the Sikh Guru in 1675.
This is place where most of Bani's of Dasam Granth were written by Guru Gobind Singh.
Paonta Sahib has a large Gurdwara on the banks of the river Yamuna, the river being the boundary between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Gurdwaras have a very busy Langar that serves free food to 5,000 visitors every day.
Paonta Sahib retains tangibly memories of the martial Guru in the form of his weapons and a majestic Gurdwara and recalls his presence. The name of the town is derived from "paon" meaning "foot" because the Guru's horse decided to stop and not move from this place. Guru Ji decided to set up camp at the spot.
From 1685 to 1689, Guru Gobind Singh wrote many religious and poetic works here before he returned to Anandpur Sahib to establish the Khalsa Panth.
There are 4 Historic Sikh Gurdwaras in Paonta Sahib, 3 are within the main Gurdwara complex and Gurdwara Sri Shergarh Sahib is nearby at Nihal Garh.
Gurdwara Sri Dastar Asthan Sahib is situated within the main complex. Gurdwara Sri Dastar Asthan Sahib was where Guru Gobind Singh would sit and tie his dastar. This was also the site where Pir Budhu Shah, a renowned muslim saint living in Sadhaura near Paonta, called on Guru Gobind Singh. The two had a long discourse, after which the muslim holy man became a devotee of Guru Gobind Singh. Pir Budhu Shah was given a robe of honour and at his request, the Guru's comb which contained his hair. Gurdwara Sri Dastar Asthan Sahib is now used a place where dastar tying competitions are held.
Kavi Darbar is the name given to an event or gathering where Kavi (poets) assemble to write or recite their poetry. Guru Gobind Singh is famous for his love of poetry. Every month on a full moon night, he used to arrange a "gathering of poets" behind Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib near the river in which poets of different languages participated. Even now on every full moon night events are organised by the management of the gurdwara. The place where Guru Gobind Singh arranged these gatherings was called the 'Kavi Darbar'. It was an open air location adjacent of the River Yamuna.
In the beautiful surroundings of Paonta Sahib Guru Gobind Singh engaged himself in training his warrior Sikhs in the martial arts, he also spent a great deal of his time in literary activities, composing many works of religious, as well as heroic poetry including Jap Sahib, Tav Prasad Savaiye and Chandi Di Var. Guru Gobind Singh filled his Darbar (court) with 52 of the most talented poets and writers, many of them came from the ancient city of Banaras (Varanasi).
Guru Gobind Singh sent his five Sikhs to Kashi to learn Sanskrit and asked the poets to translate the ancient classics of India's literature from the Sanskrit into the common languages of Braj or Punjabi, the vernacular languages of the people. Guru Gobind Singh and Sikh philosophy challenged the old order and was viewed as a direct threat to the Brahmins that rule India. The Guru also took many steps to beautify Paonta Sahib.
Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib is situated at the place where a young Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji set foot from his horse in the Kingdom of Sirmaur. The Guru had been invited by Raja Medini Prakash the ruler of Sirmaur to visit his kingdom. The Raja, as many other stories relate, was very hopeful of establishing a strong relationship with the powerful Sikh Guru.
As a special gesture of respect, the Raja, members of his court and his city's leading merchants left the security of his palace in the Kingdom's capital, Nahan, to greet his Guru Gobind Singh and his large party of Sikhs and the Sangat (congregation). The Raja of Srinagar, Garhwal Phatshah had recently taken over some villages in Sirmaur and then there were the roving bands of mughal soldiers to worry about. It would have been easier to just stay in the safety of one's own Palace or fort waiting for guests to arrive, but the special greeting was meant to make sure that the Guru and his Sikhs felt especially welcomed. The warm welcome had the desired effect for Guru Gobind Singh, who would spend the next four and a half years at Paonta and leave a written account in which he described his time at Paonta Sahib as the happiest years of his life.
According to historians, the ruler of Nahan had asked Guru Gobind Singh to select any place in his kingdom for settling permanently. After touring the entire state, Guru Gobind Singh's horse stopped at a place adjacent to the Yamuna. The captivating scenic beauty of the place must also have made the Guru select the spot. Guru Gobind Singh established his fort at the selected place. Guru Gobind Singh also set up a cantonment where his "fauj" stayed. With the support of Guru Gobind Singh, the ruler of Nahan was able to save his territory from being wrested by Raja Fateh Shah of Gharwal.
Paonta Sahib was built on the bank of the Yamuna River and began its life as a fort like home built for the Guru and his family and ended up being a fortress with a Gurdwara in its interior. The fort was built in record time with the Raja's men aiding the Guru's Sikhs. Some have suggested that the builders were filled with extra energy as they wanted to finish the Guru's new home before his approaching birthday. At the time the forest that surrounded the site abounded in wildlife of every kind. Here the beloved Guru was able to escape the intrigue, envy and down right hostility of the Rajas of the Kingdoms around Chak Nanaki, the city his father Guru Tegh Bahadur had founded (the same city that grew to become Anandpur Sahib).
Before leaving the area, the Guru and the Sikh army defeated some of the neighboring Brahmin hill chiefs who had, in his own words, 'attacked him for no cause'. During his stay at Paonta, Guru Gobind Singh availed himself of his spare time to practice different forms of exercises, such as riding, swimming and archery. His increasing influence among the people and the martial exercises of his men excited the jealousy of the neighbouring Rajput hill rulers who led by Raja Fateh Chand of Garhwal collected a host to attack him.
This battle, known as the Battle of Bhangani was the Guru's first battle and the first of his victories. Later Guru Gobind Singh fought in the Battle of Nadaun in which his Sikhs helped route the Mughal force of Alif Khan who had been sent to collect funds 'owed' to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. That historic battle was fought at the site of Gurdwara Sri Kavi Darbar Asthan. Gurdwara Sri Kavi Darbar Asthan was the site once used for the Guru's famed Kavi Darbars where the noise of the nearby Yamuna River had once caused the poets to complain to the Guru. It is said that in response to their complaints, with the blessing of Guru Gobind Singh the once roaring Yamuna fell silent as it passed the Gurdwara Sahib.
The eldest son of Guru Gobind Singh, Sahibzada Baba Ajit Singh Ji was born at Paonta Sahib. Before Guru Gobind Singh left to return to Anandpur Sahib, he appointed Bhai Bishan Singh to look after the fortress-like complex and the Gurdwara within it. Today a museum displays pens and weapons used by the Guru during his days at Paonta Sahib. The magic of the lower Himalayas works on the mind of the Sikhs who come here to pay respects to the great Guru. Its outskirts are dotted with gardens, green meadows and tall evergreen trees, which echo the gushing sounds of the Yamuna's waters.
Paonta Sahib was reconstructed in 1823 by Baba Kapur Singh with funds provided by Sardar Sahib Singh Sandhanwalia. The Gurdwara and about 120 acres of land attached to it continued to be controlled by hereditary mahants until a band of Nihangs occupied it forcibly in 1964. This was followed by a raid by the Himachal Pradesh hindu police force in which 11 Nihangs were killed.
After lengthy enquiries and court proceedings, the management of the Gurdwara was entrusted to an eleven-member committee with the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as its ex-officio chairman. Meanwhile, under a new piece of legislation, the anti-Sikh Himachal Pradesh government permanently allotted most of the land formerly attached to Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib to some of its former tenants under the 'Big Landed Estates Abolition Act'.
An example of the religious importance of the Gurdwara being the "Palki" is made of pure gold, donated by a Sikh. The Hola Mohalla festival is celebrated here with great festivity.
Gurdwara Sri Shergarh Sahib is located approximately 6 km's from Gurdwara Sri Paonta Sahib in Nihal Garh. While staying at Paonta Sahib Guru Gobind Singh came to Nihal Garh. At the time there were many wild animals in the area. The foothills had a thick forest.
This was where the local villagers asked Guru Gobind Singh to help with a troublesome man-eating white lion, a Babbar Sher. Not wanting to risk any of his Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh personally killed the lion. The tree where Guru Ji stood is located within the Gurdwara.
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