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Construction Of A Baoli

The most famous and sacred spot of Goindwal is Gurdwara Sri Baoli Sahib Goindwal. A Baoli (step well), paved with 84 steps was constructed here. Sikhs believe that by reciting Japji Sahib, the divine Word revealed to Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, at each of the 84 steps after taking a bath in the Baoli provides Moksha, liberation from 84,00,000 cycles of life of this world and unity with God (mukhti) if completed with a pure heart.

Originally, Guru Amar Das had a well constructed here. As the water was far below, a wheel installed at the top of the well could draw the water up by means of buckets put on chains which revolved, as the wheel was worked, by oxen. The water was used by all for domestic and farming purposes. Traditionally, hindus do not allow dalits and other low castes to share their food or water (yes, even today!). Offenders or those that take food and water, that are assumed to be low-born, are killed. However, Sikhs view all people as equal in the eyes of God.

Baoli Sahib

The Baoli Sahib is a large, open well, 8 metres across. Its water level is reached through a covered passage comprising a flight of 84 steps. A wide pointed archway opens on a domed clearance, four steps below the ground level, decorated with frescoes depicting the life of Guru Amar Das. The well has a few resting places between the 84 steps providing the Sikhs a place to get together and have spiritual discussion.

There are projected eaves on all sides, while the front face also has a row of small turrets. The cornice under the dome is multi-coloured with floral designs. Its cupola is painted with multi-coloured floral designs and portraits of Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh.

Prayer And Construction

As the story goes, Guru Amar Das decided to build a Baoli in Goindwal, converting the old well. When the Sikhs began digging Baoli they found that there was a large rocks that hindered their progress. The Sangat tried its best to remove the rocks but the kept appearing. Guru Amar Das was informed and advised the Sangat that they should recite Japji Sahib and try again. Guru Amar Das said that the Sangat should carry out Japji Sahib and continue work with every step.

Meanwhile the Sikhs continued with great energy and devotion to excavate the Baoli at Goindwal. After digging very deep they found a huge rock which hindered their progress. The Sikhs asked Guru Amar Das for advice on how to remove the obstacle. He counselled patience, and said that all should be well in due time. When water obstinately refused to enter the Baoli, the Guru inquired if there were any of his Sikhs sufficiently courageous to drive a peg into the base of the rock with the object of removing the obstruction.

Manak Chand Risks His Life

At the same time the Guru warned his Sikhs that the operation involved great peril. The man who performed it must be able to stem the current which would issue from the aperture formed by the peg; otherwise he would be drowned. All the Sikhs remained silent, and no one ventured to undertake such a perilous task. At last Manak Chand of Vairowal (also possibly known as Bherowal), a young man with a sprouting beard, who was married to a niece of the Guru, declared himself at the Guru's service.

This man's history is connected with the miraculous power of the first Guru. When Guru Nanak visited Thatha, Hari Chand who was childless took him an offering of milk in the hope of obtaining the object of his desires. The Guru being pleased, said, "A gem (manak) shall be strung on your necklace." Within a year a son was born to him who was called Manak Chand, in remembrance of the word used by the Guru and the fulfilment of the prophecy.

Manak Chand, invoking God's name, extracted the peg, whereupon there immediately issued a rushing stream of water which overflowed the Baoli. Manak, though on his guard, was upturned, and though striking out vigorously sank to the bottom. Next morning his old widowed mother and his young wife came and sat on the edge of the Baoli weeping piteously. The aged mother was crying out, "Ah! Manak my son, who will protect me now? You should have taken me with you." Guru Amar Das inquired who was weeping. The Sikhs brought the old lady to him, and she bowed at his feet.

Guru Amar Das Recalls Manak Chand

Guru Amar Das said, "Manak has not drowned, he will save many a one yet. Have patience, and he will come to you." Guru Amar Das went and stood by the Baoli. He called out, "Manak, behold your mother is crying for you, come and meet her." At once, Manak's body rose to the surface. Guru Amar Das meditated on God, and touched the young man's body with his foot, upon which he walked forth from the water in the full possession of life and vigour.

Guru Amar Das then addressed Manak, "You are my living (ji) son (war) - Jiwar. Your sons shall be called the sons of Jiwar." Once the 84 steps were created, Guru Amar Das explained that those Sikhs who completed Japji Sahib on each step with firm faith would achieve liberation with God and not suffer the pains of birth and death in future.

Thara Sahib Sri Guru Amar Das Ji is a marble lined platform, with a pinnacled canopy of white marble supported on cylinderical columns, at the entrance to the Baoli Sahib. It marks the site where Guru Amar Das used to sit supervising the digging of the Baoli.

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