The village of Dera Baba Nanak is associated with Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji. It is about 1 kms from the Indo-Pakistan border and on the east bank of River Ravi, which is one of the main five rivers of Punjab.
Guru Nanak founded Kartarpur, which was nearby and has since been lost to the River Ravi, and visited the area which has become Dera Baba Nanak.
Guru Nanak spent his last years of his temporal life in this area. Dera Baba Nanak has many lanes and houses that have been preserved since the time of Guru Nanak.
There are two historic Gurdwaras in Dera Baba Nanak.
Guru Nanak came here after his first udasi (tour) on December 1515 AD to see his family. His wife Mata Sulakhani and his two sons Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand had come to stay here in their maternal home at Pakhoke Dera Baba Nanak, near Dera Baba Nanak, where Lala Mool Raj, father–in–law of Guru Nanak was working as Patwari. At that time this village was situated across the river Ravi.
During the 1800's, Maharaja Ranjit Singh provided a copper gilded throne to the Gurdwara and got its canopy covered with marble. The Gurdwara is in the centre of the town and comprises three separate memorials.
A well which originally belonged to Bhai Ajita still exists and is reverently called Sarji Sahib. Some people drink its water in the belief that it possesses curative properties.
The second memorial is the 'Kirtan Asthan', a rectangular hall, which marks the site where Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji had sat rapt in Kirtan when visiting Dera Baba Nanak for condolence on the death of Baba Dharam Das. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated in this hall.
The final memorial is the central Gurdwara, called Thara Sahib. This marks the 'Thara' or platform, on which Guru Nanak had sat when he first came to Ajita's well and where, later, Sri Chand buried his father's ashes. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated here in a small square pavilion with a pinnacled lotus dome under an overhanging gilded canopy. The whole pavilion is covered with gold-plated metal sheets with some of the hymns of Guru Nanak embossed on them.
The Thara Sahib is at one end of a recently constructed spacious hall, above which, over the sanctum, is a square domed room with an ornamental arched coping and domed kiosks at the corners. The entire exterior above the roof level of this room is covered with gold-plated metal sheets. The goldwork on top as well as on the sanctum was carried in 1827 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who also made endowments in cash and land for the maintenance of the Gurdwara.
The Gurdwara is administered by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee through a local committee. Special divans take place on every amavasya, the last day of the dark half of the lunar month, and all major anniversaries, especially the one marking Guru Nanak's re-joining with God, are observed. But the most important annual event is the fair celebrating the Vaisakhi festival.
A handwritten copy of the Guru Granth Sahib is preserved in this Gurdwara. It has 1660 pages, each page having a handsomely illuminated border.
Gurdwara Sri Chola Sahib Dera Baba Nanak is in the eastern part of the town, it is connected with a chola, or cloak, believed to have been presented to Guru Nanak by a muslim devotee at Baghdad. The chola, bearing some Quranic verses and Arabic numerals, arranged in the form of charms embroidered on it, was procured from Baghdad by Baba Kabali Mal, a descendant of Guru Nanak.
The Chola was brought to Dera Baba Nanak on 20 Phagun 1884 Bk / 1st March 1828. A special Gurdwara was constructed where the Chola Sahib was kept and where it was put on display at the time of a fair held from 21 to 23 Phagun, early March, every year.
Gurdwara Sri Chola Sahib was under private management of the resident descendants of Guru Nanak. As the Gurdwara reform movement got under way, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee claimed possession of the Gurdwara, but the owners resisted.
In the end, the control of the Gurdwara passed to the Committee, but Chola Sahib, the relic, remained with the family. It is now displayed in a glass case in a private house, about 50 metres from the Gurdwara, attended in rotation by three Bedi families living there.
Gurdwara Sri Chola Sahib is now administered by the local committee. The 3 day annual fair and Guru ka Langar are held as usual in the adjoining compound. The Gurdwara compound also has within it the samadh of Baba Kabali Mal and an octagon shaped old well. The local belief is that the water of this well cures women whose offspring die during infancy.
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