Punjab is one of the prosperous states in Northern India which once comprised of current Indian states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh as well as the Punjab province of Pakistan. The word Punjab is derived from the Persian words of "Panj" and "ab" thus Panjab means "Five Rivers," which also means "Land of Five Rivers." The five rivers are the Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, and Jhelum.
The name Punjab was given to the region by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Punjab has a rich history dating back to the Mahabharata era and was the epicenter of Indus Valley civilization. The Punjab region was conquered by many ancient empires including the Gandhara, Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas, Kushans, Guptas, Palas, Gurjara-Pratiharas and Hindu Shahis.
Modern Punjab is the place where Sikhism was founded in the 15th century on the teachings of Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh Gurus (the last teaching being the holy book Guru Granth Sahib). It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world.
I was born in Punjab and had been going to the state since my childhood as my both grandparental houses are located in the nearby towns at Anandpur Sahib and Nangal (situated on the banks of River Satluj). Till the time I moved to college, on every summer vacations we used to go there for at least a month which would include shuttling between both the towns. Later, as I moved on in my career and jobs, the frequency of my visits reduced to family functions, important events, and the trips to the family deity at Shri Naina Devi temple.
When I moved to Bangalore about a couple of years back, there was a long period when I was not able to go there, and a trip had become long overdue. Finally, I took a trip last weekend as some family commitment had also come up which coupled with a long weekend gave the perfect setting to make a quick trip to Anandpur Sahib.
Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara Sri Kesgarh Sahib is one amongst the five takhts of the Sikh religion. Takht refers to the seat of authority in Sikh religion. There are five takhts in all which govern the Sikh religion and are considered very holy places. Sri Keshgarh Sahib has a much higher significance in Sikh religion as the Khalsa Panth was established in 1699 at the location by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
My bucket list for the two days included the following places:
- Gurudwara Sri Kesgarh @ Anandpur Sahib
- My Grand-parental House @ Agampur Sahib
- Gurudwara Mata Jito Ji @ Agampur Sahib
- Shri Naina Devi Temple
- Gurudwara Sri Sheesh Mahal @ Kiratpur Sahib
- Gurudwara Patalpuri Sahib @ Kiratpur Sahib
- Virasat-e-Khalsa – A museum of Sikh history at Anandpur Sahib
Air Asia and a couple of other airlines had daily direct flights a while ago to Chandigarh from Bengaluru which takes 3 hours. Incidentally, it happens to be the longest non-stop domestic flight in India. I took a Thursday morning flight which reached Chandigarh at 12.45 p.m. My wife and sister had started from Delhi in the morning and picked me up from the airport.
For anyone wanting to explore Punjab, Chandigarh is a gateway as well as a good starting point. Chandigarh is well connected by Air India, Go Air, Indigo, SpiceJet, Air Asia, and few others with flights to various cities across the country. This apart, numerous direct trains and buses are connecting Chandigarh directly with various cities in the country. A couple of international flights are connecting Chandigarh with Dubai and Sharjah and is expected to be connected with a few more shortly.
Anandpur Sahib is about 80 km from Chandigarh and takes about 75 minutes. The roads are excellent except for a small patch where the road is without divider. After coming out of the airport, we straightaway headed for Anandpur Sahib. On the way, we stopped for lunch near Ropar at Haveli Restaurant. Over last few years, Haveli chain of hotels has come up on the highway to Punjab from Delhi. A unique but interesting concept but provides a good stopover for people traveling long distance. Good ethnic food with nice ambiance coupled with cultural shows, folk dances like Giddha and Bhangra and many more add up to a unique experience which is available just on the shoulder of the road. If you are traveling to this part, do not forget to have this experience. Of late, some more such hotel chains have come up alongside the highway providing travelers a similar ethnic experience albeit with some different flavors.
We reached Anandpur Sahib around 4.00 p.m. and went straight to Agampur Sahib, a place about 2 km away and have my grand-parental house. It also has Gurudwara Mata Jito Ji, who was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru.
My grand-parental house was built in 1961 by my grandfather. During my school days, I spent my summer vacations at this place, and it used to be fun with all the cousins descending over the house from different cities. We will also go to paddy fields as well as to the small river called Charan Ganga, which flows past the village. We all were happy to don the role of a shepherd while taking our cows & buffaloes out for grazing.
My grandfather was sarpanch (head of the village committee) of the village from the period about 1962 to ~1974-75. Due to this fact, there was always a stream of visitors at home even after he had relinquished the position. During the period when my grandfather was sarpanch, Gyani Zail Singh represented this area in the state assembly as well as Indian Parliament. He once visited our house to meet my grandfather, though I do not have the memories of that visit. Later, Gyani Zail Singh went on to become President of the country from 1982 to 1987.
Till about a couple of years back, my aunt used to stay in this house. After her demise sometime back, no one stays in the house. After spending about an hour at our home, we headed towards Gurudwara Mata Jito Ji.