Within 10 minutes, we reached Gurudwara Mata Jito Ji from my grandparental house at Agampur Sahib. The Gurudwara is located on the road that connects another historic town of Garh Shankar across the River Satluj. It is slightly tucked inside the lane by about 20 meters. There is a possibility that you might miss the turn if you are not watching for the signboard. Though I have spent many of my summer vacations during school days and many more visits to Agampur since then, this was my first visit to this Gurudwara. Maybe at that time, I was not a keen explorer for history. With a kindled interest in seeing and visiting historical places, there could not have been any other better place with such a strong link with the past and the rich religious history of the world.
Mata Jito Ji was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). She was married to Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib on 4th April 1684. Her father had a desire that the bridegroom shall come to their home at Lahore as per the tradition, and the marriage ceremony be performed there. However, due to changed circumstances related to security as well as considering high expenses of travel to Lahore and the wishes of many followers, it was decided to have the marriage ceremony performed at Anandpur Sahib.
A temporary camp was raised near village Basantgarh and named "Guru Ka Lahore". This place is about 15 km from Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib. The marriage ceremony was performed at this camp. Guru's mother gave Mata Jito Ji a new name of Mata Sundari Ji after marriage as per the prevailing customs. This custom still prevails in many Punjabi families of giving a new name to the brides post marriage. On 30th March 1699, Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib, thus giving birth to the Sikh religion. As per the Khalsa tradition, Mata Jito Ji was the 1st Khalsa woman. She died on 5th December 1700, and her cremation took place at this place where we now have Gurudwara in her memory. This Gurudwara is considered a sacred and revered place in the Sikh religion.
My father had told an interesting story about this Gurudwara going back to the early '70s when my grandfather, Pandit Ram Lok Shastri, was Sarpanch (Head) of the village committee. This Gurudwara was not in a very good condition at that point in time. After becoming Chief Minister of the Indian state of Punjab for the first time, Mr. Prakash Singh Badal was visiting the village. Being Sarpanch, my grandfather was giving him a walk-around of the village. During the visit, my grandfather pointed out about the stark difference in the maintenance condition of this Gurudwara versus the main Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib and requested for renovation and better up-keeping, which Mr. Badal promised. Once Mr. Badal went back, he not only ensured that the Gurudwara is renovated but also ensured that it is maintained well going forward.
To me, this Gurudwara is one of the connecting dots of the world religious heritage just like Nazareth in Israel. Anyone who is interested in studying the religious history of the world shall be visiting this Gurudwara and the town. I am happy to see that a monument of such great historical importance is being maintained well and is in such a good condition now. The Gurudwara is highly revered in the Agampur village and the surrounding areas. There is a custom in the village wherein at the time of marriage, the bridegroom offers prayers at the Lord Shiva temple and then offers prayers to Mata Jito Ji, after which he heads out with the marriage party to the bride's place.
When we entered the Gurudwara, it was noontime, and there were no devotes except for a few sevadar (attendants). In a way, it was good as we could spend time in the sanctorium as well as on the campus. It was an excellent opportunity for me to talk to them and know more about the place. The Gurudwara is small but very beautiful, surrounded by lush green trees. I was told that the Gurudwara sees a considerable rush of devotees around the big festivals and especially on the Hola Mohalla festival which is celebrated in March every year. Guru Gobind Singh Ji founded this festival in the year 1701. The tradition for this festival involved mock battles, poetry contests, and various other festivities, including kirtans (devotional songs) and processions by devotees near Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib.
The tradition around the festivities has continued over the centuries. Hola Mohalla or Hola is now one of the biggest festivals in Sikh religion and is celebrated at Anandpur Sahib. During the festival period, vast numbers of devotees from across the world descend over the town. Although the main festivities last three days, the devotees camp there for a more extended period. Excellent arrangements are made for food (langar) to cater to such a huge number of devotees by the organizing committee as well as by the local residents.
My father told me the story of the '50s and '60s before he moved to Delhi for his job. As the processions encompassing thousands of devotees would pass through the villages, all the villagers would line up the route and would offer meals, buttermilk, and sweets to the participants. This tradition also continues until now, but I have never been able to make to my grandparental house during these three important days. During my morning walks on this road, I have noticed that lots of halls and tin-shed structures have come up. Boards are indicating the name of village committees which have built them there. Perhaps, it is for providing shelters to the devotees visiting from that village/city during Hola. A visit to my grandparental house during the Hola is on my bucket list. The stories which I have read and heard about the festivities, I am sure it will be a surreal experience.
After about an hour in the Gurudwara complex, we started for the nearby town of Nangal, which happens to have my maternal grandparents' house, but not before having a quick stopover at nearby Holgarh Fort Gurudwara.