Jewel in the East – By Rupinder Kaur
Gurdwara Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji Dhubri, Assam.
Dhubri, a small town near India-Bangladesh border in Assam and about five hours drive from Guwahati, is very famous for the historical Gurdwara Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji. This is the most important shrine for the Sikh community in the north-east of India managed by the Sikh Pratinidhi Board, Eastern Zone. Though, the sikh population in Dhubri is small as compared to other places of Assam like Guwahati, Golpara, Borkhola, Chaparmukh and Dibrugarh, this place is seen thronging with devotees from all over India and the world every year in the month of December to mark the martyrdom of the Ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Teg Bahadur with due solemnity. This day is celebrated as the Sahidi Jormela or Sahidi Gurpurav.
The Gurdwara, Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Ji, located in the busy streets of this town, stands on a high platform near the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra. The white structure of the Gurdwara rises high from its base with its simple architecture. At the entrance is a simple gateway followed by a number of stairs painted red in colour leading to the open courtyard from where one can enter into the sanctum or Darbar Sahib.
In the corner of the courtyard stands the nishan-sahib wrapped in saffron cloth. The first floor of the Gurdwara is actually a gallery overlooking the sanctum where Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy book of the Sikhs is enshrined. On the terrace is a dome with elongated drum where a hand written Guru Granth Sahib is placed. There is also an octagonal domed structure, towards left side. The whole structure looks like a white building of which the lower part is made of white marble while the upper part is covered with white plaster. Its monotony is broken by a number of small arched windows. There are a number of miniature domes and kiosks or chattris around the terrace wall which add animation to the whole architectural setup. Besides this there is a Langar Hall or Community Kitchen where the food is prepared and served to the sangat twenty four hours a day. New upcoming structures can also be seen in the Gurdwara complex.
Tracing the historical significance of the place we came to know that it was visited by the First Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev, in 1505, during the reign of the Ahom King Suhungmung. He came here during his first major travel or Udasi to deliver the world (Jagat Udharan) and spread the word about the oneness of God. Later in February 1669, the Ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, visited this place with Raja Ram Singh of Amber (Jaipur). At that time India was being ruled by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
There was a long-drawn war between the Mughals and the Ahoms. The Mughals had captured many areas of Assam. But in 1667, the Ahoms not only recovered the areas ceded by the Mughals, but also occupied Guwahati the seat of their faith and culture, the city of Kamakhya temple, the soul of their dharma and very existence. It was with this purpose that Aurangzeb sent Raja Ram Singh, a Rajput General in his army to reconquer the lost territories from the Ahom ruler, Chakradhwaj Singh. The Ahoms were well known not only for their war-skills but also for possessing supernatural powers and the art of black magic. Of all the generals who had been sent on that errand none except Raja Man Singh, had ever returned. Thus Raja Ram Singh’s parents who were the followers of Guru Teg Bahadur, advised him to seek protection of the Holy feet and accompany him in his expedition, in which case victory would certainly incline to his side. Guru Teg Bahadur accepted his request in order to revive the religious message spread by the earlier visit of Guru Nanak Dev.
When King Chakradhwaj Singh heard the news of Raja Ram Singh’s arrival to attack him, he made all preparations to destroy him and his army. He sent for all the women of his land who were famous for their magical skills to overpower natural forces and their ability to destroy any human being. The head of these witches was a dhoban or washerwomen named Naitani who hurled a very heavy piece of stone measuring 3ft by 2.25ft in thickness and 25ft in length towards Guru Teg Bahadur. The stone came swinging across the sky like a missile and struck the ground at a distance of about 100 yards from the holy benefactor, so hard that nearly half of it went into the ground and the other half about 13 ft remained sticking out, at an angle of about 50 degrees. On seeing the failure of her first attempt she thus flung a Pipal tree towards him, which kept flying in the air without causing injury to anyone. The witch tried all means but her powers failed in front of the great Guru. At last she asked for forgiveness. She told him that they were only fighting against the foreigners who had come to enslave them. She took his blessings and became his disciple. Guruji got very pleased by her devotion and dedication and named the place ‘Dhubri’ after her.
Guru Teg Bahadur thus acted as a pacifier between Raja Ram Singh and the Ahom King and asked them to achieve their end through peaceful negotiations. This scene of mutual no-war agreement between the two sides is beautifully painted by the artist Amolak Singh. This painting is now displayed in Bhai Mati Das Bhai Sati Das Bhai Dayala Museum of Gurdwara Sis Ganj, New Delhi.
In this painting, Guru Teg Bahadur is shown seated on the right side while the leaders of the two armies stand up and extend the hand of friendship towards each other. This is further emphasized by both hindu and muslim soldiers who are shown digging the earth in the background and carrying the mud in their shields to make the mound of piece as per the Guru’s order. The foreground is well carpeted and indicates the interior of a tent. On the left are shown people from different tribes seated and standing witnessing the event.
The belief is that the tree thus started growing on this new soil and survives to this day. This fully grown tree can be reached through the stairs on the third storey of the Gurdwara.
As far as the huge stone is concerned it too stands in the same position, outside the Gurdwara in the Kchahries or Court complex across the road. It is said that during the British period when some officers tried to take it out from its original place to start some construction work, they failed to do so.
In order to blow it up, they started drilling on its sides to fit the bomb, when blood started flowing from it. Thus it was left unmolested under official instructions. It is now protected by a low height wall and an iron railing from three sides.
This Gurdwara today stands as a major Sikh pilgrimage center outside Punjab in the North Eastern region of India as an epitome of peace and harmony.