Gurudwara Goindwal Sahib: First Pilgrimage of Sikhism
I got to visit Gurudwara Goindwal Sahib in the Taran Taran district of the Majha region of Punjab, a few days ago. The usual hustle bustle of a holy place kept me caught up but what awaited me was, in fact, beyond my expectations – a surreal and a grounding experience, moving yet a peaceful moment in time; A place where time seemed to stand still.
The Gurudwara Sahib was established by Guru Amar Das Ji in the 16th century. It is the first pilgrimage of Sikhism. Built on the banks of river Beas, the gurudwara is also the place where Sikhs perform the last rites of their deceased by immersing their ashes in the river. It is to the Sikhs what Haridwar is to the Hindus.
Legend has it that Guru Amar Das Ji used to carry water and walk all the way from this place to Khadur for Guru Angad Dev Ji’s bathing every morning. Then he would walk all the way back in reverse, never turning his back towards his guru, Guru Angad Dev ji. Guru Amar Das ji served Guru Angad Dev ji like this for twelve years.
The Baoli Sahib (a stepwell) was built there under the guidance of Guru Amar Das Ji when he was anointed as the Guru. There are 84 steps that lead to the Baoli (well) where pilgrims take a holy dip and collect holy water to carry to their homes.
One cannot but wonder how each step that Guru Amar Das Ji took to take water to his Guru was a step full of dedication and unquestioned surrender. It was a journey of devotion for his divine teacher Guru. One is awestruck and forced to think about the commitment of Guru ji not only towards his Dharma but also to the very act of it, his Karma.
The 84 steps that lead from the Baoli to the Gurudwara Sahib are believed to represent 84 Lakh cycles of birth & death (84 Lakhs Yonis), before a wandering soul is born as a human. The idea of 84 lakh yonis is often associated with the concept of samsara and its end, the moksha.
It is said that Guru Amar Das ji used to recite Japu Ji Sahib every time he carried water from the Baoli to his Guru. Therefore, it is believed that after taking holy dip at the Baoli, if Japu Ji Sahib is recited on each one of the these 84 steps, one gets released/liberated from the cycle of life and death and ultimately attains Moksha/Mukti (unity with God). This powerful belief is what attracts the pilgrims from all over India and the world.
Gurudwara Goindwal Sahib represents a strong desire of human beings for completion of their journey, journeys that lead us to the inner worlds within our soul and beyond, to other spiritual realms.
Visiting the Gurudwara Sahib is the journey that has long inspired seekers to connect with the divine, journeys that we all wish for but only a few are able to experience. Yes, such divine places ignite the seeking within us, they are always special and a part of our soul resides in them.
People visit Goindwal Sahib regularly, from far and near, to get a feel of the divine consciousness, or to feel one with The One. We realized that to seek the unknown and unseen, and then to be fortunate enough to experience it in our soul, was actually the missing piece of the puzzle our consciousness silently craved for. That is the reason why people magnetically get drawn to this divine experience again and again .
A serene holy place with peaceful resonance of its rich history and spiritual heritage, Goindwal Sahib is bound to touch the very soul of anyone who visits it. It is a place where the soul feels rested and the ones who have crossed the earthly bridge are set free in the river Beas. Gurudwara Goindwal Sahib reverberates the omni-present, ever-pervasive truth of our life’s purpose and its culmination.
Besides being home to Guru Amar Das Ji who lived there for 33 long years, Goindwal Sahib is also the birthplace of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. It is also known as the axis of Sikhism. A large community kitchen or Langar provides food to thousands of visitors each day, living one of the diktats of Guru Nanak, “wand chhak“.