Book: Religious & Spiritual Circuits – Nepal & India
Publisher: Nepal – India Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Nepal Tourism Board
Publication Year: 2023. Pages: 193
By Santokh Singh Bains | Book Review |
The relationship between Nepal and India is age-old, time-tested and multi-dimensional. Also, the two countries have been connected through open borders since time immemorial.
In Nepal and India, there are scores of religious sites relating to the world’s three major religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The book under review provides exhaustive information about five religious circuits concerning Shiva Shakti, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Buddhism and Sikhism.
Religious & Spiritual Circuits – Nepal & India, which is an amazing coffee table book, aims to promote religious tourism between the two countries.
Experts from different religious backgrounds have provided valuable information relating to different religious circuits. As regards the Sikh circuit, Gyani Gurbaksh Singh, Rajinder Singh Chadha, Pritam Singh, Rupy Singh and Kiran Deep Sandhu extended their guidance and support.
Basic information about the Sikh religion and Guru Nanak’s travel to Nepal has been provided on pages 167 to 170. Thereafter, suitable pictures and detailed information relating to the Sikh religious sites in the Himalayan country have been furnished on pages 171 to 181.
Several historical matths/gurdwaras in the Kathmandu region commemorate Guru Nanak’s stay at different places in Nepal.
Guru Nanak Matth/Gurdwara at Balaju, which was constructed more than 400 years ago in the style of local Nepalese architecture, is certainly the most significant historical Sikh shrine in Kathmandu. There still stands a Peepul tree under which Guru Nanak is said to have meditated. Also, a pair of footprints, which are engraved in stone, are believed to be of Guru Nanak’s. The gurdwara has a precious 300-year-old handwritten Saroop of Guru Granth Sahib.
When Guru Nanak was in Kathmandu, Nepal was going through a severe drought. At the request of the suffering people, Guru Nanak is said to have pressed his thumb against the face of the hillside and then a fountain of water sprung from the hill. For more than five centuries, water has been flowing uninterruptedly from this holy spring which is known as Gyan Dhara.
It is said that Guru Nanak had also meditated at a place where Singha Durbar presently stands. Hence, the shrine was relocated to Shobha Bhagwati at Dallu. Inside the two-storied brick house, there is another handwritten Saroop of Guru Granth Sahib. A unique primitive bell hangs in the courtyard; Gurmukhi inscriptions on the bell symbolise the oneness of God and the oneness of humanity.
Udasi Akhada Prachin Matth/Gurdwara, which belongs to Kalmochan Ghat, is located on the banks of the Bagmati River at Thapathali. According to the local Mahant, Baba Sri Chand, the eldest son of Guru Nanak, had stayed at this location when he had visited Kathmandu.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh had probably sent some 12,000 Sikh soldiers along with many horses to Nepal as part of the alliance with the Himalayan country against the British India. Large cooking vessels used by the Sikh soldiers have been kept meticulously at the Matth.
There are two important Sikh shrines located in the premises of Pashupati Conservation Area: Bhasmeshor and Raaj Rajeshwari. The shrine at Bhasmeshor commemorates Guru Nanak’s visit to Pashupati Temple and also his meditation at this place. It was initially located on the long brick building opposite the present location, but was shifted to the new place after it was damaged during the earthquake in 2015.
About 300 metres to the south is located the Pashupati garden; Raaj Rajeshwari shrine is situated here. Raaj and Rajeshwari were two Sikh princesses who were married into the Nepalese royal family. A few Sikhs from Punjab had come with them to Nepal. Raaj and Rajeshwari arranged to get a copy of Guru Granth Sahib from Benares through a Nirmala saint who became the priest at the shrine.
As regards non-historical gurdwaras in Nepal, the most significant one is Gurdwara Guru Nanak Satsang at Kupondole in Kathmandu. It was established mainly due to the efforts of Pritam Singh who is known as the pioneer of road transport in Nepal.The present gurdwara has a large compound which houses the main shrine and a Yatri Niwas to accommodate visitors. There are several smaller gurdwaras in towns like Birgunj, Butwal, Nepalgunj, Krishnanagar and Dhangadhi.
Appropriate information about the Sikh religious sites in India has also been provided in the coffee table book. Hence, proper information has been furnished about the five Takhts, Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar, and important gurdwaras located in Delhi/New Delhi and some other places.
By publishing the profusely illustrated and uniquely informative book, Nepal – India Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Nepal Tourism Board have rendered yeoman’s service for the cause of promoting religious tourism between Nepal and India. Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs desirous of visiting their important religious sites in Nepal and/or India would find the book immensely useful.
Hopefully the outstanding book will have a positive impact on the Sikh readers. Now, the Sikhs from all over the world should start going to Nepal in large numbers to visit the historic Sikh shrines associated with Guru Nanak’s sojourn in the Himalayan country.
Santokh Singh Bains is a Chicago based writer and free lance journalist. His debut book titled Sikhs, Sikhism and the World was published in 2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* This is the opinion of the writers, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Nepali Literature on Sikhism (Asia Samachar, 3 May 2023)
Guru Nanak in Nepal (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2018)
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