It’s not every day that you get to visit the place where a guru is born. Though, most of us shy away from the state of Bihar, it is a cultural and historical belt in the country. And it’s also here that the 10th guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was born on December 22,1666.
While watching singer Daler Mehndi share his life on Comedy Nights with Kapil, I was amazed to know that his father had been a ragi at Takhat Sri Harimandir Ji, Patna Sahib. Mehndi had also sung shabads there, until he decided to make a shift to commercial music. And my mind flew back to my visit to Patna Sahib.
Unlike the group of Sikhs I was travelling with, I did not know the significance of the Takat Sri Harimandir Ji, Patna Sahib. Takht is a seat of power. Expected because even till then, I did not do enough research on the place where I was going. This is something I have learned over the years, that a little knowledge about the land, the culture and the food is a great way to begin your trip. Once, the basics are in place, then you can learn and add more, or even subtract with local flavours, depending on what’s on offer in reality.
Takht Sri Harimandir Ji, Patna Sahib
Anyway, coming to Patna Sahib, the group was in fervour. It was a moment of ecstasy for most and they walked through the narrow streets, not noticing the bad roads and the small shops. I eyed the street snacks, the golden bangles, the flying dupattas, but as everyone was in a hurry to reach the gurudwara, I had to keep temptation at bay.
Like most historical gurudwaras, this one was also built by the first Maharaja of the Sikh empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) on the banks of Ganga in Patna, Bihar. I couldn’t see the Ganga in immediate vicinity, but a little road led us to it later.
Heads covered, feet washed, we entered the gurudwara. The shabads were going on and we sat down. Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur had also visited Patna, so for the Sikhs the city holds a lot of importance. Some say that Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed at this exact location. And a magnificent house was built above the dharamsala of Salis Rai. The takht was reconstructed in 1839 after it had been destroyed by a fire. The gurudwara has seen a lot of shifts, as some of the building fell down during the earthquake of 1934. Construction of the present building was taken up on November 19, 1954.
Some of the amazing things preserved in this gurudwara are Sri Guru Granth Saheb called Bare Saheb with signature of Guru Gobind Singh. Then there is an oil painting of Guru Gobind Singh at a young age called Chhabi Saheb. A small cradle with four stands covered with gold plates, Panghura Saheb, is also placed there. Then there is the small ‘saif’(sword), four iron arrows, an earthen round goli, small iron chakri, iron khanda, iron Baghnakh-khanjer, wooden comb, two iron ‘chaker’, pair of sandals made of elephant teeth—all belonging to Guru Gobind Singh; and a pair of sandals made of sandalwood belonging to Guru Tegh Bahadur.
There is also a book of ‘Hukumnamas’ of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh and wooden spinning instruments of Kabir. It was a moving time, seeing the revered relics, preserved for posterity to see the sacrifices of the holy men.
As the shabads, continued, some sat with eyes closed, while others moved in rhythm. Their lips moving silently. Paying obeisance to Guru Granth Sahib, we folded our hands for karah Prasad, a sweet flour ball loaded with ghee. And then walked to another hall to eat langar, the revered food for the soul.
On the streets of Patna
I had kept space for food from the road as well. While I was eyeing the namkeens in one shop, someone suggested khaja. It is a deep friend sweet made of wheat flour, mava and sugar. It does taste different from all the other sweets and I brought some back home as well. Then there was the famous litti chokha with mashed potatoes and a hard flour ball. This is certainly a must eat dish in the city.
I wanted to explore more, but we were late for our flight, so it was time for the fastest ride back to the airport. Maybe next time, Patna would show me some other flavours.