Located on the banks of the Godavari River, the city of Nanded in Maharashtra looks like any other growing Indian city with industrialization rapidly taking over. But few realise that this region has a history that goes back at least 2,300 years and it houses a monument that marks a pivotal turning point in the history of Sikhism.
In the 4th century BCE, Nanded was ruled by the Nanda dynasty, whose capital was Pataliputra (modern-day Patna). Subsequently, it came under the rule of the Mauryas (4th to 2nd centuries BCE) and later also under the Satavahanas.
Nanded and its irrigation practices find mention in the 13th-century text, Leela Charitra, a sacred treatise of the Mahanubhava sect written by its follower Mhaimbhatta. Also, a copper plate inscription found at nearby Washim tells us that Nanded was earlier known as ‘Nanditat’. Locals believe that Lord Shiva once performed penance on the banks (tat) of the Godavari River, and hence the place is known as ‘Nanditat’.
Nanded is also an important pilgrimage site of the Sikhs as it is home to one of their most sacred shrines – Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchal Nagar Sahib. It is here that the tenth and last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666 - 1708), anointed the holy book Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of Sikhism. It is also where the Guru spent the last 14 months of his life.
The Hazur Sahib (‘presence of the master’) gurdwara, built between 1832 and 1837 on the orders of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is one of the five main takhts or seats of the Sikh religion. The shrine has two sanctum sanctorums. While the outer room is where the priests carry out all their functions, the inner sanctum is a vault that houses priceless objects, weapons and other personal belongings of the Guru. No one except the head priest can enter this holy vault. Besides the Guru Granth Sahib, it also houses the religious text, Dasam Granth.
In 1675, when the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was publicly beheaded in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk by the Mughals under Emperor Aurangzeb, for his refusal to convert to Islam, his nine-year-old son Gobind was formally installed as the next leader of the Sikhs. The ever growing Muslim-Sikh conflicts encouraged Guru Gobind Singh to found a Sikh spiritual-warrior community called ‘Khalsa’ in 1699. The group would always be ready to defend their faith.
Guru Gobind Singh also introduced the ‘Five Ks’, the five articles of Sikhism that the Khalsa Sikhs should have on them at all times – Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (a wooden comb), Kara (an iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist), Kirpan (a sword or dagger) and Kacchera (short breeches).
Guru Gobind Singh’s reign was marked by fierce wars as the Sikh community defended itself against repeated attacks by the Mughal army and also local Hindu chiefs. Guru Gobind Singh fought 13 battles during his lifetime, as a result of which he also witnessed the death of all four of his sons – two were executed by the Mughals and two died fighting in the Battle of Chamkaur (1704). In the same year, Guru Gobind Singh and his followers were forced to leave Anandpur in Punjab and they made their way south, into the Deccan, constantly dodging enemy forces .
In 1707, Emperor Aurangzeb died and his successor, Bahadur Shah, wanted to mend fences with the Sikhs. He invited Guru Gobind Singh to Delhi with an offer of peace. But while on his way, Guru Gobind Singh was attacked by a group led by the Mughal Governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan. Suffering grievous injuries, Guru Gobind Singh stayed back at Nanded. While convalescing, he held his court and congregation here, and when he realized that his end was near, declared that after him, the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, would be the eternal Guru.
Hazur Sahib in Nanded marks the place where Guru Gobind Singh was laid to rest in 1708. The Sikh community built a room over the platform where the Guru used to sit while holding his court and installed the Guru Granth Sahib on it. They called it Takht Sahib. Ranjit Singh had the present building of the Takht Sahib constructed with funds, artisans, and labour sent from Punjab during the early 1830s.
At this time, Nanded was a part of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s dominions. Post-independence, in 1956, it was included in the Bombay Presidency, and in May 1960, when the state of Maharashtra was created on a linguistic basis, the Marathi-dominant Nanded became a part of it.
Interestingly, Nanded’s link to the Sikh faith goes back much further. The first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), is believed to have passed through this city on one of his travels and it was on this land that Banda Singh Bahadur (1670 – 1716), the military commander of the Khalsa army, had his ashram.
Thus, Hazur Sahib and Nanded are living monuments to a faith with a rich and deep history.
LHI Travel Guide
Nanded is 250 km from Hyderabad, 275 km from Aurangabad and 650 km from Mumbai by road. Several passenger bus services operate out of Nanded to these three cities. Various train routes across Maharashtra and Telangana also pass through Nanded, and the Sachkhand Express is a special superfast train from Amritsar to Nanded.