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Jun 1, 2004
"The Eternal Father willed and I raised the Panth. All my Sikhs are hereby ordered to accept the Granth as their Preceptor. Have faith in the Holy Granth as your Master and consider it the visible manifestation of the Gurus. He who hath a pure heart will seek guidance from its holy words." — Guru Gobind Singh

Shortly before he was attacked by assassins, Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th spiritual leader of the Sikhs, proclaimed himself the last living Guru and established the Granth or Holy Book as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs, elevating the reverence of the Granth to that of a living Guru.

In 1708, the year after the death of Aurangzeb, a wounded Guru Sahib came to Nanded, Maharashtra, where he often held court and addressed the congregation while convalescing from an attack by assassins sent by the Nawab of Sirhind. At the spot where the guru camped during his last days, Maharaja Ranjit Singh built the Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib — the last living guru's last bastion — where he wanted his followers to come.

Overpowering Aura
I felt humbled and dwarfed when I reached the huge marble courtyard that surrounds the gurudwara. My energy levels surged as I waded through the water-filled channel — that washes your feet — at the edge of the courtyard and walked towards the shrine. The aura of Guru Sahib emanated from every corner of the gurudwara.

Being prescient to the end of his earthly role, the Guru dispatched Banda Singh, his trusted follower with five others to Punjab, shortly before he was stabbed. He requested the rest of his retinue to retire to their homes, but bade one Bhai Santokh Singh to stay on at Nanded to oversee the daily Guru ka langar or food served in the gurudwara. Many others also chose to stay back. Together, they built a room over the platform where Guru Gobind Singh would sit while holding court, and installed the Guru Granth Sahib in it. They called it Takht Sahib. Guru Sahib, while conferring Guruship on the Holy Book, had himself named Nanded as Abchalnagar or steadfast city.

Guru Sahib's objective was laudable, as he realised that human beings are perishable, but noble ideas are eternal. Perhaps with this in mind, he had named the Granth Sahib as the permanent Guru.

The Takht Sahib complex also houses two other shrines — Bunga Mai Bhago Ji which has on display weapons used by Guru Sahib, and the Angeetha of Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh, two of the Panj Piaras baptised by Guru Sahib at Takht Kesgarh Sahib.

As I climbed the steps to the sanctum sanctorum after a long walk through the courtyard, I felt enveloped by the grace and power of the Granth Sahib. A portrait of Guru Gobind Singh greeted us at the entrance. Just below was the door to the 'inner' room, the exact spot where Guru Sahib left for his heavenly abode along with his horse, Dilbag.

Legend says that the Guru had forbidden anyone from entering this particular room, but Ranjit Singh had it opened in order to pay tribute to the Guru and to have the site renovated.

The Holy Room
The four doors to the Holy Room are opened several times during the day; no one but the head granthi enters to clean the place and pay obeisance. Other devotees pay their respects from outside the doors. Guru Sahib's personal weapons and his portraits are housed in this room. Small and unpretentious it may be, but the room emanates enormous energy and power. You can feel the Guru's divine presence here.

Like me, a stream of devotees had also walked in, and bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib and at the doors of the Holy Room before sitting down to listen to the kirtan. Soon, the hall was filled with people from all walks of life, sitting with their eyes closed, with many swaying gently to the kirtan — peace writ large on their faces. The sevadars went about performing their duties, distributing flowers, and sanctifying the saropas or religious robes that the devotees got by touching them with the Guru's spear.

I felt as if a thousand blessings had been showered on me. The effect was totally elating and calming. After coming out of the shrine, I went to the langar hall and partook of the prasada — the typical delicious meal of dal, vegetable, rice and chappatis, all served with love and humility.

I did darshan of the Granth Sahib several times over the two days I spent there — each was an exercise of love.

The house of Guru Gobind Singh shines with his grace. Its doors remain open to all those who come here in humility to pay homage to the Guru who sacrificed his life for creating a better order of beings. Paying homage here is the tiniest of gestures I can show in return.

Once when Guru Gobind Singh was seated on the banks of the Godavari, a trader presented a gemstone to the Guru, who casually threw it in the river. The trader gave the Guru a pitiful look and wondered if a mere sadhu could ever know the value of his present.
Reading his thoughts, Guru Sahib asked him to look into the river. The trader saw millions of jewels lying in the river bed. Purged of pride, he fell at the Guru's feet.

Nandi Tat
The name Nanded is believed to have originated from Nandi, the vahana or vehicle of Lord Shiva, who performed penance on the tat or banks of the Godavari. Nandi Tat later became Nanded. The place, located close to the Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border is also known for its historical, social and political importance. It was the birthplace of three famous Maratha saint-poets — Vishnupant Shesa, Raghunath Shesa, and Vaman Pandit.

Getting There
By Rail: Nanded is directly connected by trains from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Bhopal, Agra, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Aurangabad and Nashik. Some trains that stop at Nanded are Nandigram Exp, Goa Exp, Sachkhand Exp, Jhelum Exp, Punjab Mail and Tapovan Exp

By Road: One can reach Nanded via Kalyan, which is now a part of the proposed Kalyan-Nirmal national highway NH222. Another way is by the Pune-Ahmednagar-Aurangabad-Jalna-Jintur- Nanded road. The 600- km journey takes 12 to 14 hours by road in a private vehicle. People generally prefer to come by train as it is less tiring.

By Air: The nearest airports are — Calicut (110 km), Kochi (310 km) and Bangalore (324 km)

Other Attractions
Nanded fort is hemmed in by the Godavari River on three sides Vaijnathbis, about 130 km from Nanded, is one of the 12 locations of the Jyothirlingas that are sacred to the Hindus.

You could also visit Unkeshvar village, situated on the banks of the Penganga, known for its hot water springs.

The Times of India, Nov 15, 2010


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