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Confluence of Yamuna & Tong river creating the dance of a 1000 streams called Sahasradhara
Yamuna at Paonta Sahib
Standing on the serene banks of the River Yamuna, this temple in Himachal Pradesh houses the weapons belonging to the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. He lived here for years and compiled the Dasam Granth in this holy place, informs Vimla Patil.
Gurudwara from Yamuna Bridge
Modern India offers you quaint sights that straddle several past centuries with a seamless ease. And nothing convinces you of this truth than a visit to the Gurudwara Paonta Sahib, nestling on the sylvan banks of the River Yamuna in Himachal Pradesh. You drive from Dehra Doon, the capital of Uttaranchal, following various streams of gurgling water, to come to Sahasra Dhara where the Tong River confluences with the Yamuna. Here, the sparkling water of streams dances over a thousand rocks, creating a spectacular vision of beauty and wonder. Contrast this with the Yamuna dam, a vast body of water standing still, and distributing life-giving moisture to farmlands far and near. Witness the peaceful flow of the River Yamuna as you approach the boundary of the state of Uttaranchal. That’s where your car stops if it doesn’t have a licence to ply in Himachal Pradesh. As if on cue, several cycle rickshaws pull up, offering to ferry you across the Yamuna Bridge that demarcates the two states. You crouch into one of them and your journey to the holy Paonta Sahib Gurudwara starts…
Steps leading to Yamuna behind the temple, where Gurudev lost his anklet
Beyond the glimmering river, stands its white cupola and sprawling walls. Surrounded by greenery and tall trees, the Gurudwara is a shining monument to Sikh history and the great bravery and spiritual influence of the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh. It is no co-incidence that this great place of pilgrimage stands on the banks of the Yamuna, the much-celebrated river of romance in Indian mythology and history. Remember that the entire love story and romance of the Radha-Krishna lore happened on the banks of this river in Vrindavan and Mathura? Remember that Shah Jahan too built that fabulous monument of love - the Taj Mahal - on the banks of Yamuna? It was but natural that Guru Gobind Singh too chose the riverbank as the site of his temple, having lost his foot ornament in the river during his bath.
Footprints of the Guru
Guru Gobind Singh, one of the most venerated spiritual masters of the Sikhs - born Gobind Rai Sodhi in 1666 in Patna - came to Paonta, a small village then, in 1685. He lived here for years and built the Gurudwara. Much of his literary work was supposedly written here - including the Japu, the Dasam Granth and a composition known as Akal Ustuti. They all preached love and equality and promoted a strict moral and ethical code of behaviour. He condemned superstition and exhorted the worship of only one Supreme Being or divine power. History says that while Guru Gobind Singh lived, meditated and wrote his teachings in Paonta, he also mastered various skills. He thus became an expert horseman, a powerful sword wielder, an agile swimmer and a skilled archer. Though he glorified the sword, he never supported its use without adequate reason. “When all other means fail, it is but lawful to take to the sword,” he said, quoting a Persian couplet!
Paonta Sahib also venerates Guru Gobind Singh as the founder of the ‘Khalsa’. He introduced the five sacred symbols of Sikhism here - kada, kesh, kirpan, kachcha and kangha. In a meeting of the leaders of the community, he accepted five disciples or ‘Panj Pyaras’ who came from various classes of society and formed the nucleus of a selfless, martial and casteless fellowship of the ‘Khalsa’. Sikhs were thereafter required to bring succour to the helpless, to save those attacked by marauding forces of evil, to fight all oppressors and to consider all human beings as equal. Guru Gobind Singh himself overthrew many evil rulers of the area and even fought the Moghuls when they oppressed the people of India.
Romancing the Yamuna
Though monuments like Anandpur Sahib and Hemkund in the Himalayas celebrate the illustrious life of Guru Gobind Singh, it is Paonta Sahib that symbolises his youth and his romance with the River Yamuna. Here in the cool interiors of the shimmering white building, even today, you see the Granthis reciting the holy verses of the Granth Sahib and giving discourses on the wisdom of all Sikh gurus. On one wall hang the venerated weapons of the Guru, and other memorabilia like papers are exhibited in the various rooms. Behind the Gurudwara, broad steps lead to the River Yamuna, where visitors take a refreshing dip before accepting the ‘prashad’ and a meal at the famous langar.
In the summer, Paonta Sahib is hot and sunny. But in the cooler climes of autumn and winter, it rings with the cries of birds and the forest around acquires a strange green and yellow mystery of its own. The river looks blue, just like Krishna, whose Maharani she is called. From a small village in the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh, Paonta has grown to be a bustling town with other attractions for pilgrims and visitors. There is a temple of Yamuna for those interested in river lore. The nearby remnants of palaces and forts in Sirmaur, a state in bygone days, tell another story of romance between its king and a court dancer, further consolidating the reputation of Yamuna as the river of romance. Wildlife sanctuaries, parks, temples, ancient Ashokan edicts and shimmering tributary streams - the landscape is dotted with all these attractions, which make a drive from Uttaranchal to Himachal Pradesh worth your while!