Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib


Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib is situated to the south of the Golden Temple, about 185 metres from Sarai Guru Ram Das. The nine-storey octagonal tower, standing 40 metres high, is the tallest building in Amritsar.

The Gurudwara of Baba Atal was built in memory of the nine year old son of Sri Guru Hargobind ji. Originally a samadhi, or cenotaph, enshrining the remains of Baba Atal Rai, it was transformed, with the passage of time, into a Gurdwara.

The divine soul in this child's body once emitted a dazzling spark, others called it a miracle. Baba Atal the young dutiful son had to leave earthy form in answer to his father's remonstration. Atal Rai was born at Amritsar on December 22, 1619. He was beloved son of Guru Hargobind and Mata Nanaki. The Guru often told his son that he had been blessed by God with much power and he should not fritter it away by showing miracles. But when Atal Rai brought to life his playmate Mohan, the great Guru demonstrated his divinely gifted son and ordained, \"None should intervene in the will of God!\"

Atal Rai listened to the admonition with downcast eyes. He bowed his head before his father in reverence and left for the sacred pool called Kaulsar which was his favorite resort. Here he sat in samadhi, his soul departed from the earthy body and he became a part of eternal light.

Guru Hargobind soon learnt about the death of Baba Atal. He bore the loss of his beloved son cheerfully, saying, \"what pleases the Lord Almighty is good.\"

Atal's body was cremated on the bank of Kaulsar tank. A small shrine was raised over the spot. The construction of the present nine-storied Gurudwara is reminiscent of the nine years of his earthly existence. The Gurudwara is known as Baba Atal Sahib. A special feature of the shrine, is free food i.e. langar served round the clock to all visitors irrespective of caste, creed or color.

Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib is situated to the south of the Golden Temple, about 185 metres from Sarai Guru Ram Das. The nine-storey octagonal tower, standing 40 metres high, is the tallest building in Amritsar.

It appears that the present structure of Gurdwara was raised sometime in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, with repairs and renovations extended from time to time. The edifice is so designed as to have a double octagonal structure, one rising exteriorly and the other interiorly - the former also serving as circumambulatory. The storeys rising on the exterior and bigger octagonal base terminate at the sixth level, but the interior and smaller octagonal base supports nine storeys, allowing the three upper storeys, surmounted by a gilded dome, to rise considerably above the high point of the exterior elevation. The walls are so solidly built that a double staircase runs to the very top through the breadth of the wall itself, with a provision for entrance at each floor.

There are four doors on the ground floor, one on each of the cardinal sides. However, the main entrance faces east. Within the interior octagonal elevation, also having four doors, is kept the Guru Granth Sahib, enshrined in a beautifully wrought brass canopy, surmounted by an exquisite chhatri. The doors are made of silver and brass with elegantly embossed designs. Brass plates embossed with figures recounting Sikh and Hindu themes are affixed in a set of three plates on each of the four outer doors. The embossed brass sheets were presented by the devotees about the middle of the nineteenth century and later. The most typical and best specimens of the art of embossing on brass that thrived in Amritsar in the hands of craftsmen of Kucha Fakirkhana in the preceding century is seen in the plates embellishing the Baba Atal Gurdwara and one plate carries the trademark name of the craftsman.

The interior walls of the first floor are adorned with murals. Unfortunately, many of these have been obliterated beyond recognition and at present only 42 panels survive. A large series of paintings unfold, stage by stage, the life of Guru Nanak. The first painting in the series represents all the gods requesting the Almighty to send a holy person to earth to relieve it of the burden of Kali Yuga; and the last depicts Guru Nanak appointing Angad Dev as his successor to the Guru gaddi. Another series represents Sikh martyrs, including the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, who laid down their lives for the cause of their faith.

Among the series of paintings pertaining to Guru Nanak, those depicting scenes from his childhood are of special interest. One of these, for instance, records a school scene, depicting Nanak, at the age of seven, commencing his education. Nanak, along with his father, Baba Kalu, is seated in front of the mullah, Kutbdin. Just at the start of the first lesson, young Nanak is seen explaining the meaning of the first letter to the mullah. Some of the pupils are waiting to show their phatti to the mullah, while others are either cleaning it or writing on it.

Murals in a considerably damaged state are also to be seen at the deorhi or the first entrance to the shrine. Large panels illustrate scenes from the life of Baba Atal and Guru Nanak; and the various stages of the battle of Muktsar. There are also two series of paintings: one, presenting the ten Gurus; and, the other, depicting members of the whole lineage of Baba Buddha Ji. Sri Chand ji and Lakhmi Das, two sons of Guru Nanak, are also portrayed. A few damaged paintings are also to be seen on the front wall of tosha khana, the treasury, located adjacent to the tower.

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