History of Keshgarh Fort
Guru Gobind Singh is credited with the construction of Keshgarh Sahib, which commenced on March 30, 1689. Keshgarh Sahib is one of the five defensive forts that were built by Guru Gobind Singh, all around the town. These forts were developed in about 10 years. These five forts were constructed in a unique way so that they remain connected with each other with earthworks and underground tunnels. They are known as Keshgarh, Anandgarh, Lohgarh, Holgarh and Fatehgarh. They translate into Takhat, Fort of Bliss, Fort of Steel, Fort of Color and Fort of Victory in English, respectively.
It is known that between 1700 and 1705 AD, Anandpur Sahib was under attack by a certain hill army. They had targeted Keshgarh Fort, but were initially unsuccessful in their attempt. This is because to reach Keshgarh Fort other forts at Taragarh, Fatehgarh and Anandgarh were supposed to be captured, but they remained insurmountable. It was on December 6, 1705 that the army was successful in entering and destroying the fort. It was the time when half starved occupants of the city and its defensive forts persuaded Guru Gobind Singh to leave the fort. But it was only after the promise of safe passage by the attackers that Guru Gobind Singh decided to leave.
Keshgarh Fort is constructed at a place where the Khalsa was born with the first initiation of Khande Di Pahul. On the historic day of Baisakhi in 1699, young Guru Gobind Singh held a special convocation at Keshgarh Fort. It is unimaginable how thousands of Sikhs were accommodated in the huge expanse of the Keshgarh Fort.
Architectural Design of Keshgarh Fort
Keshgarh Fort is a three storied structure for the construction of which white marble stone was utilized. The structure is adorned by domes on top. During 1936 -1944, the present complex was constructed under the supervision of Sant Hari Singh Kaharpuri. It has two levels protected by retaining walls on the sides as it is built on slope. The lower level consists of the imposing two-storeyed gateway, offices and a 30-metre square courtyard.
The level on which the main building is located is 2.5 metres higher than the courtyard. In front of the main building is a 16-metre square hall with a balcony. This hall contains a sanctum. On a low platform a 5.5-metre square room is located in which some old weapons are preserved as sacred relics from the time of Guru Gobind Singh. Outside the sanctum, Guru Granth Sahib is seated under a canopy. A fluted lotus dome with a tall ornamental pinnacle of gilded metal and a gilded khanda as a finial is fixed atop this canopy. On the roof are constructed domed kiosks which beautify the corners of the hall and the balcony. A big Langar Hall in the fort is utilized to provide langar (a communal free kitchen) to visitors.
Historical Relics Preserved in Keshgarh Fort
Many historical relics belonging to Guru Gobind Singh is today preserved in the inner sanctum of Kesgarh Sahib. These authentic items include a Kataar, Guru Gobind Singh's personal dagger, which was his constant companion, a double edged sword called the Khanda (which was used by the Guru to prepare amrit on the revelation of Khalsa Day), a beautiful gun which was presented to Guru Sahib by one of his Sikhs from Lahore and a double edged weapon presented to the Guru by Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah called the saif. A sarovar bathing tank located in a walled compound at ground level to the west of the Takht Sahib is also of historical relevance.
Granthis and Jathedars of Kesgarh Fort
Granthi is derived from the Sanskrit word granthika, which means a relater or narrator. Any follower of Sikhism (be it a male or a female) who is entitled to read Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy Book of Sikhs) to worshipers at Sikh temples (Gurudwaras) is called a Granthi. He or she therefore acts as principal religious official of Sikhism. In case of Kesgarh Sahib, regular Granthis were introduced after 1820. Some of the Granthis of Kesgarh Sahib as highlighted by history are Bhai Karam Singh, Bhai Kharak Singh, Bhai Budh Singh, Bhai Puran Singh and Bhai Amar Singh. From about 1820 to 1925 only one Granthi served at Kesgarh Sahib. It was only after Gurdwara Reform Movement from 1920 to 1925 that a Jathedar was also introduced here. In Sikhism, the ordained leader of the clergy who leads the Takht is called a Jathedar. Some of the Jathedars of Kesgarh Sahib as highlighted by history are Giani Partap Singh Mallewal, Jathedar Gurdial Singh Ajnoha, Giani Resham Singh, Bhai Shawinder Singh, Jathedar Bir Singh, Master Ajit Singh Ambalvi, Giani Fauja Singh, Giani Bachitar Singh, Bahi Manjit Singh, Jathedar Harcharan Singh Mahalon and Bhai Balbir Singh.
Festivals and Fairs of Keshgarh Fort
As the festival of Holi arrives in March, Anandpur Sahib is known to celebrate the occasion of colour and merrymaking called Hola Mohalla. Gurudwaras in Anandpur Sahib are therefore decorated during this occasion and Keshgarh Fort is one such gurudwara in Anandpur Sahib. This occasion which is celebrated for a period of three days is so grand that up to 100,000 followers from all over the country have visited this place to celebrate this festival. Another important festival of Sikhs called Baisakhi is celebrated here with immense enthusiasm.
Development of Keshgarh Fort
During the 1980's, a multi-level building was added to Shri Keshgarh Sahib. It is located in the vicinity of the main Gurdwara. More specifically, it lies close to Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Nivas. A complex called Dashmesh Nivas on the lower slopes of the Kesgarh hill is also a recent addition to Keshgarh Fort. This Nivas comprises of rows of residential rooms for staff and pilgrims. A divan hall was also constructed about 150 meters east of the central building to accommodate large assemblages on festive occasions. It occupies an area of about 55 square metres.
In Anandpur Sahib, the temperature varies between 4 degree C and 43 degree C at different times of the year. October to May is generally considered to be the best time to visit Keshgarh Sahib. This is because the pleasant and comfortable weather conditions in Anandpur Sahib during these months. Another reason is the celebration of various events and activities that are performed in this place at this time of the year.
Anandpur Sahib has very good transport availability. The nearest airport to Anandpur Sahib is in Chandigarh which is located at a distance of about 50 km. Chandigarh is well connected to major cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur via airlines. The nearest railhead to Anandpur Sahib is in Rupnagar district of Punjab which is called Rupnagar station. This station is very well connected to places such as Delhi and Himachal Pradesh. The nearest railway station to Shri Keshgarh Sahib is Anandpur Sahib Railway Station which is located at a distance of about 3 km. The nearest bus stand to Shri Keshgarh Sahib is the Anandpur Sahib Bus Stand which is located at a distance of about 2.5 km. Roads leading to this fort are motorable by local buses, autos and cycle rickshaws.
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