All About Hemkund Sahib
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History of Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib

Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib, Uttarakhand

history of gurudwara sri hemkunt sahib rishikesh uttarakhand
Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib

Gurudwara Hemkunt in the Himalayas is also regarded as one of the holiest places of the Sikhs. It was there that Sri Guru Gobind Singh the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs is reported to have meditated in his previous life.

Gurdwara Hemkunt Sahib (coordinates (30.640792°N 79.692936°E)) is a Sikh shrine present in Uttarakhand state in India at a place called Lokpal, which is now associated with the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

ancient old photos of gurudwara sri hemkunt sahib
Construction of Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib

Hemkund Sahib (also spelled Hemkunt), formally known as Gurudwara Sri Hemkund Sahib Ji, is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage site in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India. It is devoted to Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), the tenth Sikh Guru, and finds mention in Dasam Granth, a work dictated by Guruji himself. With its setting of a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountain peaks, each adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff, it is according to the Survey of India located in the Himalayas at an elevation of 4,632 meters (15,197 feet).[1] It is approached from Gobindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. The main town near Gobindghat is Joshimath.

parkash asthan gurdwara hemkund sahib
Parkash Asthan Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund is a Sanskrit name derived from Hem ("Snow") and Kund ("bowl"). The Dasam Granth says God ordered Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to take birth while he was in deep meditation at the mount of Hemkunt.

Hemkund is inaccessible from October through April because of snow bound paths and glaciers. Sikh pilgrims arrive in May and set to work to repair the damage to the path over the winter, which tradition is called kar seva ("selfless service"), a concept which forms an important tenet of the Sikh faith.

Guru Gobind Singh tells us about his previous incarnation, that in the Himalayan range, where there is Sapt Sring Mountain, on that hill he meditated the Name of God. In his meditation when he became one with God, then the Almighty ordained him to take birth in India in order to crush the cruel rulers.

The Sikhs started to search for Hemkunt sahib, the “Tap Asthan” (the place of meditation) of their tenth Guru, in the late nineteenth century, even though the shrine is mentioned in the Dasam Granth which was finalised in the 1730’s. The first Sikh to trace the geographical location of Hemkunt was Tara Singh Narotam in 1884. His findings were published by the renowned exponent of Sikh history and scholar, Bhai Vir Singh in 1929 in his book called “Sri Kalgidhar Chamatkar”.

guru ka langar at gurudwara sri hemkunt sahib
Guru ka Langar at Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib

This book was then read by Sant Sohan Singh, who was a retired Granthi (priest) from the Indian army working voluntarily at a gurdwara in Tehri Garhwal. Having read the description of where the "Tap Asthan" was, he set out to find the physical spot in 1933. Unfortunately he had no luck that year and so he attempted his search again the following year. His enquiries led him to the place known as Lokpal to the local folk.

The description matched that of the place described by the Guru as "Sapat Shring". Sohan Singh believed that Hemkunt had been found. However Sohan Singh’s discovery was met with much scepticism, so he approached Bhai Vir Singh (1872-1957) whose work had inspired him to search for the Tap Asthan. Both Sohan Singh and Bhai Vir Singh met, and visited the site, and both were then convinced that the Guru's description of Tap Asthan matched the site found.

The pilgrims set off from Amritsar on the 23rd of August 1952, passing through Hardwar, Rishikesh, Srinagar, Gobind Ghat, Gobind Dham, reaching Sri Hemkunt sahib on the 31st August at 2.30 p.m. Their sacred journey complete, the pilgrims cherished Darshan (sight) of the sacred place. They all had Ishnan (holy bath) in the sacred waters of the Sarovar. During the next few days Congregational prayers, which included the singing of devotional Shabads (hymns) and verses were recited throughout the day and night. Having accomplished their first pilgrimage, they arrived at Amritsar on 16th September 1952 and were given a rousing welcome. The numbers of pilgrims to Hemkunt Sahib have been multiplying from the time of discovery until the present day. In 1977, the first year for which data is available, there were 516 Sikh visitors and by 1990 there were 189,340 and the numbers keep growing.

gobind dham to hemkund sahib
Gobind Dham to Hemkund Sahib

A yatra or pilgrimage to Sri Hemkunt Sahib is only possible during the months of June to October every year due to severe weather conditions in the Himalayas. From the plains at the foothills of the Uttrakand Himalayas there are several stopping points on the way to Hemkunt Sahib where pilgrims can find accommodation. Of these there are two important stops that shall be described. These stopping points can be accessed from the towns of Hardwar (the gateway to God) or from Rishikesh. The first stop is called Gobind Ghat and the second is Gobind Dham. Hemkunt is approximately seven kilometers away from Gobind Dham. A typical Yatra can take up to forty days if one does the whole journey solely by foot. However if one combines a foot Yatra with other modes of transport available like motor vehicles, scooter, mules, or horses, then the journey takes but a few days.

For those pilgrims going to Hemkunt Sahib, the journey is not just a physical one, for most it is an emotional experience. Every step is a step closer to a spiritual awakening or goal. For many the personal significance of the toil to reach the top is an indescribable devotional achievement, for others it is a step closer to prayers being answered and for most, a step closer to God. The beautiful scenery, the historical sites along the way, the mythological significance and the physical challenge to reach Hemkunt Sahib are aspects of the Yatra all visitors, believers or not, share. The mystical and spiritual ambience of the whole journey starts at either Hardwar or Rishikesh.

Both these towns lie on the banks of the holy River Ganges where the plains meet the foothills. Sikh Gurdwaras managed by the Trust to oversee the operations of pilgrimages to Hemkunt Sahib offer free food and lodging in Hardwar, Rishikesh, Srinagar, Joshimath, and Gobind Dham. From the towns one has to travel through the valley in which the Ganges flows and pass the Panch Prayag which is five sacred confluences where major tributaries join the Ganges. The route continues past the holy river Alaknanda tracing the path Hindu pilgrims follow to Badrinath.

hemkund sahib yatra 2018 2019
Hemkund Sahib Yatra Information Website