Friday, May 25, 2007

Gurdwara for Sikhs in Baghdad

Sikh Spectrum has a great article on the historical site of Guru Nanak's visit and Gurdwara in Baghdad...
Here's an excerpt...
People of Baghdad depend on river Tigris for water. Wells, in and around Baghad, are brackish. It is said that the Guru’s disciples together with others who visited the takia complained to the Guru about the difficulty in procuring drinking water. Guru Nanak got a well dug in the southeast corner and it produced sweet water. Even now, it is the only well with sweet drinking water.

Its diameter is about 21 feet and the date of its construction is 917 Hijri as given on the plaque. The well and the compound were reinforced in 1320 A.H. (1942 AD) by Qasim Pasha, Beg-Bashi, son of Mohammad Beg.

The inscribed stone slab was found in 1931. It measures 21 feet 14 inches. Its inscription was slightly damaged during the collapse of the building after 1920. The text of the inscription, is:

Guru Nanak Baghdad Shrine Slab Inscription on the stone slab

Behold! How a wish has been fulfilled by Holy and High Providence. That the building of Baba Nanak has been newly built with the help of seven autat (great valis).

That the happy murad of God (Baba Nanak) has started a fountain of grace issuing new water in the land. 917 Hijri

Read the rest here.
The Sikh community should be at the forefront in any rebuilding efforts to ensure that the Gurdwara is built according to Sikh tradition and follows the Rehat Maryada, otherwise non-Sikh elements may hijack the legacy of Guru Nanak's visit to Baghdad for their own purposes. Sikh philosophy and history should be on display at the Gurdwara as well, in order to educate visitors as to who Sikhs are and what the Gurdwara stands for.

From DNA...

BAGHDAD: Iraq is keen to rebuild a historic Sikh shrine commemorating Guru Nanak's visit to Baghdad, which had been destroyed by 'fanatics' after the invasion of the country by US-led coalition forces, a top leader said on Friday.

Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmed Chalabi, one of Iraq's prominent leaders, who drove down through the desolate streets of Baghdad to the sacred Sikh site last night under heavy military protection, said 'it has unfortunately been wiped out by fanatics because they thought it was against Islam'.

"It's shameful they cannot respect someone who has millions of followers," he said at the gurdwara site along the river Tigris.

Iraqi officials escorting Chalabi informed him about the original design of the gurdwara that was built alongside the tomb of a Muslim religious leader, which has suffered no damage.

"We will rebuild it," Chalabi said even as he admitted he did not know that a Sikh shrine had ever existed in Baghdad, which houses the Indian embassy.

The Iraqi leader, seen as close to the Bush administration, ruled out the possibility of the gurdwara being destroyed in military fire.

"It was a mortar attack by some fanatic," he said, adding he believed it would have happened after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

News reports during the Iraq war had suggested the gurdwara had suffered damage in the attack, but there has been no official confirmation until now from Iraq about its condition.

The visit to the site revealed complete destruction of the shrine.

Chalabi, who broke the lock at the gate of the shrine's compound to inspect the site, pointed out that the shrine's marble floor had been pulled out and its roof razed to the ground.

Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who accompanied him, also requested immediate rebuilding of the gurdwara.

According to Sikh history, Guru Nanak, the founder of the faith, visited Baghdad and had a discourse with Bahlol Dana, a sufi teacher.

The gurdwara commemorating the Guru's visit lies near what is now a devastated railway station in Baghdad.

"The Sikh community has contributed a lot to Iraq. They have worked here in railways, construction and a lot of other activities. We respect them and will see to it that this is rebuilt," Chalabi said.

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