Sacred spaces and Symbolism exploration at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara by Sachi Shukla (2016)

About the intern - Sachi Shukla, 24, did her graduation in Btech(CS) from SRMS, Bareilly and is currently pursuing Masters of Design Space from NIFT-New Delhi. She loves reading mythology and folk lore. She also likes travelling and never stops creating and imagining.  

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is a important sikh house of worship. It is associated with the eigth sikh guru, Guru Har Kishan. It was built as a sikh shrine by Sardar Bhagel Singh in 1783. It is situated near Connaught place, New Delhi.
Gurudwara has a special significance in Sikh religion. It is the house of God, the house where Guru lives. It is a combination of two words “Guru” i.e. “God” and “dwara” i.e. “door/entry”. The most essential element of Gurudwara is the presence of Guru. The Guru is the holy book i.e. “Shri Guru Granth Sahib”. It is the living Guru. Sikh Shrines have four entries or gates which means people of all the castes can enter in the shrines. Sikh religion came into existence at a time when the society was facing many problems such as the rigid caste system, attacksby Mughals, inequality etc. Basically, it is based on the concept of social service, equality and nondiscrimination. The concept is reflected  from the components of a Gurudwara (Singh,2007).
The name of the temple (Bangla) is actually derived from the word ‘bungalow’ since it was the residence of a Rajput King. The second word, Sahib, is an honorific in Sikh religious culture Sikh temple consists of various components and all have an integrated relationships. The important components are: Main Shrine, Sarovar (water body), Langar (free community kitchen), Serai (place for stay in), Jora Ghar(place for keeping shoes) and Gathri Ghar (Cloak room)(Singh,2007).

LANGAR HALL: The concept of free community kitchen is also one of the components of a Gurudwara i.e. people of all castes will have to sit on the floor and eat together. At the langar, only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their religion, can eat as equals. Mata Khivi the wife of second Guru Shri Angad Dev raised the tradition of Langar. For cultivating this tradition she is referred as the “shade of a leafy tree”. 

SAROVAR: The concept of Sarovar is another component of  a Gurudwara , it’s the nectar and anyone can dip in it irrespective of caste, religion or economic status. 

Khanda: The khanda symbol  can be seen on the walls, windows etc of the Bangla sahib gurudwara. The symbol derives its name from the double-edged sword (also called a Khanda) which appears at the center of the logo. It is the military emblem of the Sikhs. The importance of this symbol is explained in one of the displays in  the museum inside the gurudwara complex. According to which the emblem is composed of four different components. These components are: 
1. Khanda: This double-edged sword is a metaphor of Divine Knowledge, its sharp edges cleaving Truth from Falsehood.  The AMRIT which is used at the time of BAPTISM is stirred with the Khanda.
2&3. Kirpan of Miri and Piri: Two swords arranged in a cross like manner is called as kirpan of Miri(2)and Piri(3). The story behind the swords is- after the execution of Guru Arjan at the hands of Jahangir, Guru Har govind  clearly saw that it would no longer be possible to protect the Sikh community without the aid of arms hence he wore the two swords. The word miri has been derived from Persian word “miri”, which literary means commander, governor, etc, and signifies temporal power or material control. The word piri has been derived from Persian word “pir” literary meaning saint, spiritual guide, and stands for spiritual authority or  control over the soul of the person(Singha,2005).
4. Chakar: The circle in the middle represent eternity as it has no end or begining.

The Ek onkar symbol is carved on the walls of the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. Ek Onkar means "God is One." Ek Onkar is the first phrase in the Sikh Holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Ik (or Ek) stands for the Gurmukhi numeral "One".Ek Onkar means “God is one,” and relates to the Sikh belief in the unity of God. On is a combination or O and An stands for "Everything". Kar  stands for "Creator"(Singha, 2005). 

A Nishan Sahib, a yellow or saffron colored flag with an emblem of a double-edged sword, two other swords, and a sharp iron ring, indicates the site of a Gurdwara. Nishan means a symbol, sign, steal or stamp. The respect for the flags is such in the Sikhs that once when Nishan sahib bearer named bhai Alam Singh fell in the hands of Mughal during a battle. The mughals asked him to throw the flag or his hands would be chopped off. Then Bhai Alam Singh replied that in that case he would keep holding the flag with his feet(Singh G.,1989).

The Jaratkari form of artwork is constituted of various patterns laid in marble. The flowers, leaves, fruits, birds, animals and some human figures shown in the panels, in the Jaratkari technique are laid in  varied colours forming a multi-chromatic collage. The Sikhs have always been true lovers of nature. The Sikh Gurus appreciated various elements of nature in Gurbani.  The Sikh warriors had to take refuge in forests every now and then to avenge their adversaries which also led to their having a very close contact with nature. Moreover, the plains of Punjab predominantly agrarian and bound by hills in the north must have led to strong bonds with the natural forms like trees, flowers, leaves, birds and animals. The concept of a close relationship between the nature and human beings is ancient and   widespread. For example, the following forms which have been used in the various artworks denote different meanings attached to them such as: i). Vegetation: life & growth. Flowers in general symbolize beauty and  transitory nature of life. These are often used to represent the cycle of life, ii). Animals: life, growth, energy and many mythologies, iii). Birds: like peacocks and sparrows symbolize that worldly relations are illusive (Singh, 2007). 

The Guru's throne is always centered at the front of the Darbar Hall, it is the central feature of the Gurdwara. The essential features of the Guru's throne are :
1. Chanani: The Chanani is a canopy, normally made of highly decorated cloth, which covers the Shri Guru Granth Sahib when it is installed in a Gurdwara. It is usually attached high above the Guru's seat, secured to the ceiling or mounted on four posts. The covering is representative of the high respect given to the Guru Granth Sahib(Singh, 2007). 
2. Manji sahib: Manji is a Punjabi word for a small bed and Sahib is term to show respect for the item described in the preceding word. The term Manji Sahib is used in the Sikh tradition for the small bed on which the Holy Sikh Scriptures, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is placed during the day in the main hall (Darbar Sahib) of the Gurdwara. The Manji Sahib is a rectangular bed  which is constructed of a wooden frame and legs. The rectangular frame structure is then woven with webbing material to form the suspended surface on which is placed the sheeting and pillows to support the physical "saroop" (body) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib(Singh, 2007). 
3. Rumalla: the Manji Sahib is covered with a rich and colourful cloth called a Rumalla. The saroop is also covered in white cotton sheeting and then with rich silk and other expensive materials, which are called Rumallas. At the time of a marriage it is customary for the Bride and Groom to present a new Rumalla for use in dressing or covering the Sri Guru Granth Sahib when It is not being read by a Granthi(Singha, 2005). 
4.Palki sahib: Palki is where the Guru resides, when the Guru is carried from one place to another and also when in the Darbar hall. The palki gives the image of a throne and presents the Guru in a bold and impressive setting just as you would have seen a king or emperor in their darbar(Singha, 2005).
5. Chaur sahib : The Chaur is used to fan the Granth as a sign of reverence and respect for the scriptures. The chaur is usually constructed from yak hair mounted in a wooden or metal handle. The Sevadar (volunteer) respectfully waves the Chaur Sahib above the Guru Sahib as a sign of respect and dedication. It is regarded as seva (service) of very high caliber for the Guru and most Sikhs at some point undertake this Seva at their local Gurdwara or at their home if they have the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in their home. This seva shows reverence for the message carried by the Guru (Gurbani) and humility (Nimrata) for the word of the Guru. During the time of the first ten Gurus, this tradition was born for various reasons. It was common practice in Punjab for the younger members of the family to perform seva for their elders by waving fans during hot weather condition to create a breeze to cool the person and also to keep flies away from the person. During this earlier period, the chaur was made of peacock feather or wood and canvas and created a good airflow when waved. It was also a tradition used for kings and royalty (Singh, 2007). 
6. Golak : Golak or Guru ki Golak is the term used to refer to the collection box that is usually laid in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib where the congregation deposits their offerings in the form of coins or paper notes before kneeling or bowing to the Guru(Singh G. , 1989).



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  6. Sachi Shukla
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