Man Mohan, Our Roving Editor
New Delhi, March 1. If you want to visit Sikhs’ five sacred ‘takhts’ in Punjab, Bihar and Maharashtra in one go, board a special pilgrimage train from Amritsar on Baisakhi, April 13.
After showing the first ‘takht’ at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the 12-day spiritual journey in a 244-passenger Rajdhani-style train will take the pilgrims to four other ‘takhts’ - Anandpur Sahib (near Ropar, Punjab), Damdama Sahib (near Bathinda, Punjab), Patna Sahib (in Bihar), and Hazur Sahib (in Nanded, Maharashtra).
In between, the passengers will visit Delhi, Gwalior and Agra for other historical gurdwaras and monuments. It is a joint initiative of the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation and Punjab Tourism.
Last year, a similar train was operated on an experimental basis with “luxury fares”. This time, the entire journey will cost much less — Rs 1.55 lakh (Ist AC), Rs 1.25 lakh (IInd AC), and Rs 85,000 (IIIrd AC). The tariff includes food, hotel stay and sightseeing. The train has been revived to accommodate the common man. It will carry 72 (Ist AC), 138 (IInd AC) and 34 (IIIrd AC) passengers.
After the April run, the train is likely to be operated once a month from September-October. “We want to provide Sikh, Punjabi and other communities the best of Punjab and gurdwara yatras,” says Sajivve Trehen, a tour operator, who has got the franchise to run the train.
The passengers will be asked to reach Amritsar on April 12 for boarding the train next day. The first day will be devoted to a tour of the holy city, including the Jallianwala Bagh Ranjit Panorama. In the evening, they will also witness a 45-minute “Change of Guards” ceremony at the India-Pakistan border at Wagah. The day will end with a visit to the first “takht” at the Golden Temple — the Akal Takht.
On Baisakhi, the train will leave for the second “takht” at Anandpur Sahib. Known as “Sri Keshgarh Sahib”, this “takht’ was founded in 1665 by Guru Tegh Bahadur.
The pilgrims will also visit “Guru Ka Lahore” where the marriage of Guru Gobind Singh with Jeet Kaur took place in 1734. The passengers will then visit “Virasat-e-Khalsa”-the heritage museum. They will also visit Sri Keshgarh Sahib gurdwara for seeing Guru Gobind Singh’s weapons. It is the birthplace of Khalsa. The most precious of the weapons is “Khanda”-a double-edged sword-used by the Guru to prepare ‘amrit’ (nectar) used in the first Khalsa initiation ceremony.
On the third day, the pilgrims will be in Bathinda to visit the third “takht”-Damdama Sahib where Guru Gobind Singh took nine-month refuge during his battles with the Mughals, and worked on the “Adi Granth”.
The train will arrive at the Safdarjung railway station in Delhi on the fourth day. The yatra will start with Sisganj Gurdwara at Chandni Chowk. It was built at the place where Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb beheaded the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur in 1675.
From Chandni Chowk, the pilgrims will move to see Gurdwara Bangla Sahib with a gold-plated dome. Eighth Sikh guru, Harkishen Dev, had stayed there in 1664. The passengers will also be shown the Parliament House, the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the India Gate. On the fifth day, the train will move on for “takht” Sri Patna Sahib in Patna. This is the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh.
In the evening, the train will leave for Nanded (Maharashtra) and will reach there next morning. The yatra will start with a visit to “takht” Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib where Guru Gobind Singh held his camp in 1708 after the departure of the Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.
This shrine was erected exactly where he had pitched his tent, in which he was convalescing after being attacked by assailants. This is where he and his horse “Dilbag” breathed last. In the evening, the pilgrims will be shown a laser show on Sikh history.
On the eighth day (April 18), the pilgrims will get another chance to visit “takht” Hazur Sahib before catching the train for Gwalior. On April 19, they will visit the Gwalior fort and Data Bandi Chorh Sahib gurdwara. The train will depart on its last leg of the journey back to Amritsar from Agra on April 20.