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A Shrine in Ladakh: Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
Posted by Vikramjit Singh Send Email to Author on Tuesday, 5/20/2003 12:46 PM MDT
Last I heard, this shrine is a Gurdwara maintained by Buddhist Llamas. Would appreciate if anyone could provide more information on it..

A Shrine in Ladakh: Gurdwara Pathar Sahib

Harbhajan Singh*

* Harbhajan Singh S.E. (retd.) 2/1 Sanjay Nagar JAMMU-180010.

author’s note

During my service under Border Roads Organisation(G.R.E.F),I was posted at Nimu ,a small village about 25Km from Leh. In the month of July1964, it so happened that, a Lama while travelling in a bus asked the driver to stop at the site of a boulder, annointed it with the butter he was carrying in his pouch, bowed in front of the rock and came back to his seat. To the queries from the driver,the Lama told him "this is Lama Guru’s place, who had come from India, via Tibet."

This driver narrated the above incident to other drivers at Leh town who, in a body, visited the site the next day, being a Sunday, performed Kirtan, hoisted Nishan Sahib. That is how the site was revealed to the Sikh community.

Before leaving the station in Oct/Nov.1964, we offered a sheet covering to the sacred boulder and left the place in the hands of the next man who came to look after that sector of the road. To commemorate the event, a magnificent Gurdwara stands at site which is being maintained by the Army Garrison nearby who provide much-needed refreshment and langar to the travellers.

GURU NANAK (1469-1539), preached equality of mankind, social as well as religious, including that of man and woman. His sacred poetry, Asa Di Var is replete with sayings where Guruji has condemned the social system prevailing at that time. His sermons to all persons of all denominations were - Kirat Karo (honest labour), Vand Chako (give in charity to needy) and Naam Japo (worship one Lord). Although other saints of the Bhakti movement also preached such sermons, Guru Nanak preached as well practised these himself. His sermons were more effective and people started practicing them. He was pained to observe the
injustice being meted out to the public at the hands of the cruel rulers and their henchman.

To spread his gospel, he traveled widely throughout Asia . To this end he undertook four Udasis (Tours).The first udasi(1500-1505A.D) was to the central and eastern parts of India.Second udasi (1506-1509) took him to important towns and religious centers of south India, including Sri Lanka.During the third Udasi (1514-1516) Guru Nanak traveled to Gangetic plains, Bihar, Nepal, Lahsa, Leh, upto Tashkand, and back to Punjab via Kashmir valley. The fourth Udasi (1518-1521) took him to various Arab countries.

While traveling back from Mansrovar (Kailash Parbat),Guru Nanak passed through Leh ,capital of Ladakh and an important trading center,enroute to Central Asia as well as Kashmir and other parts of India. The caravans to Lahsa, central Asia and India passed through this town. About 20K.m from Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway, a Gurudwara called PATHER SAHIB, to commemorate his visit to the place, was established in the year 1964A.D. The local residents venerate this place as Lama Guru’s place and for them the boulder was sacred to the memory of Guruji’s visit.

The site is on the ridge of a wide plateau between the Leh valley and Nimu village. Devoid of any vegetation ,barren for kms together, there is hardly any habitation around the place - upto 4 to5km distance. A deep ravine from the place leads to the nearest village, Nimu and river Indus. Before the construction of the road by the state govt./Border Roads Organisation in early 1960’s, the path through the ravine used to be the main route followed by the travelers to Nimu and beyond.

A local legend (as narrated to writer in 1964) has that Lama Guru, while returning from a pilgrimage to Tibet, passed through the Ladakh region. At Chang-la pass, the residents of the area made a representation to the Lama Guru that a demon resides in the hills and causes much harm to the lives and property of the inhabitants. They requested Guruji to intercede on their behalf and direct him to desist from such acts, so that they could live in peace. Guruji summoned the demon to his presence, without any success.After a few days stop at the place, Guruji left for Leh. The demon followed him. Guruji stayed for a few days at Leh town,where a small gurdwara exists, preaching the sermons to the local population. Meanwhile, the demon hid himself on the hillock a few k.m from Leh, overlooking the bridle path.

After a few days stay at Leh, Guruji started intended journey towards central Asian plains across the Himalayas. As soon as Guruji reached within the range of the demon, he rolled down a big boulder towards Guruji with the intention of killing him.Instead of hitting the intended target, the big boulder took Guruji in its embrace without causing any harm, thereby creating an impression on the stone itself. Even at the time of narration (1964), one could discern an impression of Guru Nanak’s image as depicted in old painting, from a distance of about 10 to 20 paces.

After the encounter, the demon moved to the nearest village on the right bank of Indus, causing much havoc to the human life and property. Guruji followed the demon to the village,caught hold of him and made him to realise his wicked ways thereby relieving the people of the pain and misery caused by the demon, even as Guruji continued on his journey onward to Central Asian plains, Yarkand, Tashkand, Gilgit, Kargil and entered the Kashmir valley through Amarnath, Mattan, Srinagar, and back to Kartarpur in Punjab.

The revealing of this site has filled an important void and provided a much debated link to the travels of Guruji in the northen Himalayas, but the construction of the Gurdwara has fullfilled much needed resting place for the travellers to these arid lands.

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