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Anandpur Sahib, Punjab

A major traditional festival is celebrated here with great fervor and enthusiasm in form of Hola Mohalla which displays fighting prowess of the Nihangs (Sikh Fighters) by virtue of martial arts, horse riding, and sword fighting, besides other cultural events. The name of this city is Anandpur Sahib which is part of the North-Western section of Chandigarh.

Known as the motherland of Khalsa, this city has a noteworthy religious eminence in the community of Sikhs, who are regarded as one of the most gallant and fearless communities in the world.

The history unfolds that Anandpur Sahib was once owned by the rulers of Bilaspur, before being sanctified by the culmination of Khalsa-panth almost 300 years back. Anandpur Sahib was founded on 19th June, 1665 by Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth guru of Sikhs, and is most famous for nestling the iconic Gurudwara Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib.The Tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh after having spent 25 years of his life declared Anandpur Sahib as the spiritual land of the Sikhs.

Anandpur was initially a wide terrain of dense forests and bushes that acted as home to wild animals such as elephants, lions, bears, wolves and other ferocious felines who were an integral part of the fauna here. By 15th century most of these animals had vanished, but still people were apprehensive of visiting this area. Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib turned this persistent forest into a fine place and laid the foundation of Chakk Nanaki (named after his mother) at the top of the hillock known as ruins of Makhowal in 1665, which was later rechristened Anandpur Sahib.

"Holy City of Bliss" is an adjective bestowed on this city, which is closely associated with the history of one of the most gallant and fearless communities in India, the Sikhs. Located on the banks of River Sutlej in Ropar District of Punjab.

This place stands undaunted and fortified by five forts built during the time of Guru Teg Bahadur. These forts, namely Qila Anandgarh Sahib, Qila Holgarh Sahib, Qila Lohgarh Sahib , Qila Fatehgarh Sahib and Qila Taragarh Sahib were used most pragmatically by the Army to safeguard the subject and their dignity against foreign invasion.

The Takht Kesgarh Sahib is one of the key pilgrimage attractions of Anandpur Sahib. Followers and devotees from all across flock to pay homage to their revered Guru. Located on a hill top, Takht Kesgarh Sahib comprises of an enclosed square space which is attached with an open balcony much too eloquent. A collection of holy weapons is showcased at one portion of this structure.

Anandpur Sahib, being the religious and spiritual abode of Sikhs, brandishes several adjoining places of historical significance like:

• Gurudwara Guru-Ka-Mahal (Bhora Sahib): The dwelling of Sri Guru Teg Bahadur, which was later inherited by Sri Guru Gobind Singh. The sahibzadas- sons of the tenth Guru were born here. There is an underground room concealed from the clamor of life, where the ninth Guru used to meditate.

• Gurudwara Thara Sahib: The raised dais in this Gurudwara was used by the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur for his religious sermons. The Kashmiri Brahmins came here seeking protection.

• Gurudwara Sis-Ganj Sahib: In November, 1675, the martyred head of the ninth Guru was heroically brought by Bhai Jaita and cremated here, ceremoniously.

• Akal Bung : Post cremation of the holy head of his father, the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh rested here with his relations and followers.

• Gurudwara Damdama Sahib: This Gurudwara has major significance, as it marks the investiture of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh to the Guru Gaddi (Guru's throne).

• Gurudwara Manji Sahib: The Sahibzadas – sons of the tenth Guru received their basic education and military training at this place. Efficient Military exercises were rehearsed here to ward off any outside invasion.

• Gurudwara Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib: This place has great relevance, as in 1699, on the day of Baisakhi, Guru Nanak's mission was consummated by the tenth Guru, Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh, through baptism of the double-edged-sword, thus giving birth to the Sikh sect duly defined as the Khalsa-Saint Soldier- in direct commune with the Guru and God.

• Guru-Ka-Lahore: It is situated at a mere distance of 11 kms on Sri Anandpur Sahib-Ganguwal route, leading to the State of Himachal Pradesh. On 25th January, 1686, the tenth Guru's wedding to Mata Jito Ji was celebrated here. Two almost pinhead springs still functional, were pierced by the tenth Guru by lancing the Rocky Mountains.

• Gurudwara Mata Jito Ji: Not far from Holgarh Fort. Mata Jito Ji was cremated here.

• Virasat-e-Khalsa (formerly known as Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex): This museum gives an elaborate insight into the historic events that took place in Punjab five centuries back, which ultimately resulted in birth of Sikhism and finally the Khalsa Panth. The museum defines the vision of the Sikh Gurus, well-endowed with the eternal message of peace and brotherhood, delivered to mankind in addition to the rich culture and heritage of Punjab. The museum commemorates 500 years of Sikh history and the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa.

Travelers visiting Anandpur Sahib are truly advised to also pay a visit to the temple of Naina Devi, located on a hilltop in the Bilaspur District of Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. This temple is well connected with National Highway No. 21. Built by a Gurjar Shepherd, this temple at the top of a hill is well connected via road, which curves round the hill up to a certain point, before a flight of concrete steps take you finally to the top. There is also a cable car facility connecting the base of the hill with the top.The hills of Naina Devi overlook the Gobind Sagar lake. This lake, in form of a water reservoir was created by the Bhakra-Nangal Dam.

The much acclaimed and popular museum by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) in Ropar is another cherry that one cannot afford to miss. This museum is situated about 40 km north east of Chandigarh on the Rupnagar – Chandigarh highway on the bank of Sutlej River and was opened to public in the year 1998. This museum is famous for preserving the archaeological vestiges of Ropar excavations - the first Harappan site to be excavated in Independent India, which is the primary link to Indian history , that dates back to medieval period of Indus Valley Civilization. Important exhibits include antiquities of Harappan times, Painted Grey ware culture, Saka, Kushana, Gupta times such as Vina Vadini (lady playing veena), steatite seal, copper and bronze implements, ring stone, yakshi image, gold coins of Chandragupta. Besides, visitors also have the privilege of catching a glimpse of protected monuments of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and World Heritage monuments.

The year 1963 marks a historic moment for India in form of inauguration of Bhakra Dam, a concrete dam across the River Sutlej. Located at the gorge near upstream Bhakra village (now submerged) in Bilaspur, this dam is the second tallest in India (225.55 m), first being the Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand which stands 261 m tall.

Bhakra, also known as the "Gobind Sagar", can store upto 9.34 billion cubic meters of water, enough to drain the whole of Chandigarh, parts of Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. The 90 km long reservoir is spread over an area of 168.35 square km. Described by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the "New Temple of Resurgent India"; Bhakra Dam attracts tourists from far and wide.The dam was constructed with an aim to provide irrigation to Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Another reason behind the construction of the dam was to prevent damage due to monsoon floods. The dam provides irrigation to 10 million acres (40,000 km²) of fields in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan. It also has five flood gates to control floods. Another dam, 15 km downstream of Bhakra dam is the Nangal dam which is situated in Nangal city, and is merely 20 km away from Naina Devi. Both these dams are ubiquitously called Bhakra-Nangal dam despite being two separate entities.

A commemorative stamp on Bhakra Dam had been approved for release by the Govt. of India on 22nd Oct, 2013 to mark its 50 years of existence. Anandpur Sahib is well connected by rail and air. While the nearest rail terminus is at Nangal, the nearby airport is in Chandigarh which is approximately 85 km away, that roughly takes an hour and a quarter by road. The city enjoys a warm and temperate weather. It offers a variety of good hotels and luxury tented accommodation for tourists.