GURU NANAK'S TRAVELS TO NEPAL
Dr (Colonel) Dalvinder Singh Grewal
Guru Nanak’s visit to Nepal completes 500 years in 2015 and the efforts are afoot to celebrate the same with the help of Nepal Government in a befitting manner. This article aims at giving detailed information about Guru Nanak’s visits to Nepal.
Nepal, spreading over a length of 800 kms and a breadth of 150-200 km, is diagonically cut by 28 degrees latitude south of the Himalayan main ridge, the eastern part of which also forms the northern frontier with Tibet. The Nepalese territory crosses over the central Himalayas at some places in the West, especially in the region of Mustang and extends up to the Tibetan plateau. In the south, Nepal borders with the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and with Sikkim in the East. Climatically the region can be divided roughly into three regions: temperate and humid in the southern parts along Terai and Gangatic regions of India, which are forested; the moderately cold regions which consist of the most of the middle ranges i.e., Siwalik and the Mahabharat chains with heights ranging between 2000-3000 m; (Valleys like Kathmandu and Pokhara lie in this region) and extremely cold region around Himalayan peaks like Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Kanchanjanga, Gauri Shankar, Makalu, etc. Many rivers flow in North-South direction, the more important being the Seti, Karnali, Bhari, Kali-Gandaki, Buri-Gandaki, Trisuli, Sunkosi, Dudh-kosi, Arun and Timur. Most of the old tracks were along the rivers.
The Nepalese are a deeply religious people. Though Nepal gave birth to Buddhism, yet it is the only country in the world which has Hinduism as its state religion. The deep religiosity of the Nepalese people finds expression in a multitude of shrines and temples - over 6000 in Kathmandu alone.
Guru Nanak travelled to Nepal during his Summer Udasi. He returned from Mansarovar along Kali Nadi which flows along the Western border of Nepal. Thereafter, he entered Nepal through Terai region. Probably from Sitamarhi where the famous temple of Sita stands, He is also believed to have visited Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita. From Janakpur, he is stated to have entered Birat Nagar and visited Chatra, situated on Sunkosi/Kaushiki Nadi. The writer of these lines was told about a banyan tree standing near Chatra, close to the dam site under which a small temple exists in the memory of Guru Nanak, and is presently manned by an Udasi. This place is known as Varahkshetra or Koka-Nukh in old records. The Sikh Sangat of Silligurhi, especially those who have been visiting the site, are eager to construct a Gurdwara at the site, which has not been acquired so far for some reasons.
From Chatra, Guru Nanak visited the fort of Dhomri. Then he went through Shivpur to Brahamkund where he attended a fair and delivered sermons to the gathered people. The people worshipped Yakshas. The Guru advised them to worship one God. Since then, he is remembered as Nanak Rishi in this area.
After Brahamkund, Guru Nanak visited Lakhanpur and Palti Lake. From there, through the hills of Hawal Khanchi, he reached Krishna Tal area and preached his gospel. After Krishna Tal, he proceeded through Dhaulagiri ridges to Belagarh and reached Kathmandu and Bhakatpur area, the two capitals of Patan and Banepa, the later Malla kings.
There are five historical Gurudwaras in Kathmandu; the most famous being “Nanak Math” situated on the bank of river Bishnumati. This historical Gurdwara is related to the third journey (udasi) of Guru Nanak Dev ji when he visited Nepal. It is said that Guru Nanak Sahib actually stayed here for some time and meditated at this serene site. He asked Bhai Mardana to play upon the rabab and himself sang one of his hymns. The yogis and ascetics of other cults gathered around the Guru and held discussions with him. At that time, the King of Nepal, Raja Jai Jagat Malla was very impressed with Guru ji’s discourse and he donated many acres of land to spread religious beliefs as guided by him. A description of this land is secure even today in the documents of the revenue department. At present, the Gurdwara has 7-8 acres of land and the remaining land has been encroached upon. The Gurdwara is situated on the hillock on the western bank of the River Bashnumati. Buses are being arranged by a Delhi Transport Company which go every year from Rakab Ganj / Bangla Sahib, New Delhi for the darshan of this shrine. With the approval of the Nepal government, the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji was celebrated on November 17, 2013 at Kathmandu based Gurdwara Guru Nanak Math for the first time. The concluding prayer (Ardas) of the celebrations at Gurdwara Nanak Math in Kathmandu, was performed by Giani Gurbax Lamsal Singh, whose original name was Chat Prasad Lamsal who had converted to Sikhism in 1976. Gurbax Lamsal Singh was baptized as Sikh at Jodhpur in Rajasthan. He studied Sikh theology from Sikh Missionary College in Amritsar, where he stayed before being moved to Nepal to manage religious affairs of Gurdwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha, Kathmandu. His brother too converted to Sikhism and his wife also embraced the faith. Responding to the campaign launched by Dubai-based philanthropist SPS Oberoi, the Nepalese government had reportedly allowed Sikhs to organize Gurpurb celebrations at Gurdwara Nanak Math. Another Sikh Bhai Gurdeep Singh is also performing religious duties at Gurdwara Singh Sabha on a permanent basis. Since Guru Nanak came here in 1515, the fifth century of his visit, to the place is being planned to be celebrated in 2015 in a big way.
Besides this, there are 4 more historical Gurdwaras in Nepal. There are about 400 members of the Sikh community in the area. There are also two Dharamsalas in the memory of the Visit of Guru Nanak Dev ji, one managed by Nirmalas and other by Udasis. Apart from the above, a new site for building a central Gurdwara in Kupandole, Kathmandu was founded in 1976 by the Sikh Sangat where community services include sangat and langer on Saturday afternoons. “The Sikh temples clustered around Thapathali and the Dharahara, rebuilt after the 1934 earthquake reflect magnificent Sikh architecture.”
Guru Nanak stayed for some weeks in and around Kathmandu, and visited the three capital areas, holding discussions with people of all walks of life. Kathmandu was known as Kantipur at the time of Guru Nanak’s visit, but was given the name of Kathmandu due to the wood (kath) temple platform (Mandu of Gorakhnath). It was the capital town of Nepal at the time of Guru Nanak’s visit. It is the third royal city in Kathmandu Valley which, during the period of Guru Nanak’s visit, was an independent kingdom. Vatsada and Siddhilakshmi as well as the Buddhist monastery Chetur Varna Mahavihar were founded during the period of Guru Nanak’s travels.
Guru Nanak delivered his sermons at most of these temples before he proceeded to Tibet. From Kathmandu, Guru Nanak is stated to have visited Thyangboche where his idol and a manuscript have been preserved to this day. Guru Nanak is likely to have proceeded through Doleghat, Chiyaubas, Surke, Kiranti Chap, Namdo, Kabra, Valleys of Jarsakhola and Sikri Khola, Jiri, Batasha Danda Ridge, Those and Shivalaya to Jhoding monastery at Thodungla, and reached Bhander. From Bhander he probably proceeded through Sate, Lamjurala, Sherpa villages of Dragdobuk and Junbesi and visited Chiwant monastery. From Junsebi, he may have proceeded further through Phalali to Jubing, Kharela, Phakding and to Namche Bazar. From Namche Bazar, his next visit was to Khumjing monastery and Thayangboche. Thangboche monastery situated at 3867 m. in the lap of Amba Dablam (6856 m), is one of the most beautiful sites of the world, on a tableland, amidst breath-taking scenery, surrounded by a panorama of Khumbu - Himalaya with Mount Everest. The ‘Head Lama’ of the Thyangbhoche monastery is a reincarnation of Boddhisatva, highly revered by Sherpas. The scalp of a yeti, a snowman is kept and displayed in the monastery. Guru Nanak also held a discourse with the Head Lama of the Thyangboche Monastery.
The Lamas were highly impressed by Guru Nanak's teachings and became the followers of Guru Nanak. A large-sized idol of Guru Nanak and a manuscript of Guru Nanak were seen at the monastery by the famous Everest climber, M.S. Kohli, who writes: “The cupboards in Gompha contained many manuscripts. There were idols of past Lamas. These included one of Guru Nanak or Guru Rimpoche.” The Head Lama told him that certain writings of the great Guru were in his personal possession.
From Thyangboche, Guru Nanak came back to Khumjing on the trading route of India-Tibet and proceeded to Tibet through Nanak La Pass (5500 m) - the name that appears in the maps - and reached Tinjti Dzong in Tibet. From Southern Tibet, he went to Sikkim through this route. These travels reveal the incredible travelling capacity of Guru Nanak through this hilly terrain without any conceivable modes of travel at that time, as well as His ability to communicate with people of diverse cultures and languages to impart his spiritual vision.
1. Akshay Sharma; The culture and traditions of the Sikh kingdom influenced Nepal court and squares.
2. Dalvinder Singh Grewal, Feb 2006, Amazing Travels of Guru Nanak to North & North East, SGPC, Amritsar,
3. Dalvinder Singh Grewal, 1995, Guru Nanak’s Travels to Himalaya & East Asia Region- A New Light: National Book Shop, New Delhi, 1995, p.150
4. Doig, Desmond & Bhagat, Dubey (2000). In the Kingdom of the Gods: An Artist’s Impression of the Emerald Valley. Harper Collins India. ISBN 817223371X.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All