Historical Background of Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib)
This paper is an attempt to highlight the Historical Background of Talwandi Sabo. This study will be based on the primary and secondary sources. There are many villages in Punjab named ‘Talwandi’. Talwandi means the land or the earth that is fertile or productive. That is why many villages have the name Talwandi. This means that the land produces many types of crops, vegetables, fruit and flora. In Sikh history, there are two famous holy towns of this name. These towns are the integral part of Sikh history. The first historical town is Rai-Bhoi di Talwandi (Shri Nankana Sahib), the birth place of Shri Guru Nanak Dev, which is located in district Sheikhupura, Pakistan. The second town of this name is the historical village ‘Talwandi Sabo’ of Malwa region in district Bathinda, Punjab. This is an ancient and historical town of the Malwa region. This town is 28kms South-East of Bathinda and 12kms from the railway station of Rama Mandi. Initially, this whole region was known as ‘Lakhi Jungle’ and the Subedars (Governors) were appointed in this region by Mughal Empire. Since the ancient times, Rabbi bani (The divine voice) have been echoing on the land of Talwandi Sabo. This was a charming, pleasing and beautiful town. This place had been also the place for meditation for many of saints and sages. Its history dates back to Vedic ages during Vedic period, a branch of the Saraswati River passing near Thanesar (Haryana) also used to flow in the vicinity of the present day Talwandi Sabo. The Sutlej River also flowed through Bathinda at that time. Being the land of Vedic sages, the region between the Saraswati and Drishatvati rivers (Markanda River) was popularly known as Brahmavarta. Even when with the passage of time, the river Sutlej receded, one of its branches continued to flow here, and its name was ‘Aakara’. In Sind, Aakara was known as Hakra. Therefore, this piece of land was fertile and developed even at that time. Nearby, a well-developed city ‘Purindri’ was situated on the banks of the Saraswati River. In the literature of Vedic period, ‘Purindri’ is highly admired. Purindri means ‘The City of Indra’. In Vedic age, the sage Markanda penanced here, whose place of penance was under the Jujube tree to the southwards of Gurusar Sarovar (pool). Apart from him, many sages such as Prashar, Byas etc. also lived here. The sage Markanda established ‘Uttar Kashi’ here. It is also mentioned in the Rigveda and Aitareya Brahmana that the ritualist sages lived on the banks of Saraswati River. In ancient times, with the pure water of the Saraswati River and the hymns of divine education, this land became religious, spiritual and worshipful. But with the passage of time, as the Sutlej and Saraswati rivers receded, this region became a desert land. This land saw many epochs of history. During one of the periods, Buddhism dominated here, which attempted to eliminate the Vedic culture, ashram and school. Later on, the Islamic invaders erased the civilization of this land and destroyed the Hindu and Buddhist temples, schools and libraries. This sacred ‘Uttar Kashi’ was devastated under the tyranny and oppression. This whole region became uninhabited and desolate forest. But, after a brief passage of time, the history turned a new leaf. In 1149A.D, the Hindu Gujjars occupied the present Talwandi Sabo, who acquired the chaudhar (chiefship) of 48 villages by converting to the Islam during the reign of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish. The only daughter of the chaudhary (Chief) of these Gujjars was ‘Sahabo’, who became the chief of her clan, after the death of her father. Hence, the name of the village became Talwandi Sahabo, which is known as Talwandi Sabo now-a-days. In addition, there has been a sardar (Chief) named Sabo in the sixth generation from ‘Brar’ clan of sardars (Chiefs) of Talwandi Sabo, who occupied Talwandi Sabo. During Babar’s invasion in April, 21 1526 A.D, Sabo assisted Babar in the first battle of Panipat. Due to this the Sidhu-Brars got the chiefship of ‘Lakhi Jungle’ Bathinda. Of which, Sabo acquired Talwandi. He made Talwandi a hub of his activities and provided many facilities to the peasants living there. He dug up ponds at several places in the forest to make up for the shortage of water. Beside this, he helped the people of Talwandi in every possible way during the time of epidemics, famine etc. Thus, Sabo made Talwandi an extremely cheerful city in his time .Consequently, after his name, this place was named Talwandi Sabo. In the lineage of Sabo, there was Salem Shah, the only son of Aalak who became a Chaudhary. He was a pious person and sympathetic to the poor and oppressed people. He was initiated into Sikhism by Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. It is also revealed that when Guru ji fought the war of Phul-Mehraj, in which Chaudhary Salem Shah offered himself for help along with his horse riders and foot-soldiers. When Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji reached Talwandi Sabo in 1674A.D. he served Guru ji devotedly. Pleased with his service, Guru ji bestowed this area with many boons. But, due to his humble and polite nature, he could not manage properly his headmanship. Consequently, Bhatti’s took hold of many villages of this area. Chaudhary Salem Shah had six sons. The eldest was ‘Dalla’, who received the Chaudhar (Chiefship) of this area. He was a brave and courageous warrior. He succeeded in taking back his father’s lost territory and pushed Bhattis out of the area forever. Of all the chaudharies in this area, he had the largest army. He undertook a number of developmental and welfare works during his time, because of which, he became famous as the king of the jungle. He owned many castles, army, horses etc.
When Guru Gobind Singh ji came to this place in 1706 A.D, Dalla was the Chaudhary of Talwandi Sabo. He enthusiastically received Guru ji. He lovingly accommodated Guru ji at his village and served him whole heartedly.
It is believed that earlier Guru Nanak Dev Ji had graced Talwandi Sabo by his visit. According to this tradition, Guru Nanak Dev ji arrived at Talwandi Sabo in November 1515 A.D. while traveling from Sarsa to Sultanpur. At the place where Guru ji stayed, the Gurusar Sarovar (Holy Pool) has been built in these days. There was a Jujube tree (Ber Tree) southward of this pool, where Gurudwara Manji Sahib is made now. Here, Guru ji performed kirtan (devotional singing in praise of God) and delivered sermons. After residing at this place, Guru Ji said, “This place will become a great pilgrimage site.” Guru ji stayed here for several days and Talwandi residents served him lovingly.Gurudwara Nanaksar dedicated to the memory of Guru Nanak Dev ji in Talwandi Sabo is a living example of the advent of Sikh religion in this area.
The connection of Talwandi Sabo is also related to Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. According to the Gurbilas Patshahi chhevin, the sangat (Religious Congregation) once requested sixth Guru Hargobind Sahib ji, “Sache Patshah (True king)! Why did you not recite the Gurbani like the former Gurus?” The Satguru (True Guru) replied, “I will establish Guru ki Kashi by manifesting Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo in our tenth saroop (body). History also tells that the elders of Bhai Dalla accepted initiation in Sikhism from sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. It is believed that the seventh Guru, Guru Har Rai Sahib ji also resided in Talwandi Sabo for eleven days.
Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur ji travelled to the Malwa region after taking over the guruship. Preaching Sikhism, Guru ji reached Talwandi Sabo. The dialogue between Guru Tegh Bahadur ji and Nawab Saif Khan is mentioned in the Malwa Desh Ratan di Sakhi Pothi. In it, Guru ji says to Saif Khan,”There is our hidden Kashi in jungle country (Malwa region). I shall go there and manifest it.” Guru ji wanted to develop this place as a centre of Sikhism. It is believed that Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji stayed at Talwandi Sabo for about a month during his travel in the Malwa region. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji predicted that Guru Gobind Singh would visit here. Along with the preaching religion, he also performed public welfare works. Guru ji commenced the kar-seva (Free Service) of Gurusar Sarovar. He took out the soil with his dushala (heavy shawl) five times and said that Guru ki Kashi would manifest here. It is said that Guru ji performed the kar-seva of Gurusar Sarovar for eleven days. Guru ji said,”Here will be a mint of scholars and expounders of Gurbani, who will explain the meaning and essence of Gurbani to the Sikhs and students”. During the visit of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, Salem Shah was the chaudhary of Talwandi Sabo. He served Guru ji day and night devotedly. Gurdwara Manji Sahib Patshahi Nauvin is built in Talwandi Sabo to commemorate the visit of Guru Tegh Bahadur ji.
Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji arrived in Talwandi Sabo on Jan 21, 1706. According to Sikh traditions and sources, Guru ji stayed at Talwandi Sabo for 9 months and 9 days. Chaudhary Dalla, along with four hundred men, marched five kohs (distance unit)from Talwandi Sabo and came to visit Guru Ji. Chaudhary Dalla received Guru ji very warmly and then with great respect, brought Guru ji to his home in Talwandi Sabo. Guru ji arrived in Talwandi Sabo on an elevated piece of land. The place where Guru ji rested, became famous as ‘Damdama Sahib’ or the place of repose. Literally, ‘Damdama’ means a place to have a break and rest. Guru Gobind Singh ji stayed here after fighting defensive battles against Mughals. Since from Damdama Sahib, Guru ji issued orders (Hukamnama) for all Sikhs, so it was also known as ‘Takht’.
Takht Shri Damdama Sahib (Talwandi Sabo) also owes its significance to the literary work of Guru Gobind Singh Ji which was created here during his stay. Here, Guru ji prepared the revised the existing text of Sikh scripture and prepared an authentic version of the Adi Granth after adding the sacred verses of Guru Tegh Bahadur and prepared a final and authentic version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is now being worshipped by the Sikhs as Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the eternal spiritual guide to all Sikhs. The final edition of Sri Guru Granth Sahibwritten at Damdama Sahib is also known as the ‘Damdami Bir’.During Guru Gobind Singh’s stay, a large number of people embraced Sikhi and joined the fold of the Khalsa.
Baba Deep Singh had been summoned to Damdama Sahib to work with Bhai Mani Singh for preparing the final text of Shri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh recited the entire Granth Sahib to them while they wrote out the text. After the completion of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Baba Deep Singh continued, for several years, to prepare four more handwritten additional copies of the Holy Scriptures. These four copies were sent to; Shri Akal Takht Sahib, Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib (Patna), Takht Shri Hazur Sahib (Nanded) and Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib (Anandpur Sahib). Guru Gobind Singh ji also performed sewa at Gurusar sarovar. Bhai Mani Singh used kalams (pens made of reeds) to pen the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as dictated by Guru ji. Later the Guru Sahib threw all the ink and kalams into the sarovar and gave a blessing saying, ‘Whosoever shall write the thirty five words of the Gurumukhi here will be blessed with a sharp mind.’ To quote the Sakhi Pothi, Guru ji said,”Thousands of Sikhs will study the holy texts at this place and then pens will come into use. This is our Kashi (Seat of learning); those who study here will cast off their ignorance and rise to be the authors, poets and commentators.” At this place now Gurudwara Sri Likhansarsahib has been built.
In October 1706, before Guru Ji travelled to Deccan to meet Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah, Guru Ji made Baba Deep Singh, in-charge of Damdama Sahib and sent Bhai Mani Singh to head the sangat at Sri Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.According to several writers, Guru ji had decided on the Deccan visit long ago and had left Damdama sahib with that aim.
Therefore, Talwandi Sabo’s connection with the Sikh Panth’s history is very deep and ancient. This place is adorned with one of the five Takhats of the Sikh Panth. This place has been blessed by tenth Guru ji with the name of ‘Guru Ki Kashi.’ By blessing this place, Guru Nanak Dev ji and his successors have made it famous around the whole world. As a result, this place has become a very important centre of Sikhism at present.
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