Gurdawara Dera Sahib: An epitome of Sikh architectural heritage in Pakistan

Dr. Saeed Ahmad Ali

The historical Walled City of Lahore as ‘cultural capital of the country’ has rich heritage with hundreds of intact structure of buildings telling tales of centuries old civilizations.
From mosques and shrines to churches and temples and Sikh gurdwaras, the minarets, domes, arches airing the voices of Azaan, ringing bells and recitation of Guru Granth Sahib and Kerthan speak volumes of the enliven heritage and interfaith harmony of this historic city.
Lahore is considered one of the most favorite tourist destinations in South Asia and its walled city is famous for rich architectural heritage narrating the history of different ages, cultures and customs.
Gurdwara Dera Sahib Sri Guru Arjun Dev is one the jewels in the crown of this centuries old city. Moving towards the Lahore Royal Fort (Badshahi Qila) and Hazoori Bagh, the serenity and architectural beauty of its golden dome attracts millions of tourists each year.
This Gurdwara symbolizes the Sikh tradition and marks the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1606), the 5th Guru in the series who had first compiled the Adi Granth, the principal part of Sikh scriptures. Adi Granth also provided basis for Guru Granth Sahib, the living Guru in the form of scripture after the series of ten human Gurus ended at Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj.
“Being the magical and the catchiest; this Gurdwara monument is a best example of Sikh religious architecture,” said noted Arch-itect Muhammad Tayyab.
He said it was clear evident that Sikh Architecture was heavily influenced by the identical styles of Mu-ghal and Rajput Archite-cture – the two great dynasties of the sub-continent.
“Its dome is a masterpiece, which reflects the magnificent values of dedication, wonderful intricacy and its line work,” Tayyab said. “It is beauty of Lahore that it provides mixture of architectural skills, historic revelations and religious attachment for Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.”
He said the dome of Gurdwara Dera Sahib, its artwork with multi-foil arches, frescoes and in-lay works is a clear replica of the Shah Jahani period architecture, most of which are in Lahore.
History reveals that Guru Hargobind, the successor of Guru Arjan Dev had built a memorial here in 1619. The main Gurud-wara building with gilded dome was built during Ma-haraja Ranjit Singh’s reign. Even after the partition, the successive government occasionally preserved and renovated this site.
Located in the Walled City of Lahore, it also makes the part of an ensemble of monuments, including the Lahore Fort, Huzoori Bagh,Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Roshnai Gate and the Royal Mosque (Badshahi Masjid).
“Fond of glory of Muslim architecture, the tourists when coming to Lahore Royal Fort cannot keep aloof of the fascination of Gurdwara Dera Sahib,” said Deputy Secretary, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Imran Gondal.
He said Gurdwara Dera Sahib always had a magical effect on tourists as the golden dome provides visitors with eye catching view of architectural competence.
He said the Punjab Gov-ernment as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s policy of promoting tourism a-nd interfaith harmony, preserves and renovates hist-oric and religious sites. “T-his site is thronged by hundreds of thousands Sikh Ya-trees visiting Pakistan for their religious ceremonies.”
A significant part of the Sikh history refers to their religious places in Pakistan including Nankana Sahib where the founder of Sikh religion Baba Guru Nanak Dev was born. The ETPB document claims that there are around 195 Gurdwaras across Pakistan.
The present government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken several initiatives for the facilitation of Sikh pilgrims including the historic opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in November 2019. The opening was carried out on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak and won accolades from Sikh community across the world.
“We appreciate the steps of Pakistan government in opening up Kartarpur corridor and preservation of our religious and historic sites,” said Harmeet Singh, a Sikh journalist working in Pakistan. “These initiatives will not only promote interfaith harmony but also religious tourism.”
He said Gurdwara Darbar Sahib has historic and religious importance for us. “We observe every year, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev as well as birthday and anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh at Gurdwara Dera Sahib.”
Harmeet said, anybody visiting Lahore and these sites would definitely be fascinated by its diversity. “This specific juncture of walled city, is a glaring example of religious and architectural diversity as well as interfaith harmony.”
“Sikh community within Pakistan and abroad has all the praise for the government for opening up Kartarpur and initiatives to protect and preserve our religious sites,” he said.
Sri Guru Arjan Dev is considered among the revered gurus in Sikh religion and Gurdwara Dera Sahib is the holiest place for them.
Until now, thousands Sikh yatrees come to visit this place every year to perform rituals on the eve of their religious festivals and ceremonies. The federal and Punjab governments fully facilitate them in an overture of promoting interfaith harmony and religious tourism.