IN THIS POST
- Gurdwara Nankana Sahib
- Gurdwara Darbar Sahib
- Gurdwara Panja Sahib
- Gurdwara Dera Sahib
- Gurdwara Rori Sahib
- Gurdwara Kali Devi
- Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh
Sikhism, a religious ideology that originated in the sub-continent in the late 15th century, has strong roots in Pakistan. With a shared border that separates Pakistan and India, the religion is widely practised in both countries, particularly in Punjab. Hence, some of the most famous Gurdwaras in Pakistan are situated in this region.
It is also important to mention that Sikhism is considered the fifth-largest religion in the world. Its founder, Baba Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in Nankana Sahib, near Lahore. The site is now home to the highly revered Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan. It is also among the most visited sacred sites for Sikhs, visited by a large number of devotees all around the year.
Many of the Gurdwaras in Pakistan, regardless of their location, feature similar architectural elements and layouts. This signifies unity and offers a sense of belonging to Sikhs in Pakistan as well as those residing in other countries.
Famous Gurdwaras in Pakistan
Let’s explore some of the most famous Gurdwaras in Pakistan and learn about their historical significance.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib
Situated approximately 75 kilometres southwest of Lahore, Gurdwara Nankana Sahib is one of the most prestigious holy sites for Sikhs in Pakistan. It marks the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak and is considered a representation of the home where he grew up and began preaching the religion.
The expansive compound of the Gurdwara is built in a rectangular orientation and comprises a main square, a holy water pool called Saroor Sahib, the memorial of Sardar Lachman Singh, and Sikh Shaheedi inside a glass room. The walled complex also encompasses around 500 rooms for Sikh pilgrims, along with a vast kitchen, dining room, and sitting area where the devotees can eat their meals and relax.
Moreover, the exterior of the Gurdwara is painted in hues of light yellow. A majestic golden door, which serves as the main entrance to the sacred site, is beautifully carved with holy scripture and depictions of Sikh gurus. The main square also has a memorial for Punjabi Sikh Sangat, with an ancient tree planted in the middle.
Meanwhile, the main building inside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib consists of two storeys and features white domes at the top with floral bases and symbols of inverted lotuses. It is also important to note that a large portion of the compound is roofless, while the floor is made of pristine white marble that shines brightly under the sun.
In 2019, former Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation of Nankana Sahib University in Nankana Sahib.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib
Located in the beautiful town of Kartarpur in Tehsil Shakargarh, Gurdwara Dera Sahib or Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is one of the largest holy sites for Sikhs in the world. It is also where Baba Guru Nanak spent his final years.
In 2019, the Government of Pakistan inaugurated the 4.2-kilometre-long passage between the town of Dera Baba Nanak in India with the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in the Narowal district. This corridor of “international peace and harmony,” allowed Sikh devotees across the border an opportunity to visit the Gurdwara without any visa restrictions. The authorities in Pakistan also provided the pilgrims with motel facilities to facilitate their stay.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib covers an area of over 400 acres, which includes the main complex spanning 42 acres. The rest of the land is dedicated to water pools, communal kitchens, vegetation, hotels, handicraft shops, parking spaces, and other facilities. The complex also features a holy well, which has recently been renovated and opened for the pilgrims. This is the same well that Guru Nanak used to water the fields during his last years. Its water, called Amrit Jal, is sacred for the Sikhs.
Moreover, the main compound of the Gurdwara is shaped like a rectangle and has four visually distinguished entry points with intricately designed marble archways. Moreover, apart from the central structure in the vast courtyard, the entire area is unroofed.
Needless to say, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib is one of the most prominent monuments in Pakistan.
Gurdwara Panja Sahib
Built under the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh between 1780 and 1839, Gurdwara Panja Sahib is also among the most sacred holy sites for Sikhs in Pakistan. This majestic structure is located in the city of Hassan Abdal, which is about 48 kilometres from Rawalpindi. It is also considered a symbol of peace and harmony. Both Hindus and Sikhs visit this Gurdwara for pilgrimage twice a year.
Moreover, this site has a unique history. The word ‘Panja’ refers to the palm of the hand in Punjabi – and this is where the Gurdwara’s name comes from. As the story goes, the site was once used by Guru Nanak for meditation. One day, another holy man who was meditating at the top of the mountain hurled a rock toward him. However, the founder of Sikhism was able to stop the rock with his hand, leaving his imprint on it. That rock is still present inside the Gurdwara and has been preserved in its original shape.
The architecture of this Gurdwara Panja Sahib is also rather spectacular. The magnificent building consists of a hostel for pilgrims, a large courtyard, a pool and the main temple. The hostel comprises 376 rooms and all visitors receive free food from the temple’s kitchen for the duration of their stay. A large dining hall was also added to the main complex in 2011, which can accommodate over 1,000 people at a time.
Gurdwara Dera Sahib
An epitome of Sikh architectural heritage, Gurdwara Dera Sahib is situated in the historical Walled City of Lahore. Owing to its location near Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort – two of the most prominent tourist attractions in the bustling city, this Gurdwara receives a large number of visitors each year. It was built in 1619 by Guru Hargobind before being expanded by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
This Gurdwara was constructed to mark the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who drowned in the Ravi River that used to flow next to the site. He was the fifth Guru of Sikhism and was the first to compile the Adi Granth, the primary Sikh scripture. The holy book still resides in Gurdwara Dera Sahib and is considered a living Guru, serving as a predecessor to the series of the ten human Gurus that ended at Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj.
Meanwhile, the architecture of this stately building presents a perfect fusion between traditional Mughal and Sikh designs. Its golden dome depicts intricate artwork with frescoes, multi-foil arches, and in-lay works that are clearly inspired by the landmarks constructed during the era of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Its beautiful dome roof is also adorned with paintings of Guru Nanak as well as floral carvings.
Gurdwara Dera Sahib has a square passageway along with a communal kitchen and dining area to facilitate the pilgrims, who visit the site from all over the world.
Gurdwara Rori Sahib
The red brick building of Gurdwara Rori Sahib is one of the most popular attractions near Gujranwala. The religious landmark is located in Eminabad, about 15 kilometres from the City of Wrestlers. It was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak once took refuge.
The main building of the Gurdwara comprises three floors and features three large domes. The entire structure is made from cut and moulded bricks, which adds to its architectural beauty. Although this site is not as large as other Gurdwaras mentioned in this list, it is still pretty magnificent. However, while the primary structure is made from red bricks, the secondary structure is entirely white and consists of one hall. It also has a large white dome which is visible from a distance. The compound of the Gurdwara has a rectangular courtyard that connects the entrance to the temple. The site also has a pool for ablution.
Furthermore, the term ‘rori’ refers to pebbles or debris in Punjabi. According to Sikh lore, Guru Nanak spent a night at this site next to piles of stones and other debris. Though it is not clear when the Gurdwara was established, historians believe the structure was originally established more than 200 years ago.
Before the partition in 1947, the lush green area surrounding Gurdwara Rori Sahib was popular for its colourful Baisakhi festival. Till today, Sikh and Hindu pilgrims visit this sacred site in great numbers.
Gurdwara Kali Devi
Yet another important site for Sikhs in Pakistan, Gurdwara Kali Devi is located on the main road beyond the Topan Wala crossroad in Dera Ismail Khan. The architecture of this historical building is quite different from that of most other Gurdwaras in the country, as it doesn’t feature any marble flooring or large domes. Instead, its appearance is closer to that of an ancient Hindu temple, which is what it once used to be.
According to the legend, this Gurdwara was once a temple for Hindu Goddess Kali. When Guru Nanak visited the settlement, he decided to stay some distance from this religious monument. However, it is believed that the moment he entered the town, the idol fell to the ground. The priest at the temple immediately picked it up, but it fell again. They eventually found out that a holy man had arrived in the area, and wondered if the idol kept toppling due to his presence.
When the priest visited him to inquire about the incident, Guru Nanak explained the basics of the Sikh religion to him. Soon, the priest became one of his disciples and the worship of idols was abolished at the temple. After a few years, Hindu priests once again began worshipping the idol in the very same building, which resulted in it being called Gurdwara Kali Devi.
The main complex of this Gurdwara is centuries old, yet it is still standing tall. There is also a school located within the premises.
Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh
Built by Hari Singh Nalwah, a prominent general in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh is also one of the most well-known historical monuments in the old Walled City of Peshawar. It is located in Mohalla Jogan Shah Qissa Khawani near the famous Namak Mandi. Although the religious site was closed down at the time of the partition, the Government of Pakistan reopened it for Sikh pilgrims in 1980. However, it is in a dire need of repair and renovation.
The history of this building dates back over 200 years. It was originally founded by a companion of Guru Bhai Joga Singh, who hailed from Peshawar. Years later, following the annexation of the city by the Khalsa Army, Nalwah rebuilt the complex. Shortly before the partition, a rich Sikh transporter named Bahi Jay Mal renovated and expanded the compound and gave the site its current design and shape.
Despite its delipidated state, Gurdwara Guru Bhai Joga Singh continues to be a consecrated site for the local Sikh community.
This brings us to the end of our list of the most famous Gurdwaras in Pakistan. You can also check out our guide on the most revered Buddhist sites and the famous temples in Pakistan, some of which are fully operational to this day. You can also learn more about the Al-Beruni Radius, a unique policy initiative aimed at reviving religious tourism in the country, in our comprehensive blog on the topic.
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