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Historical Gurdwaras in Foreign Lands

BANGLADESH




Dacca

Bangla Desh, a separate sovereign state since 1971, is geographically and historically a part of Indian subcontinent. Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur had traveled extensively through this land. Following the footprints of the first Guru Udasi priests had established a number of Sikh Gurdwars notably at Dacca, Sylhet and Chittagong. But with the Partition of 1947, when the Muslim-dominated eastern part of Bengal became East Pakistan, a province of the professedly Islamic State of Pakistan, all these Gurdwara vanished. Only in Dacca, Sikh soldiers, after the successful victory in the Into-Pakistan War of 1971, could retieve two of them. Another is said to be still functional in Chittagong.

1) Gurdwara Nanakshahi: Gurdwara Nanakshahi in Ramana behind the public library adjoining the Dacca University campus, was originally an Udasi Charan-Paduka founded by Baba Nath, successor of Bhai Almast, in memory of Guru Nanak Dev. When Guru Tegh Bahadur was at Dacca during the late 1660s, Bhai Nattha was the Udasi mahant and Baba Bulaki Das the Guru's masand here. On the eve of the Partition, possession and priesthood was the subject of court cases between Baba Tribeni Das and another claimant Gobind Das, and later between Tribeni Das and one Manik Lal. Ultimately Tribeni Das was adjudged the lawful guardian of the Gurdwara, but in the wake of the Partition, he left for India never to return. A Sikh, Swarn Singh looked after this place in his absence. In 1960-61, the east Pakistan Government passed order to acquire 1.40 acres of the 1.63 acres of walled premises of the Gurdwara. Baha Swarn Singh challenged the government in lower courts and ultimately in Dacca High Court. The case was pending there when Indo-Pak War started in December 1971. On or about 14th December 1971, Baba Swarn Singh was murdered alongwith his Muslim friend Muhammad-ul-Malik. Their bodies were buried side by side in the later's house. After the conclusion of the war three days later, a Sikh deputation was sent from Takht Sri Patna Sahib to Dacca. With the help of Sikh soldiers the members of the deputation led by Captain Bhag Singh of Calcutta recovered possession of the Gurdwara, cleaned it and held a congregation in it on 2nd January, 1972. Even Sayyad Nazar-ul-Islam, then acting President of Bangla Desh attended the congregation and gave assurance about the safety and reconstruction of this and the other Gurdwaras.


2) Gurdwara Sangat Tola:
Gurdwara Sangat Tola in 14, Sorees Das in Bangla Bazar, Dacca marks the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur resided and held congregation during his stay in Dacca. On the retirement of Granthi Bhai Ram Singh, who had served the shrine from 1895 to 29th January 1939, his son Bhai Kirpal Singh was appointed Granthi. While he left in the wake of Partition, his mother Kanchan Devi, continued to look after the Gurdwara (She was popularly called Shikker Ma mother of the Sikh). But she, too, had to flee to join his son in Calcutta when the Pakistan military government started its region of terro. The Gurdwara fell into disuse until in early 1972 a Sikh soldier was deputed temporarily to serve it. He left when his unit moved back to India.

At present, these two Gurdwaras are being maintained by Bangla Desh Gurdwaras Management Board, attached to Takht Sri Patna Sahib. Captain Bhag Singh was its first indefatigable general secretary.

There used to be another memorial to Guru Nanak Dev in Dacca. It was a well blessed by the Guru. It is mentioned in Dacca district Gazetteer, Calcutta, 1912. There used to be an annual fair here in the month the Chet (March-april). There is however no trace of it now. The site is now covered with residential building near the present Dhan Mandi (paddy market).


Chittagong

1) Gurdwara Sikh Temple: Chittagong, situated on the right bank of Karnaphuli river is the major port of Bangla-Desh. Guru Nanak Dec visited to a country near the sea where a king ruled over many islands. The Guru, it says, appointed Bhai Jhanda as his representative preacher (masand) there. Assuming that the country alluded to was the Chittagong region, a Gurdwara was established in Chittagong, called Gurdwara Sikh Temple. It is in the Chowk Bazar of the town. An old well adjoining the Gurdwara building indicates the age of the Gurdwara. Bhai Mohan Singh, a poor Khattri of Patna Sahib, who rose to be a divan (revenue minister) of Nawab 'Ali Vardi Khan of Bengal from 1740 to 1756, donated some property to the Gurdwara, which remained in the control of a long line of mahants. The last mahant Kali Das died sometime during the second decade of the 20th century. His son was too young to take over. This resulted in mismanagement of the Gurdwara. In 1917, on an appeal filed by Sardar Atma Singh and Sardar Arjan singh of East Bengal Railway and others, The District Judge of Chittagong appointed Sri Anand Sen, his son Nutan Chand Sen took over, but there was mismanagement again. The District Judge then formed an 11-member committee of management. Its first president was Sri Rasik Chandra Hazari and first secretary Sardar Gurbachan Singh. This arrangement still continues. Early in 1972, when a deputation of Indian Sikhs led by Captain Bhag Singh visited Bangla Desh, Sri Satish Chandra Dey was the president and Sri S.K. Das Barman, secretary of the managing committee


Sylhet

1) Gurdwara Sahib Sylhet: Sylhet was a Muslim majority district of Assam. At the Partition, however, the Boundary Commission assigned it to East Pakistan (now Bangla Desh). Sikh Sangat had existed at Sylhet on the right bank of Surma river since the time of Guru Nanak Dev's travels in these parts. Some of Guru Gobind Singh's hukamnamas were addressed to this sangat. Gurdwara Sahib Sylhet, on 1.67 acres of land bearing Plot No. 2096 and Khata No. 1720 was functional till the Partition, after which the Pakistan Government appropriated this land. When the Sikh deputation visited Sylhet in 1972, they found the office of the District Council and a few residential houses on the site.



 
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