Author: Mohinder Singh
Photographer: Sondeep Shankar
Publisher: UBS Publishers
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8174764658
Gurdwaras were earlier called dharamsals, literally the abode of dharma, and later came to be termed gurdwaras, literally Guru's portals. Both words cannot be properly translated. The common terms like Sikh temple or Sikh shrine fail to convey the spirit behind the institution of dharamsal or gurdwara.
Even though Sikhs most popular Gurdwara, the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, has come to be popularly known as the Golden Temple or Harimandir Sahib, the use of the word temple or shrine remains unsatisfactory since there is neither an altar nor an idol inside the gurdwara. On the contrary, the presiding presence in the gurdwara is that of the Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib, which is the Guru Eternal for the Sikhs.
A typical gurdwara has four doors on the four sides indicating its accessibility to people from all the four directors, irrespective of caste and creed, with Nishan Sahib fluttering high day and night.
According to popular Sikh tradition, the first ever gurdwara was established at Talumbha, now in Multan District of East Panjab, Pakistan. Subsequently various other gurdwaras were established to commemorate Guru Nanak's and successive Gurus visits to these places in different parts of India. In the initial stage the management of the gurdwaras was looked after by revered leaders appointed in their areas. Subsequently, their management came under the control of masands.
In keeping with eh Sikh tradition, they did not look upon the offerings in gurdwaras as their personal property and utilized tem for the purpose of running free community kitchen. However, during the period of Sikhs persecution in the early eighteenth century, the management of gurdwaras passed on to the hereditary mahants who introduced many practices which did not conform to the tenets of Sikh religion. To reform their historic gurdwaras, the Sikhs launched a movement of reform, popularly known as the Akali Movement (1920-25) which resulted in liberating their historic gurdwaras.
With text provided by Dr Mohinder Singh, an eminent historian, the book covers the origin and development of the institution of gurdwaras and their management, and gives account of some of the major gurdwaras in India and Pakistan. Sondeep Shankar, India's leading photographer, has provided pictures for the book.