It's a city robed in white. It looks pristine and true to its name, blissful
ANANDPUR SAHIB torpidly sprawls in the foothills of the Shivalik range. The green of the indigenous kikar provides a painterly contrast to the white structures and the almost-always clear blue skies. In between this mosaic, the Sutlej River meanders through, en route her long journey to reunite with the great Indus.
It was here, over 300 years ago, when Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, founded the Khalsa brotherhood. Ever since, the town has been an important pilgrimage site for the community, with Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib—one of the five temporal seats of the Sikhs—and over 40 gurudwaras drawing the faithful. On festivals, especially Holla Mohalla (March) and Vaisakhi (April), when the turnout is colossal, its labyrinthine lanes become a riot of colour and exuberance fills the air. It’s a quiet, bucolic town offering uncharted trails for hiking, over 150 bird calls to identify, a non-touristy farm life to experience, voluntary service at the langar, and indulgence in simple pleasures of picnicking by the crystal clear waters of the canals.
In recent times the Virast-e-Khalsa, a museum dedicated to Sikh history has become the town’s big draw. In a landscape replete with white arches and domes, its stainless steel-sandstone architecture and the dramatic silhouette it forms, evoke awe. Open through the week except Monday, the audio-visual presentations are remarkable and a detailed tour takes about two hours on agile feet. Entry is free.
Around town, the Shaktipeeth Naina Devi in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, is an enjoyable 22 km uphill drive. There’s also the option of reaching it by cable car and getting a chance to admire the panoramic view of the undulating terrain with terraced fields and exclaiming at the spectacular cobalt blue water of the Gobind Sagar reservoir as it steadily comes into sight from amidst the folds of the hills. This truly is a sight to behold.
The other magnet, 33 km away, is the “New temple of resurgent India”, the Bhakra Dam. One of the highest straight gravity dams in the world, this engineering marvel stirs a sense of pride while the scenic beauty around it is worth capturing on the lens. Though photography is not permitted, this will remain an everlasting frame for the mind’s eye as will the blissful white of Anandpur Sahib.
Road: Connected with
Delhi (320 appx km/ 6 hrs)
via NH 1 and
(85 km/1.5 hrs) via NH 21. Route: Delhi-Ambala-Banur-Kharar-Ropar-Anandpur
Train: Una Janshatabdi (12057) via
14:35, Arrival 20:58 Himachal Express
(14553) via Ropar. Departure New Delhi
22:15 Arrival 06:11 Delhi
Stay: Kisan Haveli (01887-232650/670)
Shop: Knick-knacks from the various colourful stalls around the gurdwaras
Published April 2014, India Today Travel PlusOther reads at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/author/Brinda-Suri/1.html