Goindwal Sahib is a town near the river Beas and is about 25 Kms from Taran Taraan, which is the Sikh headquarters in Amritsar district. The city owes its existence to three Gurus — Guru Amardas, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan. It was founded by a certain Gonda Marwaha during Guru Angad’s time.
Almost a decade later, Guru Amardas made Goindwal his permanent abode, after he took over as the new Guru of the Sikhs. He did so because Guru Angad had wished that he make Goindwal the headquarters of the Sikhs.
In fact, there is an interesting story about how Goindwal came into existence. It is believed that the place where the city stands today was at one time haunted by evil sprits.
Visitors to the area would often get mobbed by dacoits. As a result of this, no one would come anywhere near that area and, so, it remained barren and uninhabited.
At that time, Gonda who had won a case against his relatives had promised that he would establish a new township for the Sikhs to commemorate his victory. But whenever he got some work done on that area, it was mysteriously demolished. The workers claimed that it was the work of the evil spirits.
Gonda decided to approach Guru Angad and seek his help. On hearing all this, Guru Angad realised that it was the work of his enemies, who did not want to see this new township come up. He asked his disciple Bhai Amardas to stay there and personally supervise the construction work.
Amardas immediately got into action. He knew that it was important to build houses so that people could start settling there. He arranged for the construction work to begin.
Before Guru Angad died, he asked Guru Amardas to make Goindwal a major centre of all Sikh activities. This is what Guru Amardas aspired to do.
As the third Guru of the Sikhs, he realised that it was important to have all the Sikhs come together as a united community. He brought them together spiritually by preaching to them daily and holding prayers for the whole community. He would sing devotional hymns and ask the Sikhs to join in.
He would also explain the teachings of Guru Nanak to them with great patience and in a simple manner. Soon his teachings spread far and wide and more and more people began to visit Goindwal to meet the Guru and hear his divine words. Most people who met him once, did not want to go back. They decided to stay in Goindwal. And, as a result, it became more and more difficult to accomodate them. Soon it was brought to the notice of Guru Amardas, who immediately granted more land for houses, and the construction work began. But the population of Goindwal had increased so much that there was a sudden shortage of timber for construction.
When the Guru was informed about it, he realised that they would have to get timber from some other town. For this purpose, he called his nephew, Sawan Mai, to get timber from Haripur, in Kangra district. He instructed him to take a few men along to Haripur, and seek the Raja of Haripur’s permission to cut pine and cider trees. They were then to float the logs down the Beas river to Goindwal. Soon the men reached Haripur and obtained the Raja’s permission to cut the trees. Within no time, the timber was on its way to Goindwal and the construction work went on in full speed.
The Raja of Haripur too had heard a lot about Guru Amardas, and expressed his desire to meet the Guru. The Guru welcomed the king and all his queens to the langar.
Now it was known that the Guru was
totally against the custom of veils for women, and it so happened that one of the queens insisted on wearing the veil before the Guru.
When Guru Amardas saw this, he scolded her by saying that it was foolish of her to feel conscious in his presence. The minute he said this, the queen actually went insane and began tearing of her clothes. When the others tried to calm her down, she broke free from their hold and ran away into the nearby jungle.
A few days later, one of the Sikhs known as Sachansach went to the jungle to collect wood for the fire. He was busy chopping wood when he was attacked by the crazy queen. He was so terrified that he immediately ran to Guru Amardas, and informed him about the mad woman. At this, Guru Amardas handed him one of his slippers and asked him to protect himself with that.
The next day, Sachansach went again to the forest and this time, when the crazy woman attacked him he shielded himself with the slipper. When the woman’s hand touched that slipper, she immediately came back to her senses. She went up to Guru Amardas to seek his blessings and forgiveness. From then on, she became one his most sincere devotees.
Construction of Bawli
The most famous and sacred spot of Goindwal even today is gurdwara Bawli Sahib. It is a well with eighty-four descending steps. It is believed that one can escape the eighty-four lakh incarnations by reciting Japji on each step.
During those days a wheel installed at the top of the well could draw the water up by means of buckets put on chains which revolved, as the wheel was worked by oxen.
This water was used for domestic and irrigational purposes.
Even today artistic decorations can be seen at the entrance to the bawli. There is a row of frescoes depicting scenes from Sikh history. The pictures of ten Gurus and Baba Mohan has been designed in plaster. Crossing the gateway there is a big dome. The walls are marbled with coloured stones.
As the story goes, Guru Amardas decided to dig a bawli in Goindwal. Bawli is an open water reservoir with wide steps approaching the surface of water. The devotees decided to dig the reservoir, but they found that there was a rock that hindered their progress. The Guru was informed about it. The Guru advised that the slab had to be blasted, but one who did it may not live. Knowing the risk factor involved Manak Chand of Vairowal volunteered to go down the bawli for the task.
The moment the slab cracked Manak Chand was over-powered and drowned. His widowed mother and young wife began to weep in agony. The Guru assured them about the safe return of Manak Chand. His body was brought out of the Bawli, and to everyone’s surprise he came back to life.