Hidden amid the jungle of modern buildings, Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha is a unique Sikh building still standing tall in Potohar
"The ignorant person is totally blind as he does not appreciate the value of the jewel".
-- Guru Gobind Singh
On a casual visit around some narrow streets for seemingly boring tasks, I suddenly bumped into an arched door engraved with some Gurmukhi script in Daultala in Potohar. I discovered it to be a closed down school that once used to be a gurdwara.
As far as I could remember, Daultala, a town standing on the Sukho Road off the infamous GT road, saw bloody riots during the Partition, and most of the Sikh and Hindu properties were burned.
Sikhs heavily populated the Potohar plateau. When the Partition exodus began and properties became evacuee on both sides of Punjab, Daultala was a business hub of rich Sikhs near the GT road. But, grief and hatred engulfed many fine buildings; therefore, it was a strange sight to find this gurdwara intact amid a jungle of modern buildings.
An old inhabitant of the area, whose grandfather was a teacher in Daultala, narrated that after the riots were over, the locals decided to save it for a school building.
The building was locked and, as expected, the caretaker couldn’t be found. Neither could anyone decipher the Gurmukhi script, nor could anyone provide information on the history of the gurdwara. However, a Sikh friend was able to translate some inscription hidden behind electricity and phone lines. It read Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha.
Singh Sabha or Society of the Sikhs was a reformist movement that was initiated at the end of the 19th century in Amritsar and began as a defense against the proselytising activities of Christians and Hindus. The movement established schools, gurdwaras and dharamshalas.
The Singh Sabha gurdwara stands amid a jungle of small buildings in a narrow ally near the main bazaar of Daultala and served as a government school till recently. In the year 2010, it was vacated due to the precarious roof.
On entering the gurdwara, one hesitates to put the foot on the vast marble compound floor as every inch of the floor is engraved in lead with the names of the contributors to the building. The actual building is some yards away from the entrance and stands tall and somber -- as in an eternal state of waiting.
Interestingly, according to the locals, the gurdwara also housed statues of Hindu deity, which indicates that it was used either as a combined religious place by Hindus and Sikhs or Hindus hid deities there during riots.
Carved metal balconies surround the gurdwara’s big hall and the place where Granth Sahib was placed is still intact in the lower hall. The door of the inner compound was locked, so we went upstairs from an outer staircase and had a look around this beautiful vast place -- the arched doors and white marble floors…
The building was constructed to let natural sunlight in. Iron arches placed around the hall are unique and an expensive way of showing respect to Sikhism, as they are not present in any residential structures that remain standing in the few surviving havelis of the era.
This gurdwara is like an old man standing tall amid poverty and ignorance. It is vying for some love. May it come soon.