The gurdwaras of Potohar: A missed opportunity for religious tourism

In the aftermath of war or exodus, when one community leaves their religious or secular buildings behind them, there is ...

A majority of the buildings which once belonged to the Sikhs and Hindus were given to immigrants from India. These families still live in these buildings, but I was surprised to discover that the structures and the artwork on the walls were still intact.

While traveling to the Kallar Syedan Tehsil, I came across several Hindu and Sikh monuments; temples and gurdwaras gracing the landscape of this region. Three of the gurdwaras are located at Kanoha, Doberan Kalan and Mohara Bhatta, and are especially noted for their elegance and paintings. Of these, the Sikh gurdwara located 10 kilometres from Kallar Syedan at Kanoha is the most prominent.

I have been to Kanoha many times, the gurdwara here is conspicuous from a distance. Presently, it belongs to a Muslim family that has turned it into a living quarter. I greatly appreciated that the Potoharis occupying these buildings respect other religions, and have taken care not to deface any of the paintings inside or inscriptions on the buildings.

Historically, the gurdwara has been used to meet the religious and social needs of the Sikh community here. Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru of Sikhs (1606-1644), is believed to have first used the word 'gurdwara'.

The Doberan Kallan gurdwara with text.png

Before that, the name used for such structures was 'dhramsala', which means a rest house for travellers in its normal Indian context, but was used in the early days of Sikhism to denote a room or building used for devotional singing (kirtan) and prayers.

The gurdwara of Kanoha is a very large three-storied structure crowned with canopy – a distinctive feature of the Potohari style of gurdwara. Built on a square plain, it formerly housed Sikh families who would visit here to recite the Guru Granth Sahib and performing various religious rituals.

There are arches on all four sides of the structure, adding a symmetrical beauty to it. On the second and third storeys, and on all four sides of the building, there are false jharokas. Each of the four sides also has an entrance, so the gurdwara has four entrances in all, though the western one has been closed by the occupants.

Right above each of the entrance, there is an inscription in Gurmukhi... [click further to see more images]

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