Located south of Sri Harimandir Sahib and near pilgrim accommodations, Gurdwara Baba Attal Sahib stands tall with nine floors, making it the tallest building in Amritsar. This sacred site was constructed in memory of Guru Hargobind Sahib jee's son, Baba Attal Rai jee.

Historical relevance 

At the age of nine, Baba jee did something extraordinary. He brought his friend Mohan, who was the son of a widow, back to life after he suddenly died. But this act didn't please Guru Hargobind Sahib jee, Baba's father. Baba Attal Rai jee, realizing he had broken nature's law, promised to sacrifice his own life. So, he entered a deep meditation and soon passed away.

Even though he was just a child when he died, Baba was given the title 'Baba', usually reserved for respected elders, because of his incredible powers. After his father scolded him for the miracle, Atal Rai went to the bank of Kaulsar and passed away on September 13, 1628, as he wished. They cremated his body there and built a tower in his memory to honour his short but remarkable life.

A small samadhi, which is an Indic cenotaph, was built at the site initially. Over time, it turned into a gurdwara. In India, it's common for the tombs of saintly figures to evolve into religious shrines as years pass. During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's era, the nine-storey tower we see today was built. However, according to Kanwarjit Singh Kang, the tower might have been erected between circa 1775–1800. Repairs, extensions, and renovations were carried out over the years.

The gurdwara became famous for its langar. Many pilgrims and needy individuals came to partake in it as it was freely distributed to all visitors. This popularity led to a local saying related to Baba Atal in the Amritsari vernacular.

Baba Atal,

Pakian Pakaian Chal.

Baba Atal sends prepared meals.

—local Amritsari saying

Architectural beauty 

The gurudwara building has an octagonal shape, featuring a double-octagonal structure. One of the octagonal structures is larger and extends externally, while the smaller one rises internally. The external structure surrounds the interior one. The stories of the external octagonal part stop after the sixth floor, whereas the internal one continues until the ninth floor, culminating in a golden dome at the top. A double staircase, utilizing the wall breadth, leads to the building's summit.

On the ground floor, there are four entry doors in each main direction, with the primary entrance facing eastward. A central room on the ground floor houses the Guru Granth Sahib on a brass canopy, surrounded by four doors. The structure's doors are made of brass and silver, showcasing intricate embossed artwork. Throughout the building, various brass plaques with embossed Sikh and Hindu themes are displayed. Each of the four exterior doors features groupings of three embossed brass plaques.

The walls of the Gurdwara Sahib hold numerous murals, but many are badly damaged, leaving only 42 panels intact. These paintings vividly depict the life of Guru Nanak Dev jee and Sikh martyrs, such as the four Sahibzaade of Guru Gobind Singh jee, who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs. Other panels portray Baba Atal, Guru Nanak, and scenes from the battle of Muketsar. Historians debate the age of these murals, some suggesting they date back to the early nineteenth century or even later.

Visiting the Sri Harmandir Sahib complex, one can't help but notice the deteriorating condition of certain buildings. It is essential to prioritize the preservation of this sacred site to safeguard its historical and cultural significance for future generations. Restoration efforts are crucial to maintain the structural integrity and ensure the continued appreciation of this architectural marvel in Sikh heritage.

*Based on an article by  Manvir Singh, published in Manvir Singh blogs on 28th August 2012


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