The Sikh religion began with Guru Nanak Dev in 1469 and grew stronger with the teachings of the ten Gurus who followed. Important events in their lives are honored with Gurdwaras, special places of worship for Sikhs. 'Gurdwara' means 'doorway to God,' a term introduced by the sixth Guru, Sri Har Gobind. These places hold the Guru Granth Sahib and are deeply respected.

These historical Gurdwaras are vital to Sikh history and architecture. They have a unique design, blending curves and straight lines, evolving with modern styles. Sikh architecture isn't just about Gurdwaras; it includes forts, palaces, and even schools, all reflecting this distinctive style.

Stamps of Sikhism

Over the years, India's Department of Posts and Telegraphs has released many stamps featuring various Gurdwaras and famous buildings. These stamps serve a double purpose: they showcase the beautiful architecture and also honor Sikh Gurus or important events in Sikh history. The ones highlighting Sikh history are usually issued for significant occasions.

The first Sikh stamp 

The very first Sikh stamp came out in 1935 from the British Indian Government during King George V's Silver Jubilee. It showcased the stunning Sri Harmandir Sahib. This stamp, worth 3 ½ Anna, was part of a set of six stamps showing different buildings across India like the Gateway of India, Victoria Memorial, Rameshwaram Temple, Jain Temple, Mandalay Pagoda, and Taj Mahal. The stamp itself had a black and white image of the Gurdwara with a dull ultramarine border. King George V appeared on the right side. What made it stand out was its unique layout, almost resembling a paper currency note due to its horizontal design.

In 1949, India, just formed as a Republic, celebrated its Independence Day by releasing a special set of stamps. These stamps were more than just postage—they were a way to honor India's diverse heritage. They featured sculptures and buildings from different parts of the country, showcasing the rich history of various dynasties.

Among these stamps was a significant one—the first post-independence stamp representing the Sikh community. It showed the Harmandir Sahib, beautifully depicted in a simple blue color. What made it unique was its display of the price in both English and Hindi, India's national language, marking India's distinct identity on the global stage.

The First Day Cover, nearly square in shape, featured a bronze statue of Lord Vishnu from the Chola period, reflecting the country's religious diversity. This move by the Postal Department was a way to acknowledge and celebrate the religious sentiments of India's multicultural society.

These stamps marked a shift—replacing 'India Postage' with 'India' and 'Bharat' in Hindi. This change reflected a new representation of India and has continued to be followed in stamp designs since then. It was a symbolic step, representing the unity and inclusivity of a nation with a multitude of beliefs and identities.

Stamp celebrating Guru Nanak's 500th Birth Anniversary 

In 1969, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs celebrated Guru Nanak's 500th Birth Anniversary by releasing a special stamp worth 20 Paisa. Guru Nanak, the very first Sikh Guru, traveled by foot across different places to share his message of love and unity using his hymns. He spent a lot of time meditating and encouraged people to let go of rituals and superstitions.

The stamp depicted Nankana Sahib (once called Talwandi), Guru Nanak's birthplace, located in Western Pakistan, in a single-color, slate violet design. The First Day Cover featured Gurdwara Ber Sahib, standing at the spot where Guru Nanak planted a Ber tree after achieving enlightenment in the Bein River. This tree symbolized spiritual enlightenment and wisdom.

For countless years, langar—free meals for everyone—has been a central tradition in Sikhism, served at Gurdwaras and religious gatherings. Its significance dates back to Guru Amar Das, the third master, who aimed to unite people from all backgrounds by having them share meals from a communal kitchen. During a visit to Guru Amar Das by Emperor Akbar at Goindwal, the Emperor humbly followed the Guru's lead, sharing a meal with everyone, captured beautifully in a 1979 painting featured on a special stamp issued by the Postal Department for the Guru's 500th Birth Anniversary.

In the painting, the Emperor, distinguished by his royal attire, sits among ordinary folks, emphasizing equality. Above them, the Punjabi inscription "philae pangat pachee sangat" translates to "You shall enter the Guru's presence only after sharing a meal in the langar." The stamp showcases Gurdwara Baoli Sahib in serene sky blue hues, accented with yellow and gold. This gurdwara stands at Goindwal, where the Gurus once resided around a baoli—a well with 84 steps—now a significant pilgrimage site. This enduring tradition of langar symbolizes unity, equality, and communal harmony in Sikhism.

Stamps depicting Harmandir Sahib 

The Harmandir Sahib, also called the Golden Temple, reached its 400th anniversary in 1988. It all began in 1588 when Hazrat Mian Mir, a Sufi Muslim saint from Lahore, laid its foundation at the request of the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev. To honor this milestone, the Department of Posts issued a special 60 Paisa stamp featuring the temple and its causeway. The First Day Cover had a colorful sketch showing the temple's side view, mirrored in the sacred tank's water. This temple holds great significance for Sikhs as it was where their holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, was first installed. Later, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1803, the upper part was adorned with lavish gold sheets, earning it the name Golden Temple. The stamp's cancellation depicted a line drawing of the same temple.

Guru Teg Bahadur’s stamp 

Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Guru, stood tall for his beliefs. When Emperor Aurangzeb demanded people change their faith, Guru Teg Bahadur refused, even in the face of torture and death. He wouldn’t yield to religious persecution. Despite Emperor Aurangzeb's cruel efforts, the Guru remained steadfast. On November 11, 1675, he was publicly beheaded in Delhi's Chandni Chowk. In 1975, marking 300 years since his martyrdom, the Posts and Telegraphs Department honored Guru Teg Bahadur by issuing  a special stamp. It showcased Gurdwara Sisganj in Chandni Chowk where the Guru was martyred, depicted in a bright orange oval frame. Additionally, the First Day Cover featured Gurdwara Rakabganj, the place where the Guru's headless body was cremated after his execution. These commemorations pay tribute to his unwavering courage and sacrifice.

Stamp showcasing valour of Guru Gobind Singh 

Guru Gobind Singh, originally known as Gobind Rai, became the tenth guru of the Sikhs after his father, Guru Teg Bahadur. He took on this important role when he was just nine years old. Like his father, he stood up against the unfairness and cruelty of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

He was a brave leader who fought against oppression. His four sons joined him in this fight for justice, and tragically, two of his older sons died courageously in battle against the Mughal army at Chamkaur. The other two were captured by the Nawab of Sirhind and later executed.

In honor of Guru Gobind Singh's 300th Birth Anniversary, India's Postal Department released a special stamp in 1967, valued at 15 Paisa. This stamp depicted Takhat Sri Patna Sahib, using bluish violet colors. Additionally, a First Day Cover was issued featuring the same image but in a slightly larger size.

Guru Gobind Singh was a pivotal figure in shaping the Sikh religion, molding its distinct identity through the creation of the Khalsa community. He was determined to establish a sect that stood against injustice and oppression, aiming to restore fairness, equality, and peace for everyone.

In 1699, during a gathering at Fort Keshgarh in Anandpur, Punjab, on Baisakhi day, Guru Gobind Singh asked for a significant sacrifice for the religion. He sought five individuals willing to devote themselves. Surprisingly, four of these volunteers were from marginalized backgrounds. These five devoted followers, known as 'Panj Piaras' or the five beloved ones, were bestowed the surname 'Singh' by the Guru, breaking the barriers of class and creating the Khalsa, a society rooted in equality.

The tercentenary of the Khalsa Panth in 1999 was commemorated by the Department of Posts with a special stamp showcasing the revered shrine at Anandpur Sahib. The stamp featured the milky white architecture of the Gurdwara encased in an oval frame of saffron hue, striking against a deep blue backdrop. The First Day Cover depicted the temple using primary colors, outlining its significance in vibrant hues.

Sikh architecture blooming in full glory

The stamps released by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs featuring Sikh architecture have a special significance. Among them, only one portrays a renowned educational institution: Mohindra College in Patiala. Built in the late 19th century by Maharaja Mohinder Singh, it became part of Punjabi University. The foundation was laid in 1875 by the Viceroy of India, and it was officially opened in 1884. Beyond its impressive architecture, the college held a unique position, drawing students from Lahore to Delhi and holding a prestigious spot in the country's educational landscape.

In 1988, the Department of Posts honored this esteemed institute by issuing a special stamp. The stamp itself showcases the splendid building in a striking monochromatic pink. Additionally, the First Day Cover features the same image in full colors.

These stamps silently pay tribute to these revered places. They offer a miniature journey of homage and convey the same tranquility and comfort experienced when visiting these sites. They serve as cherished mementos, adding remarkable and noteworthy value to one's collection.

*Based on an article by Rupinder Kaur, published in Sikh Foundation on 9th February 2011


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