Gurdwara Nanak Shahi, Dhaka
Gurdwara Nanak Shahi, Dhaka is one of the seven known Gurdwaras in Bangladesh. It is the most important historic Gurdwara, commemorating the visit of Guru Nanak in 1506-1507. This Gurdwara is said to have been built in 1830. Besides, the founder Guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs also stayed at Dhaka for over two years.
The news of the birth of his only son Sri Gobind Rai – Guru Gobind Singh ji Maharaj – in Patna was received by Guru Tegh Bahadur when he was sojourning in Dhaka. This gurdwaras is among the few places outside India which was graced more than once by Guru Baba Nanak. Its historic and religious importance outside India is second perhaps only to the Gurdwaras of Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib.
The present building of the Gurdwara was renovated in 1988-1989 and a parkarma verandah has been constructed on all four sides of the original building to protect it from wear and tear. This was a massive task completed with the help of overseas Sikhs under the supervision – and at the initiative – of this writer who was posted at Dhaka as Chairman, International Jute Organisation. During my many tours and travels to various countries I was successful in mobilizing support and collecting a sufficiently large sum of money for the purpose.
A beautiful rose garden has been laid out in the front yard, with about 100 rose plants and about 200 beauty plants, further beautification was planned and remains overdue. The present building of the gurdwara was shown to the public by Bangladesh Television authorities on Dhaka TV Network on 16th May, 1990. During the programme, it was stated by the Director of National Museum that this Gurdwara was “the foremost among the ancient historical buildings existing in the Dhaka City”.
Fewer than 10 Sikh Families reside in Bangladesh. They are all here transitorily, mostly officers and staff of Indian High Commission. The Ministry of External Affairs have – thoughtfully – continued to post three Sikh families at Dhaka High Commission, right from 1972, under a tacit understanding. The Gurdwara has become a social forum for all the employees of High Commission of India in Dhaka and a few other Sikhs attached to United Nations Organisation and similar agencies and employees of Sikh contractors, who holy contracts in Bangladesh. They all assemble here on Fridays and on Guru Nanak Birthdays and Vaisakhi.
There are no permanent Sikh residents in this country. Only a Granthi appointed by Takht Patna Sahib looks after the two Gurdwaras in Dhaka, However, Kirtan is conducted every Friday, where Devotees professing different faiths – Sikh, Hindu and Muslims and others, recite Gurbani Shabads in praise of God, the true Creator. Free weekly langar is regularly served on these days without any distinction of caste or creed.