DEHRADUN: At first glance, the Angitha Sahib gurdwara nestled in Kushalpur, almost 25km from Dehradun, seems like any other Sikh shrine — the melodious strains of gurbani float from its interiors and the rich aroma of karha prashad (ceremonial sweet offering) wafts from its kitchen. However, what makes Angitha Sahib different is that it is the final resting place of thousands of Guru Granth Sahibs, the holy book of the Sikhs.
Old and damaged copies of the scripture regularly make their way to the gurdwara where they are accorded a ritualistic cremation. “We’ve been carrying out this tradition for the past 25 years now,” says seventy-year-old Harsharan Singh, chief priest of the gurdwara, his snow-white beard glistening in the winter sun. In fact, the gurdwara is one of only two in the country where such a practice is followed (the other one is in Punjab). But why cremate sacred books? “We consider the Guru Granth Sahib like our living guru. That’s why we carry out the last rites of an old text with the same respect that one would give to someone dear who has passed away,” says Singh.
An elaborate ceremony is followed for the cremation. Rituals begin at the crack of dawn. The scripture is first given a purification bath, each page sprinkled with water brought from the Yamuna that flows near by. It is then wrapped in pristine white cloth. Sewadars – the shrine’s volunteers — carry the book reverentially around the gurdwara before placing it on an angitha. The gurdwara has 28 specially-built angithas (metal fireplaces) – which give the shrine its name – and where the cremation is carried out amidst recitation of gurbani.
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