There are several historic gurdwaras in the capital but the Rakab Ganj Gurdwara located behind Parliament House is a seat of power for the Sikhs.
The gurdwara holds a special place as the beheaded body of the ninth Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur was cremated here in 1675. Also, the office of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) occupies one corner of the complex.
The 230-year-old shrine is part of the notified heritage structures in Delhi. With a facelift over the years the gurdwara now has a marble facade like Sis Ganj and Bangla Sahib, which top the list of revered shrines.
A disciple of Guru Tegh Bahadur, named Lakhi Shah Vanjara, hid his body in haystacks and cotton bales. Later Vanjara and his eight sons returned, placed the Guru’s body at this spot on a pile of sandalwood and set fire to the entire area to avoid the suspicion of the Mughals.
“Since then, Rakab Ganj has evoked deep feelings among the Sikhs. But nowadays we see that people who come to the gurdwara are not interested in knowing about the history of the place. They don't even glance at the information board,” says Jagdish Singh, a resident of Model Town.
In 1783, the Sikh army defeated the Mughals and demanded a gurdwara in memory of the Guru in village Raisina, which is now part of the President’s Estate.
The name “Rakab” is derived from the Persian word “Rukab” for stirrup's attached to a horse's saddle. The name Rakab Ganj was chosen as the Lakhi Shah clan used to live in a colony of stirrup-makers.
A round-the-clock path, or prayers, were held when the Manmohan Singh government faced a trust vote in 2008.
Major issue now
A major issue at present is the construction of a multi-level underground parking facility at the gurudwara which was stopped in April 2012 following a Delhi High Court directive.
A public interest litigation was filed by the Sikh Forum for Service and Justice which was taken up by the court. The New Delhi Municipal Corporation had rejected the proposal for redevelopment of the premises, which includes the construction of a three-level underground parking facility, citing 23 reasons for rejecting the DSGMC plan.
The need for a better parking facility was recently felt during a prayer meeting for the slain Ponty Chadha which thousands came to attend. People who come to the Gurudwara regularly hope that youngsters would show more interest in knowing about their religion’s history.
“Only when you acknowledge the importance of this place will you be able to relate to it,” said Parmeet Kaur from Punjabi Bagh.