Dera Sacha Sauda, or the people who believe in truthful dealings is situated on Begu Road, Shahpur Begu in Sirsa. It was set up in 1948 by Shah Mastana, whose actual name was Khemamal. He was an extremely religious person and had no interest in worldly affairs. He left his house in search of a true spiritual teacher at the age of 14.
He came to Beas in Punjab where he found his true teacher in the person of Baba Sawan Singh who accepted him under his tutelage and granted him Nam, the word of God. So impressed was the Baba with the devotion of his disciple that he gave him the name of Shah Mastana, a person who is continuously intoxicated with the supreme bliss of God.
Shah Mastana set up the Dera Sacha Sauda in 1948. It is a huge compound housing 600 rooms, a big hall for samagam and a vast ground where the religious gatherings are held on special occasions. The dera offers free kitchen (langar) and does not accept any donation from the public. The entire expenditure of running the establishment is met from the agricultural farm attached to it.
Shah Mastana died in 1960. The holy congregations organized by the group attract thousands of devotees all through the year.
Tara Baba Kutiya is actually a large and beautiful temple complex. It was built to honour the memory of Shri Tara Baba and is situated around 7 km from the main city of Sirsa. The kutiya houses temples, a water structure and a towering idol of Lord Shiva holding his trademark Trishul.
The temples are situated among lush green landscaped and beautifully manicured lawns flanked by fabulous light posts that illumine it at night. Tara Baba, the founder of the temple complex died in July, 2003. The kutiya holds festivals on various religious occasions such as Krishna Janmashtmi, Navratre, Diwali, Maha Shiv Ratri and many more.
It also organizes lectures, kirtans (religious chants), jagarans, bhajan sandhyas (musical concerts in the evenings) and other spiritual and entertainment programs. Prominent artists and singers are invited to display their talents during the festivals. Baba’s followers include not only the common people in India and abroad, but also prominent leaders of all the political parties and social groups.
The followers of the Nath sect are known for their devotion to Lord Shiva. They have built deras, or habitats, and temples wherever they have settled. One such temple was built in the 13th century at a place which is now known as Hisar Gate in Sirsa.
The temple was constructed by Sarsai Nath, a leading sage or a guru of the Nath sect who along with other followers prayed, performed rituals and meditated at this place.
According to an inscription in Bhoja found in Sirsa, Nilkantha, a saint of Pashupati Sect, also built a temple dedicated to Yogisvara or Lord Shiva in Sirsa by using baked bricks and thick stone slabs sometimes in the 8th or the 9th centuries. The temple was topped with a golden Shikhara or a spiral. Since there were no remains of the temple, Baba Sarsai Nath built it again.
It is believed that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan paid a visit to Dera Baba Sarsai Nath to seek blessings for the recovery of his ailing son. He also donated land to the temple and constructed a dome over it. The dera management possesses a document written in Arabic that verifies the visit of the emperor. The dera also houses a temple of Mataa Durga besides the one dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The sight of a gurudwara, the house of God, evokes a deep reverence amongst not only the Sikhs, but also Hindus and Muslims. A visit to the gurudwara and obeisance before the holy Guru Granth Sahib fills the devotees with a sense of deep peace and bliss.
Gurudwaras have been built not only in the big cities, towns and villages in India, but in almost all the major countries across the world. Where there are Sikhs and Punjabis, there is bound to be a gurudwara.
Gurudwaras have been particularly built on places which are related to the gurus for their visits, sermons, activities, miracles or sacrifices. These places have acquired historical and religious significance for the Sikhs.
Continuing this tradition, the habitants of village Chormar Khera in district Sirsa have built a gurudwara because the tenth Guru Gobind Singh spent a night here. The big and magnificent shrine is built over an area of eight acres. There is a tank with a separate enclosure for ladies to take a holy dip. The gurudwara also houses a small museum and a library.
As Ram sits in the heart of Hanuman, so does Hanuman dwell in the hearts of millions of Hindus worldwide. He is regarded as the most powerful protector of the weak and the fallen, always ready to help those who pray to him by chanting Hanuman Chalisa. The devotees across the country have built hundreds of Hanuman temples for worshipping and seeking his blessings and assistance.
The temples are found not only in the big cities and towns, but in small villages and hamlets, even on the waysides in desolate terrains. Following this tradition, the people of Ram Nagria village, situated 2 km in the west of Sirsa city, have built a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
They sing bhajans - devotional songs, chant the Hanuman Chalisa and perform aarti before the ochre coloured statue carrying the mace, the symbol of his godly might. The temple is particularly crowded on Tuesday when the devotees distribute boondi amongst the followers.
Baba Ramdevji, also called Ramdeo Pir or Ramshah Pir is revered as a deity in several states of India, particularly Rajasthan and also Sindh in Pakistan. People of all castes, religions and communities including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Muslims worship him for his love for the poor.
His followers, especially Hindus consider him to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is also regarded as the 72nd descendant of the Pandav, King Arjun. Muslims revere him for his miraculous powers. According to folklore, when his fame reached Mecca, the holiest of Muslim places, five pirs or holy people came to visit him and verify the truth about his powers.
When Baba Ramdev invited them to take lunch, they said they ate only in their own utensils. Hearing this Baba smiled and told them they were on their way from Mecca. The pirs were stunned to see their pots coming flying in the air. Thereafter they decided to spend the rest of their life with the baba. Their samadhis were also built along with that of Baba Ramdev.
Temples dedicated to Baba Ramdev have been built in several parts of the country. But the biggest of them is located in Kagdana in Sirsa. A festival is held every year during January and February in which thousands of devotees participate with full devotion and fervour.
The term ‘Radha Swami’ has a deep spiritual connotation. According to it, the human spirit is Radha and its mater or Swami is God. Radha Swami Satsang Ghar means a holy place where sermons on the subject of the realization of God by the human soul are delivered by the spiritually elevated masters or gurus.
Radha Swami Satsang Ghar is situated close to the village Sikandar Pur, 5 km to the east of Sirsa city. It is actually a branch of the Radha Swami headquarters located at Beas in District Amritsar, Punjab. The Satsang ghar is a very big place with residential quarters, spacious halls and vast grounds where religious congregations are held.
The major assemblies are held in the months of March-April every year which are attended by thousands of believers from the surrounding areas. The food is provided free from the common kitchen called langar. No personal donations are accepted, though the devotees make voluntary contributions in the boxes kept for the purpose.
Dera Jiwan Nagar is situated 30 km in the west of the city of Sirsa. It is one of the important religious centres of the Namdhari sect. Those who get the Nam, a mantra or a spiritual chant from the guru and abide by his instructions to live a pious life are called Namdharis or the bearers of the holy name.
The village where the dera or the habitat of the Namdhari sect is located was earlier called Chichal. It was later given its present name after Jeewan Kaur, the mother of the late Pratap Singh, a Namdhari sage. Most followers of the sect hail from the districts of Sheikhupura, Sialkot and Gujranwala district of Pakistan who settled here after the partition of the country.
Periodic congregations are held where the Gurbani or the readings from Guru Granth Sahib are recited. This is followed by a sermon by the chief of the Namdhari sect. The annual festival of Hola is celebrated at the centre with great devotion and fervour on the eve of Chet Badi 1 (March-April). An interesting feature of the festival is the consecration of mass marriages only at the cost of Rs. 11.
Samadhis are generally square or rectangular platforms dedicated to the memory of the saints and sages. They are built with stones or bricks and contain the ashes or remains of the great departed souls. They also bear their photographs or statues and inscriptions briefly describing their life and work.
One such Samadhi dedicated to the memory of Saint Baba Bihari is located on Rania Road in the western part of the city of Sirsa, quite close to the main city. The premises where the Samadhi is built also houses a beautiful garden or vatika and a temple. The Samadhi hosts a bhandara or free food festival on the first of January every year.
The festival consists of a number of cultural and recreational activities including musical concerts, dances, sports, theatrical performances, poetry recitations, shopping, a variety of delicious local and regional foods, besides, of course, prayer meetings. The festival offers everything for members of every age group and therefore attracts a huge number of visitors.
As the name suggests, the dera or the habitat, has been built in the sacred memory of the great Sufi Saint Baba Bhuman. It is located in Sangar Sadan in the Sirsa district in Haryana. Most followers of the dera belong to Kamboj community since Baba Bhuman was born in a Kamboj family.
Baba Bhuman Shah, commonly known as just Baba Bhuman, was one of the prominent Udasi saints of India. He was born on 14th April, 1687 in Beholpur village in district Okara, now in Pakistan. His name was Bhumia. His parents were deeply devoted to Guru Nanak as well as Baba Sri Chand of Udasi Panth or sect.
Deeply religious minded by birth, the baba was initiated into the Udasi Panth by Baba Priam Das of Pakpattan at the age of 14 years and was given the name of Baba Bhuman Shah. He started giving sermons of peace and brotherhood which were accompanied by kirtans and langer-free food.
It is believed that the tenth guru of Sikhs, Shri Guru Govind Singh blessed him saying that his langar would continue to flourish, and it would never face any shortage. Baba died in 1762, but his legacy was carried on by a succession of mahants or religious chieftains. Post partition of the country, the followers of Baba Bhuman set up their dera in Sirsa where they continue to follow in the footsteps of their guru.
The city of Sirsa and its surrounding areas is a haven of the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Ghaggar Valley. This was discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India through its excavations at 54 sites close to Ghaggar river in the years 1967 and 1968.
The rich haul of discoveries consisted of painted potted ware such as dishes and bowls of various designs and colours belonging to Rang Mahal Culture. The three major historical sites discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India in Sirsa were:
Arnianwali: The four acres and ten feet high mound, located on Sirsa Bhadra Road 8 km south of Sirsa, contained broken pottery pieces belonging to early and medieval periods.
Sikandarpur: Two mounds located one mile away from each other lie around 12 km to the east of Sirsa. The discoveries included heavy stone slabs, a sculpture of Indra and "Ekmukha Linga" of Shiva, specimens of a medieval temple and pottery ware of Rang Mahal times.
Suchan: Situated 16 km east of Sirsa, the mound unfolded the early medieval pottery pieces of Rang Mahal.