Why did Guru Nanak visit Pilgrimage towns

  • Why did Guru Nanak travel so much? Which are the prominent places of pilgrimage that he visited in India and what is their importance in Indic thought?

Guru Nanak was some traveller. During my India travels found that in number of places gurdwaras were made because Nanak visited. Nanak’s travels are called Udasis. We present pictures of the various modern day gurdwaras besides giving importance of pilgrimage towns. Burhanpur and In some cases Guru Govind Singhji (GGS) also visited same place. Read Nanak’s First Udasi , Second Udasi , Third Udasi , Fourth Udasi and Fifth Udasi  


1. Burhanpur

There are two gurdwaras there, one in the town and another on the banks of the river Tapti.

View of Tapti river from Shahi Quila. Behind tree is under construction gurdwara. Left are Ghats. 2018.

Guru Nanak and GGS visited.

It is said that Nanak visited enroute to Omkareshwar in 1511-12. GGS visited in 1708 enroute to Nanded. According to OutlookIndia, A handwritten copy of the Guru Granth Sahib (holy book) marked with his seal, is attributed to him, and carefully preserved here. External link


But what is importance of Burhanpur in the pre-Muslim era.


Noted author & travel blogger Anuradha Goyal wrote in IndiaTales.com, “In the Indian scriptures, Burhanpur is mentioned as Bhrignapur, taking its name from Bhrigu Rishi who not just did his Tapa here but also wrote Bhrigu Samhita here on the banks of Tapti River. I found the name Brahmapuri written at many places but I could not place a temple dedicated to Brahma here or any reference to him. Tapti is called Suryaputri or the daughter of Sun.” External link


To see album on Burhapur


Today Burhanpur is the base town for Asigarh Fort. Anuradha Goyal wrote, “In the known history, Asa Aheer, a local chief of Yadava clan built the fort in 14th CE. In fact, Asirgarh gets its name from his name. He and his family were killed by deceit by Faruqi Nasir Khan around 1400 CE.”


This fort finds a mention in the Mahabharata. It has an excellent Water System and numerous kunds. To see album on Asirgarh Fort


2. Omkareshwar Jyotirling

Ma Narmada. On left of pic is gurdwara. It is a small structure

To see album on Omkareshwar Jyotirling


3. Amarkantak, source of Ma Narmada 

Gurdwara at Amarkantak.

Amarkantak is the source of Ma Narmada and known as Teerthraj. It has a Narmada mandir/kund and a Shree Yantra mandir. Kapil Rishi is said to have stayed here and performed austerities. Sankaracharya visited. He built a Surya Kund to specify origin of Ma Narmada and installed a murti of Shivji. Nanak visited for a dialogue with Kabir.


I reached Amarkantak at about 1.30 am in freezing December. It is at the gurdwara that I spent the night. Amarkantak has a Jain temple too. 


Ramanuja preached the doctrine of salvation through bhakti, which he made out to be the central teaching of the Upanishads, the Gita and Brahmasutra. “His influence is seen throughout the later period through Vallabhacharya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ramananda, Kabir, Guru Nanak, and others being largely indebted to his theistic idealism.” 1 Pg. 337


Also see albums Amarkantak and Temples of Amarkantak


4. Ayodhya

Nanak visited Ayodhya. Supreme Court referred to visit in its order on Ram Mandir. 

Way to Ram Mandir. Pic by Bindu Krishnan.


Also read The land of 7000 temples is Ayodhya n Ramayana in Southeast Asia


5 Pushkar

Gurdwara at Pushkar.

Pushkar is known for its Holy Sarovar, Brahma Temple and annual Mela that ends on Kartik Purnima. The Sarovar has 52 ghats and about 400 temples. A trip is incomplete without a dip in the Sarovar. It is a must do pilgrimage for Hindus.


Guru Nanak visited Pushkar in 1509 AD to have a holy dip in Pushkar Lake on the full moon night of Kartik Purnima, his birthday. Guru Govind Singh visited on Kartik Purnima in 1706 A.D. He held a meeting with Rajput rulers to enlist their support for fighting Mughal rule. A small gurdwara was constructed in the early 19th century to commemorate their visits. What you see was made about 2005 and locals said was funded by NRI's from the U.S. 


To see album on Kartik Purnima in Pushkar


6 Rameshwaram Jyotirling 

Gurdwara at Rameshwaram.

Nanak visited Rameshwaram enroute to Sri Lanka.


To see albums on Rameshwaram , Ramayana around Rameshwaram , Dhanushkodi Island Rameshwaram


7 Jabalpur

View of Narmada at Gwarighat. Gurdwara across river.  

Inside the gurdwara premises.


Nanak visited. The evening aarti with diyas (lamps) reminds one of the Ganga Aarti in Haridwar. According to Wikipedia, “It is associated with the Puranas. Also, due to the presence of Narmada Sidh Kund, near Uma Ghat, wherein renowned Rishis performed Tapas.”


To see albums of Marble Rocks Jabalpur , Chausath Yogini Temple


8 Lakhpat, Gujarat

From Lakhpat Nanak crossed to Somiani port in Sindh & then to Mecca.  

Charan Paduka Khadavas, wooden footwear of Guru Nanak & son Baba Srichand.


“Guru Nanak stayed in a house on this site on his way to and from Mecca. Later his host's descendant established a Tikana (seat) a Udasi panth. The panth was founded in the 16th century by Nanak's son Baba Srichand.” Since Nanak visited, it has become a place of pilgrimage. 


To see pictures of Lakhpat Gurudwara and Lakhpat Fort


9 Haridwar

Gyan Godri Sahib Gurudwara Haridwar. Pic from net.


Haridwar or the gateway to the Gods is one of the four towns that hosts the Kumbh Mela. It also hosts the Kanwar mela every year and has numerous temples and ashrams. “The Panch Tirth or the five pilgrimages are located within the periphery of Haridwar. Source

10 Puri

Gurdwara Mangumath. Pic from net. 

Guru Nanak visited Puri twice. Once in 1508 and again in 1510 when he could eventually meet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  


Note that one of the ‘Panch Pyare or Five Beloved Ones’ who were baptised by Guru Govind Singhji on March 30, 1699 was from Puri. His name was Himmat Chand Kahar later renamed as Bhai Himat Singh Ji.


Bhai Almast, a notable Udasi preacher of the 17th century built Mangumath Ashram now called Mangumath Gurdwara. “The great saint of Orissa and lyric poet Bhagat Jaidev finds a place of eminence for his hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib.” Source


The Puri Temple must be so revered that Maharaja Ranjit Singh, according to scholar Dr Satish Kapoor, “wished to donate the Koh-i-noor diamond (which he had obtained from Shah Shuja, the fugitive Amir of Kabul) to the Jagannath temple, Puri. His last wish was never carried out and the invaluable jewel finally passed on to the British.” Source  


Also read Maharaja Ranjit Singh-The Lion of Punjab


11 Arunachal Pradesh

Nanak visited enroute to Tibet.

Even today, this place, near Bumla Border with Tibet, is difficult to reach. Imagine what it was like centuries ago. Nanak was going to Tibet/China where many Indian scholars had gone earlier. He visited Mount Kailash (abode of Shiva) and Mansrovar (devotees go there to this day).


To see pictures of Bumla Border  


13 Leh

Read story in board. 

It is called Gurudwara Pathar Saheb. Nanak came here in 1517.


14 Manikaran

Nanak visited Manikaran, i.e. known for its Shiv Mandir and Hot Water Springs, for meditation.

Shiv Pratima outside temple. U can see the steam from springs. 2016.

To see album on Manikaran


Today Manikiran attracts large number of Sikh devotees.


This is what I gathered during my visit. Param Pujya Shri Sant Narayan Hari ji Maharaj meditated here and i.e. how the DERA came into being (now Gurdwara). Today it is run by his daughter and son-in-law Baba Shri Ram. Inside the dera pillars have pics of Ma Durga and Shri Krishna. 

Bridge takes you from dera to opposite side. White dome structure is dedicated to Sant Narayan Hari ji.

Extreme left is a multi-level car park. Right of pic are newly made rooms. The Shiv Mandir and original dera are on opposite side. A pipe takes hot water to this side where is a tank, see centre of pic. This side is very touristy. On the dera side there is a seven storied structure with rooms.


Why did Nanak travel so much including prominent Hindus places of pilgrimage?

Was he trying to emulate Sankaracharya who, centuries before, travelled throughout India and had debates with scholars?


Also read Acharya Sankara-Delineator of India


Was Nanak trying to understand Bharat through these travels, as Swami Vivekananda did centuries later? Unlikely, because not heard of his writings on India. If someone can throw light happy to stand corrected.  


Actually, Nanak wished to examine actual working of religions at great centres and give his own message of love and peace. For this he travelled, south for seeing Buddhist and Jain places of note-north to examine Sidh maths or places of famous states in Kashmir and Himalayas-west to study Islam. 2 Pg. 656  


It is worth recalling thoughts of K M Munshiji, founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, “The universal urge which they provided to go on a pilgrimage, generation after generation which were conceived as physical manifestations of the Land of Dharma, also kept alive an emotional awareness of unity and sanctity.” It was at pilgrimage towns that scholars, mostly, engaged in debates and shared knowledge on spiritual matters. Also, most pilgrimage towns have very strong vibrations and levels of spiritual energy. They impact devotees, who visit, in different ways. It could be another reason for visit, the extent of impact is personal and shall not be in public domain.


13 Mandi, Himachal Pradesh

Gurdwara in Mandi. 

Monika Sharma wrote, “Mandi is home to app. 100 temples, referred as Chhoti Kashi and is considered Shiv Nagri (town of Lord Shiva) by locals. Its famous temples include Bhoot Nath Mandir, Ekadashi Rudra Mandir and Tarna Mata Mandir.”


“Sri Guru Govind Singh Ji came to visit Mandi at the invitaion of Mandi's ruler Raja Sidh Sen and stayed for a little over six months. Although the Raja invited Guruji to stay in his palace, Guruji set up tents on the bank of the nearby River Beas. Gurdwara Sri Padal Sahib marks the location of Guruji’s camp.Source


Note, “The Sikhs came to the Shivalik Hills, in Himachal Pradesh in 1695, at the invitation of the ruler of Sirmaur, to help him fight the Mughals. Guru Govind Singh with his army, settled in Paonta Sahib in the foothills.” Source


14 Rewalsar, Himachal Pradesh

Lake Kunt Bhayo with Padmasambhava icon on the right. Pic Vikram Achreja.

According to tradition the great teacher and "tantric", Padmasambhava used his enormous powers to take flight to Tibet from Rewalsar. It was under Padmasambhava's influence that Mahayana Buddhism took root in Tibet and at Rewalsar waters, his spirit is said to reside in the tiny island of floating reed that drift over the waters. Guru Govind Singhji spent a month here as well.


The gurdwara at Rewalsar was built in 1930 under the patronage of Raja Joginder Sen of Mandi and with the humble efforts of Dewan Nath, Chief Minister of Mandi State and Dr Tehl Singh. Guruji stayed here for a month and held meeting with the hill Rulers -'the Bai-Dhar Rajas' -to evolve a program in his ongoing fight with Aurangzeb.


Rewalsar has three Hindu temples which are dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and sage Lomas. The Lake of Kunt Bhayo (1750 m above sea level) lies above Rewalsar.


To see album on Rewalsar , To read About history in more detail



1. The History and Culture of Indian People Vol. 5 published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

2. The History and Culture of Indian People Vol 7 published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan


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5. Album on Nankana Sahib

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