Of all the holy places of Sikh pilgrimage, Gurdwara Shri Hemkund Sahib ji is probably the most picturesque. Located on the shore of Lake Hemkund, it is surrounded by seven snow peaks of the Himalayan range.
Ensconced in the lap of snow clad peaks at a dizzying height of 15,210 feet, this gurudwara is the highest of all the Sikh shrines and receives thousands of devotees from all over the world every summer.
The Sanskrit name Hemkund (‘Hem’ means ‘snow’ and ‘Kund’ means ‘bowl’) is where Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, took the human form due to deep meditation in his previous birth.
The location was discovered in the 1930s by Sant Sohan Singh and Bhai Baba Modan Singh, and the Gurudwara was constructed by the Sikh pioneers. In addition, the Sikh community also constructed Gobind Ghat at 6,000 feet and Gobind Dham at 10,500 feet.
What is most distinctive about this gurudwara is its unique architecture that is different from the prevalent designs of other gurudwaras in the country. The pentagonal design of its roof is one of a kind and not only lends a unique look to it but also saves it from heavy snowfall.
The gurudwara is inaccessible to pilgrims from October to May every year, since it remains snowbound. Once the snow melts in the summers, it begins to teem with activity. With the onset of June, droves of pilgrims make a beeline for this pilgrimage destination.
Reaching Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji is no cakewalk. Pilgrims must brave not only the snow and ice, and the hazardous route, but also the freezing conditions and high-altitude problems.
But, all these hardships and difficulties disappear, when the sacred gurudwara, situated in serene surroundings, comes into view. It is as if God has himself created this holy of the holiest places with His own hands.