THE TOWN OF SIRHIND was one of the most important settlements in North India between the 16th and 18th centuries. Once the capital of the Pathan Sur sultans, the ruins of whose massive fort can still be seen, Sirhind was also a favourite halting place for the Mughal emperors on their annual journeys to Kashmir. In the 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni expanded his empire up to this area, thus giving the town its name, which in Persian means “Frontier of India”.
The Mughals constructed several beautiful buildings here, in the area now called Aam Khas Bagh, which today is a tourist complex run by the government. Especially interesting is the Royal Hamam, a complex structure for hot and cold baths, that uses water drawn from wells nearby through an intricate system of hand pulleys. Close to the baths are the ruins of Shah Jahan’s double-storeyed palace, the Daulat Mahal, and the better preserved Sheesh Mahal,whose walls still have traces of the original tilework and decorative plaster.
To the north of Aam Khas Bagh is the white Fatehgarh Sahib Gurdwara, standing in the midst of bright yellow mustard fields, which bloom in January. It was built to honour the memory of the martyred sons of the tenth Sikh guru, Gobind Singh, who were walled in alive at this spot by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1705, for refusing to convert to Islam.
Adjacent to the gurdwara is an important pilgrimage site for Muslims, the tomb-shrine of the Sufi saint and theologian, Shaikh Ahmad Paruqi Sirhindi, who is also known as Mujaddad-al-Saini (“The Reformer of the Millennium”). This magnificent octagonal structure, with its dome covered in glazed blue tiles, was built in the 16th century. Known as the Rauza Sharif, It is considered as holy as theDargah Sharif in Ajmer. Standing close to it is a striking tomb from the same period, the Mausoleum of Mir Miran, son-in-law of one of the Lodi kings. Also of interest is the Salavat Beg Haven, a fascinating and exceptionally well preserved example of a large Mughalera house.