Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh in village Mairi of Amb Tehsil, is 3 kms. north-east of village Nehri which situated on Una-Amb-Nadaun-Hamirpur road is almost 40 kms. from Una. A visit to the ‘dera’(the holy shrine) is believed to cure patients possessed by evil spirits or affected with other malign influences.
Baba Gurbarbhag Singh, the son of Baba Ram Singh and Mata Raj Kaur, and a descendant of Dhir Mal, the first cousin of ‘Dasam Padshahi’ Guru Gobind Singh, was born at Kartarpur in 1715 A.D. He succeeded to the hereditary gaddi (religious seat) of Sodhis of Kartarpur. Many stories are narrated about him. One of them says that once during his childhood Gurbarbhag Singh was playing with his playmates. Commenting upon his disheveled hair, one of the playmates remarked that he looked like a ‘bhoot’(ghost). On this, Shradhanand, an astrologer and palmist of repute who was perchance there remarked that Barbhag Singh as he was then called, was not a bhoot but would be ‘guru’(perception) of bhoots.
During the fourth invasion of Ahmed Shah Abdali on Punjab in the year 1756, when he pillaged and burnt Kartarpur. Baba Gurbarbhag Singh is said to have escaped to the Jaswan hills. The Afghan forces chased him but at a streamlet near village Nehri, which is now called ‘Dharshani Khad’, Gurbarbhag Singh is said to have made prayers which resulted in a sudden flash flood which swept away the pursuing enemy. Gurbarbhag Singh retired to the nearby forests of village Mairi and sat there under a ‘ber tree’(Zizyphus Jujuba) for meditation. Nar Singh, one of the most potent demons of those spirit-haunted hills lived on that tree. He could assume any shape or form. Nar Singh was, and is still believed to cohabit with women in dreams in the form of a Brahmin, in his teens and clothed in white, and to cause sickness, madness and possession by evil-spirits to his victims. He is said to have never spared any body who happened to come there, and in keeping with his nature, he tried to overpower Gurbarbhag Singh also but could not succeed. Gurbarbhag Singh with his spiritual power captured Nar Singh and entrapped him in a cage and ordered him to cure every patient possessed by evil-spirits who visited his shrine with devotion, to which the latter agreed. The attainment of great spiritual powers and capturing of Nar Singh brought Gurbarbhag Singh unusual fame.
It is said that once some disciples of Gurbarbhag Singh were in distress at some distant place and the saint with his spiritual powers sensed it. Accordingly he asked his wife and other family members not to disturb him, and went on a room which he bolted from inside and lay down on the floor. His body remained there but his soul flew away to help his disciples in distress. But when Gurbarbhag Singh did not open the door for quite a long time the family members who were very much perturbed about the well-being of Gurbarbhag Singh broke open the door. Seeing the soul-less body and not knowing what had actually happened, those attending upon him thought that he was dead. So they cremated his body near the ‘ber tree’ where the building of Dera Gurbarbhag Singh containing his sepulchre now stands. It is said that when the soul-less body on the pyre was on fire, the soul of Gurbarbhag Singh also returned to re-enter into its body. But alas, nothing could be done at that stage. Repenting on their blunder, all the family members and others who were present there implored Baba Gurbarbhag Singh to be with them and other followers for all times to come and not to leave them in lurch. Moved with their imploring and humble request, he agreed to be on a tree near the ‘Dhauli Dhar’ with a cage to encage the evil spirits.
In front of the shrine of Gurbarbhag Singh, a tall Sikh Standard(Jhanda Sahib) stands hoisted, supported by the old ‘ber tree’ under which the ‘guru’ is said to have first sat for meditation and captured Nar Singh. Close to the right of the shrine, is the sepulcher of Bibi Bhani, sister of the ‘guru’. Outside at a distance of some fifty yards is the dome shaped Gurdwara named Manji Sahib. About a kilometer and a half from the shrine is an all weather water-fall known as ‘dhaulidhar’ where the guru used to take his daily bath, and is thus regarded very sacred.
The HOLA MOHALLA FAIR is held once a year at Dera Gurbarbhag Singh on the full moon day in the Vikrami month of Phalgun(February-March). The fair lasts for ten days i.e., a week before the full-moon day and two days after it. By and large the fair is attended by those persons who or whose relatives are possessed by evil-spirits or who seek protection against similar malign influences. The afflicted persons, called ‘dolis’, are seated in rows while bell-metal-platters and drums are beaten to charm the evil spirits. During the drumming, the dolis who continue tossing and swaying their heads about are made to inhale the odour of some burning incense. A number of methods are adopted to torture the evil spirits till they do not agree to leave the body of the afflicted person. And then at that stage the spirit is asked to proceed to ‘dhaulidhar’ to which it agrees. The spirit is then questioned whether it has reached there and sees Baba Gurbarbhag Singh with a cage. When the spirit replies in the affirmative, it is asked to enter into the cage and to request Baba Ji to shut the cage. All this over, the afflicated person is seen to have made the recovery.
Every visitor who attends the fair pays obeisance at the shrine of Gurbarbhag Singh besides taking a holy bath at the water fall known as ‘dhaulidhar’ or ‘charan ganga’ especially on the full moon–day. The pilgrims/devotees take the sacred water of the water fall home as well.
The most important ceremony at the shrine is the hoisting of the flag ‘Jhanda Sahib’ as the flag is called in reverence. It is done on the full moon day of Phalgun. The old Jhanda Sahib is dehoisted after recitation of supplication. The devotees try to obtain a piece of the old cloth or various other articles attached to the dehoisted ‘Jhanda Sahib’, such as cowrie shells, betelnuts, coins etc., the possession of which is regarded as a boon. A young pine tree which may be as tall as 70/80 ft., and whose trunk measures 4/5 ft. in diameter is earmarked every third year to serve as pole for the ‘Jhanda Sahib’.
Lacs of people attend the fair from different parts of Punjab, U.P., Delhi, Rajasthan and Himachal. The Sikhs of Doaba, Majha and Malwa tracts of Punjab especially are the votaries of Gurbarbhag Singh and they attend the fair in large numbers. Most of the women who attend the fair are generally possessed by evil spirits. The fair is attended largely rather wholly by illiterate and orthodox people.
How to Reach:
The nearest Airport to Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh is Gaggal at Kangra near Dharamshala. It is about 75 Kms from Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh.
The nearest Railway Station to Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh is Una Himachal at Una town. The railway station is about 45 Kms from Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh.
Dera Baba Gurbarbhag Singh is well connected by roads to all the towns of Himachal Pradesh , Punjab and Chandigarh.