Punja Sahib: The Miracle at Hassan Abdal

The word Punja is derived from punj, meaning five, a reference to the five fingers of the hand or the hand itself. Second, Sikhs use the word Sahib for the names of sacred personalities, places or books, just as we Muslims use the word Sharif such as Mecca Sharif, Quran Sharif, Kaa’ba Sharif etc. And like all legends and folklore, the story of Punja Sahib sounds like a mixture of beliefs, facts and fiction – fiction to the non-believer, that is. There are different versions of the story that one hears or reads, but a distinct common thread runs through all of them.



by Mast Qalandar


Most Pakistanis know Hassan Abdal as a town that houses the well-known Cadet College, the first to be built in Pakistan in the early 1950s. Other than that, Hassan Abdal hardly arouses any interest among Pakistanis. It is a non-descript dusty little town, 25 miles from Islamabad, situated along the National Highway, almost encroaching upon it. The town is haphazardly built like most rural towns in Pakistan.

It is a town that you just pass through while going from Islamabad to Peshawar or Abbottabad and the Northern Areas or, if you need to, you stop at one of the filling stations and tyre shops that add to the ugly clutter along the roadside. You don’t normally visit Hassan Abdal —unless, of course, you happen to be a Sikh.


For Sikhs, Hassan Abdal has special significance — and a special place in their hearts. It houses the imprint of the hand or punja believed to be that of Guru Nanakthe founder of the Sikh religion. This makes Punja Sahib one of the three holiest shrines of Sikh religion — the other two being the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India and Nankana Sahib in Sheikhupura, Pakistan.

This week in April, like every year, Punja Sahib attracts thousands of Sikh devotees from all over the world to celebrate the birth of Khalsa (the pure). It was on April 13, 1699 that Guru Gobind Singh gave new guidelines and a new identity, Khalsa , to the Sikh religion, at the Baisakhi (Spring) festival at Anandpur.

A couple of explanations before we proceed further: First, the word Punja is derived from punj, meaning five, and refers to the five fingers of the hand or the hand itself. Second, Sikhs use the word Sahib for the names of sacred personalities, places or books, just as we Muslims use the word Sharif such as Mecca Sharif, Quran Sharif, Ka’ba Sharif etc.

I drove, along with a friend not through but to Hasan Abdal to visit Punja Sahib and to learn something about it first hand.

Like all legends and folklore, the story of Punja Sahib sounds like a mixture of beliefs, facts and fiction – fiction to the non-believer, that is. There are different versions of the story that one hears or reads, but a distinct common thread runs through all of them.

Other than the Sikh caretaker (garanthi) of the shrine, I also talked to some locals of Hassan Abdal about the story of Punja Sahib. They all gave me a similar even if not exactly the same account; and they all seemed to believe it too. Here is the story in its essential details:

Sometime between the year 1510 and 1520 Guru Nanak is said to have traveled to the Arab lands visiting, among other places, Mecca and Baghdad. Some suggest that he even performed the hajj but there is no conclusive evidence of that. [To give the reader an idea of the time line, it was the time just before the Mughal rule began in India]. On the way back from his sojourn abroad Guru Nanak passed through Kabul and Peshawar and then, after crossing the Indus, halted at a small hamlet at the foot of a steep hill, short of the Margallas, where Hassan Abdal is located today.

Attracted by his teachings, both Muslims and Hindus of the hamlet and the surrounding area started flocking around Guru Nanak. At the top of the hill, at the back of the back of Hassan Abdal, there lived a ‘peer’ [a Muslim saint of sorts]. He was called Baba Wali Kandhari. His last name referred to his origins in Kandhar, Afghanistan. Other than having a better vantage point from where he could see all that happened in the village below, Baba Kandhari also had the advantage of having a fresh water spring nearby, which was the source of water not only for Baba Kandhari but also for the people down below.

Baba Kandhari could not help noticing that many more people were flocking to Guru Nanak than were visiting him. He felt a bit of resentment towards the Guru. What could he do? If he couldn’t stem the flow of devotees to the Guru, he thought, he could perhaps stop the flow of water to the hamlet below and thus drive the Guru away. And stopped the water he did. Upset over the cutting off of their water supply, a delegation of people from the hamlet went up to Baba Kandhari to request him to be kind enough and let the water flow. But the Baba angrily sent them back, taunting them that why didn’t they ask their Guru to find water for them. When Guru Nanak heard this, he asked his lifelong disciple and companion, Bhai Mardana (a Muslim), to go to Baba Kandhari and plead with him the case of the village folks. But the Baba did not relent and Bhai Mardana came back empty handed. Guru Nanak sent Bhai Mardana again, and yet again, to beg the Baba for water, but to no effect.

Becoming desperate, the people turned to Guru Nanak asking him what should they do. According to the story, Guru Nanak told them not to despair and trust God, and then, pointing to a large stone embedded in the ground, asked them to dislodge it. When they pushed the stone aside, fresh water gushed forth from the ground, enough for the needs of the little hamlet and some more!

Devotees gather around the holy relic of Punja Sahib at the historic gurdwara in Hassan Abdal

Baba Kandhari saw this happening from the hilltop, and was surprised at what seemed like a miracle but also dismayed at this development. But his dismay turned into shock and anger when he discovered that his own spring had meanwhile dried up. Enough was enough, he thought, and decided to do away with the Guru. He pushed a huge boulder down the hill in the direction of the Guru that, he thought, would sure crush the Guru and the people around him.

The boulder rolled down, gaining speed and kicking up dirt. When the people heard the rumble and saw the huge rock hurtling down, they panicked and started fleeing. But Guru Nanak stayed calm and continued sitting where he was. When the boulder came close and it seemed it would crush him, Guru Nanak calmly raised his right hand as if to order the rock to stop. The boulder pushed against his hand — and stopped!

The Guru’s open palm sunk into the boulder as if pressed into wax and left a deep imprint. When Baba Kandhari saw this, he needed no further proof of the spiritual reach of the Guru. He came down from the hill, touched Guru Nanak’s feet, and joined the Guru’s devotees.

The rock with the hand imprint is embedded, today, in the concrete structure of the Punja Sahib building complex. Clear, fresh spring water gushes out from somewhere behind the rock and spills over the face of the rock into a very large pool. The imprint of a right hand is clearly visible underneath the thin sheet of water overflowing the face of the rock. Next to the pool, on an elevated platform, stands a beautiful small gurdawara, built in the Mughal style by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh (1780-1839). The gurdawara houses the Granth Sahib – the holy book of Sikhs. A large double storied hostel for the yatrees or pilgrims surrounds the courtyard, the pool, and the gurdwara. There are numerous plaques and signs announcing the names of the various donors as well as other directions in Gurmukhi, English and Urdu.


From the courtyard of the shrine, one can easily see the hilltop where Baba Wali Kandhari had camped and is supposed to have rolled the rock. A modern communication tower sprouts from the place now. The hilltop has also become a shrine named after Baba Kandhari and attracts many devotees from the surrounding area. Even Sikhs pilgrims to Punja Sahib trek up the hill, a distance of over one mile, to visit the shrine.

The Punja Sahib shrine complex is clean and reasonably well maintained. It has a beautiful architecture with spectacular surroundings.

The caretaker of the gurdawara or garanthi, a very large and soft- spoken man, named Saddam Singh (yes, Saddam Singh! That’s what he told me), allowed us inside the gurdawara.

While visiting the Punja Sahib shrine and hearing the stories, one could not help noticing striking similarities between some of the traditions of Sikhs and Muslims. The story of the Guru Nanak divining water reminds one of the story of Hazrat Hajra desperately looking for water for her child in the Arabian Desert, and the child kicking up water miraculously from the sand. And, just as Muslims are amazed at the perpetuity and abundance of water at Zamzam, Sikhs are amazed at the perpetuity and abundance of fresh water gushing forth at their shrine in Hassan Abdal. Also the Sikhs treat the water at Punja Sahib as reverently as Muslims treat the water from Zamzam.

Source: Title Image, all other images except the painting of Guru Nanak and the rock are by Nadeem Khawar.



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27 replies to “Punja Sahib: The Miracle at Hassan Abdal

  1. I like ur approach dear bro. Whatever the reality is, the lesson learned is “Almighty is great and gracious to every on. He is not for the followers of one religion or sect. Any one who searches for Him and acts on His will, is blessed by great powers. Guru Nanak ji adopted all the good things of other religions and tried to heal the injured humanity. At present times when strife is life of our country, Guru ji’s teaching of peace and harmony can help us to regain our lost peace.

  2. i am a hindu person. my name is anil kumar. i am from pakistan. baba gurunanak is a great leader of sikh and all in this world.

    waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh.

    satnam shri waheguru.

  3. Nanak naam Raheem ka …….Guru Nanak jee is still being worshiped in each house of patriotic Indian .

  4. Baba Nanak said “Awal Allaha Noor Upaiya,Kudrat ke sabh Bandhe.Ek Noor te sabh jagg upjeha kaun Bhalle Kon Mandhe”.
    With Baba’s Noor and Blessings our family has experienced Miracles.

    1. Yes I have experienced miracles in my life. Is it not the miracle itself that the water comes out of the rock with same contant speed and never less or more. The rocks erode over a period of time but this hand is still there absolutely clear. Some non believers wanted to erase the hand on the rock with a chisel but everymoring the hand used to be clear and intact. I keep holy water in my house and my house is always blessed with happiness and charity.

      1. I am a Muslim, yet I love the Great Guru Baba Nanak Dev Ji. You know why?

        1. He rose from the soil of Punjab and fought against the ruthless, exploitative groups of the society particularly the religious bigots amongst us Muslims as well as the Hindus.
        2. My real love and respect started for Baba Ji when I myself experienced a sort of miracle, a unique one indeed. It pertains to the days I was associated with a publishing group in Lahore. I was persuaded to write something on the life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. But I said I neither know anything about Sikhs, Sikhism nor about the holy person of the great Guru. I said, I only know that Baba Guru Nanak hailed from Nankana Sahib in Sheikhupura district of Punjab and that was that, all about what I know of him. Somehow the management was persistent and finally persuaded me to write something on Baba Ji. And you know Harjeet, the time I took up my pen, every thing started to come on its own and I succeeded to attempt for the first time in my life to write something on the Great Guru.

        Though by and large we in Pakistan are also very proud of the Satgur, yet personally I have a special esteem, respect and love for the great Guru whose reflections gave strength to my pen to put down my feeble words about that great person named Nanak. [Who rose from the land of the five rivers and challenged the strongest bastions of power and established a faith which brought new dimensions to the life of millions of people all around the world. As a matter of fact Guru Ji’s teachings are as valid today as they were during his life time].

    2. One has to believe and have faith inorder to be blessed and experience miracles. The scientists will also bow their heads infront of this supernatural power and gift of God.

  5. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Shri Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!!!!

    Guru Nanak Dev was a great saint and philosopher…. jeetni tarif ki jaye kam hai……….. and i truly believe in Shri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji.

    1. Mr Khan, if only friendship, then it is O.K. But And if tried to make her wife then she will cut your toungue with KIRPAN before the utterance of the word TALAQ the third time ..So think twice before talking with a Sikh Girl.

  6. I’m Simmi Badalia from India. I like Pakistan and I like all Gurdwaras in Pakistan, like Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib AND many others too.

  7. I visited Pakistan for the first time in my life… I believe Guru ji called me there n I was able to fullfil my long awaited wish to see the holy Gurdwaras in Pakistan…WJKKWJKF!!!!!

  8. I m a Muslim and I want to visit panja sahib
    Can they allow Muslims to come inside and visit, photography
    Plz reply me soon at 923110730101
    I m waiting
    What is the procedure to go inside?

  9. I want to visit the holy place of sikh religion but i do not know who it will become true, please guide me in this regard.

  10. It is toatally a face story
    Sikh ism is a religion of practice and not of any power believing
    At that time Muslim mania was strong who believes in. Tidbits and didhi type of unbelievable happenings
    To praise any religious person they were of the tendency to attach this type of fake stories ( adjectives) to prove him super human
    This is what they did

    And mararaja Ranjit Singh known to be god fearing person was donating every where where ever he sees public intrest in any sherine temple gurdwara or masjid
    More over he does this as a policy program to please the public of all cast and creeds

    Through out his life guru bank travelled a lot andd spend years togather in journey

    But blind faith believers say that he was Pawanhari means that he jumps where ever he want to reach
    But now as the whole of his journey and day by day traveling has been found and declair blind faith started believing this

    But still due to strong hold of blind faith people’s still this type of sherines or so called religious places are still being the place of pilgrims and worship

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