Before Sikh people recognized the place as Hemkund, it was called ‘Lokpal’ by the locals. There was and is a Laxman temple at Lokpal visited by Hindu pilgrims during summer season. Lokpal means that looks after the lok (people) and the place was believed to be the spot where Hindu gods – Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) lived looking after the people.
The Laxman temple at the spot holds a legend that Laxman after being unconscious in the battle with Ravana was brought to Lokpal by his wife who prayed Hanuman (lord Shiva in the form of monkey) to save Laxman. Hanuman came from (Sri) Lanka answering Laxman’s wife’s prayer. Hanuman brought the Sanjivani booti (herb) from Dronagiri hill and Laxman finally recovered.
Guru Govind Singh and Hemkund Sahib
In ‘Bachittar Natak’ Guru Govind Singh states, “Hemkunt Mountaion is auspiciously situated among ‘Sapat Sring’, a mountain chain of Himalayas. At that site I meditated heavily on God in the previous birth. When the almighty allowed me then I took birth in the dark age.”
The story of 10th Sikh Guru can be narrated as thus – When goddess Durga was to defeat the demons, she fought endlessly but it was not easy for her to take hold of the demons blessed by lord Shiva. Durga reached a place in the Himalayas where a Brahmin saint – Samaundh Rishi – sitting upon a lion’s skin was meditating, Durga sought for help. When the demons appeared, the Brahmin was asked where Durga is hiding. Samaundh Rishi replied that it is his duty to save a woman who has come to him. The demons called the Rishi for fight. He answered that it is not in his blood to fight as he is a Brahmin but would create a Kshtriya who would fight with them. Thus he created a Chhetriya youth. This young man fought vigorously and killed all the demons. Happy with the young man, Durga named him Dusth Daman and Samaundh Rishi ordered Dusth Daman to go to a lake called Hemkunt surrounded by seven tall Himalayas and meditate. Dusth Daman did as ordered by his creator. Later, when Dusth Daman’s meditation was deep enough to encounter with the God, God asked Dusth Daman to take birth as human in Kaliyug and fight against the wrong doers. Thus Dusth Daman was born as Govind Rai in the home of Tegh Bahadur Rai and Gujri. Tegh Bahadur Rai is the 9th Sikh Guru – Guru Tegh Bahadur.
Re-Discovery of Hemkund Sahib
Hemkund Sahib was mentioned by Guru Govind Singh in his composition ‘Bachittar Natak’ and the surrounding environment was also explained. It was a lake surrounded by seven mountains, but what the Guru wrote was not clear to devotees. In 1843, the 14 volumes Sri Gur Pratap Suraj (Prakash) Granth, by Kavi Santokh Singh were published. This elaborated the story of creation of Dusth Daman and his place of meditation. In late 19th century, a compilation of various Sikh tirthas (holy places) by Nirmala scholar plus Sikh historian Pandit Tara Singh Narotam was published. This descriptive collection included Hemkunth as a tirtha. In the 20th century, a Punjab historian, reformer and poet Bhai Vir Singh published Sri Kalgidhar Chamatkar (miracles of the plume adorned one) and explained about Hemkund putting together the information from Bachittar Natak, Sri Gur Pratap Suraj (Prakash) Granth and the compilation of Sikh tirthas.
Kalgidhar Chamatkar inspired a retired granthi from Indian army – Sant Sohan Singh to rediscover Hemkund Sahib. Once in the search, he met with people who were going to a pilgrimage place named Lokpal which was highly honored by Hindu devotees as the place from where the three prominent Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva looked after the people. Sant Sohan Singh joined the tirtha yatris (pilgrims). On reaching Lokpal, where a temple of Laxman – the younger brother of lord Rama (incarnation of lord Vishnu and the hero of Hindu holy epic Ramayana) sits, Sant Sohan Singh realized this was the very place that Guru Govind Singh described as Hemkund in his composition Bachittar Natak. The clear lake where the image of surrounding Saptashring (seven mountains) can be seen and the place with heavenly beauty, Lokpal was an affirmation to the rediscovery of Hemkund.
Sant Sohan Singh related his finding to other Sikh devotees who turned their deaf ears to him. Sohan Singh approached Bhai Vir Singh who was ready to devote all his life on finding Hemkund Sahib; Bhai Vir Singh invested his time, effort and money in the rediscovery process. With the support from local Sikh family – village chief Ratan Singh Chauhan, his son Nanda Singh Chauhan, other Sikh locals and Sant Mohan Singh – Hawaldar in Indian Army, a Gurudwara was constructed at Hemkund Sahib and within a few span of time; Hemkund Sahib got its recognition among the Sikh devotees.
Formerly the route was tough but with the flow of devotees, a pathway to Hemkund Sahib was constructed.