Dazzling, sophisticated skylines studded with skyscrapers overlook the commotion in congested, undulated bylanes. One such lane with rickety wooden benches along the worn out walls leads to Mumbai’s Gurudwara Sri Dasmesh Darbar.
Anchored in faith and spirituality, this gurudwara (place of worship for Sikhs) is unlike the usual places of worship limited to hymns and prayers. The experience at Dasmesh goes beyond what one expects at a spiritual shrine. The soothing harmony of hymns and folk music audible along the row of food arcades, takes one back to an era where joint families distributed food amongst each other. It enkindles the age of gilli danda (an ancient Indian sport), games with goti (marbles) and stones in the neighbourhood, where the familiarity of every passing face made one feel at home.
Located in a refugee colony, Dasmesh Darbar named after the 10th Sikh Guru–Guru Gobind Singh–was built in 1969. The refugees from the India-Pakistan border–during the partition in 1947–had made Mumbai their home. Haphazard settlements, paucity of basic needs, accompanied by an urge to get life back on track, led to the establishment of Dasmesh Darbar.
Dasmesh Darbar serves as a central point to connecting families scattered in various parts of the city. While some bruised hearts decide to walk away, many others spend hours cherishing the old times.
Unlike other shrines, it isn’t solitude that one finds here. Instead, one comes across a bunch of people from different age and social groups. Some are part of sadh sangat (holy congregations); others belong to a group of singing practitioners singing kirtans (religious hymns); a group of housewives preparing the langar (free meals), and a group of teenagers chattering away.
A group of dispassionate sellers offer interesting merchandise from the border, treasured amongst the locals. Though they know the worth of their merchandise, they retreat into their cocoon of contentment once they have earned enough for sustenance.
On one hand, there’s a group of chefs engrossed in cooking at their counters, in contrast to the housewives preparing the langar. These chefs go an extra mile to bring out the taste of undivided Punjab to the western coast. It is as if by serving food, they serve reminiscences.
Dasmesh Darbar serves as a central point to connecting families scattered in various parts of the city. While some bruised hearts decide to walk away, many others spend hours cherishing the old times. The camaraderie among different groups, the honesty with which tasks are performed, and the smiling faces are reminders of a life that’s humbling and gratifying.
Edited by Shayan Belliappa