Ardas - The Sikh Prayer
The word Ardās is derived from Persian word 'Arazdashat', meaning a request, a supplication, a prayer, a petition or an address to a superior authority. It is a Sikh prayers that is a done before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis (prayers); or completion of a service like the Paath, kirtan (hymn-singing) program or any other religious program. In Sikhism, these prayers are also said before and after eating. The prayer is a plea to God to support and help the devotee with whatever he or she is about to undertake or has done.
The Ardas is usually always done standing up with folded hands. The beginning of the Ardas is strictly set by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. When it comes to conclusion of this prayer, the devotee uses word like "Waheguru please bless me in the task that I am about to undertake" when starting a new task or "Akal Purakh, having completed the hymn-singing, we ask for your continued blessings so that we can continue with your memory and remember you at all times", etc.
Ardas is a unique prayer based on the fact that it is one of the few, well-known prayers in the Sikh religion that was not written in its entirety by the Gurus. The Ardas cannot be found within the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib due to the fact that it is a continually changing devotional text that has evolved over time in order for it to encompass the feats, accomplishments, and feelings of all generations of Sikhs within its lines. Taking the various derivation of the word, Ardas into account, the basic purpose of this prayer is an appeal to Waheguru for his protection and care, a plea for the welfare and prosperity of all mankind, and a means for the Sikhs to thank Waheguru for all that he has done.
Sri Hemkunt Sahib has emerged as a popular centre of Sikh Pilgrimage which is visited by thousands of devotees from all over the world every summer. According to Bachitra Natak, the autobiographical account of the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, it was at Hemkunt 'adorned with seven snow peaks' that he meditated in his previous birth.
It was during the thirties of the twentieth century that the place was discovered by Sant Sohan Singh and Bhai Modam Singh. Bhai Vir Singh, Sikh savant and a leading figure of the Singh Sabha movement , played an important role first in helping these two gentlemen by verifying for them the location of the place and later by providing financial support for building a gurudwara at Hemkunt. Collective efforts of Sikh pioneers backed by the community support led to the construction of gurudwaras en route including Gobind Ghat (6,000 feet) and Gobind Dham (10,500 feet).
In spite of difficult terrain where Hemkunt is situated, devotees from all over the world make it to this unique Sikh shrine every summer. On the way they also visit other important gurdwaras in Rishikesh, Srinagar and Joshimath. On their way back they pay homage at Paonta Sahib, Bhangani Sahib, Tirgarhi Sahib and Shergah Sahib Gurdwaras. Apart from enjoying scenic beauty of the snow-clad peaks and taking a dip into visit the world famous Valley of Flowers not far from Sri Hemkunt Sahib.
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