Gurdwara Panja Sahib is situated at Hasan Abdal, 48 km from Rawalpindi in Pakistan. This is one of the most holy places of Sikhism because it marks the spot where the founder of the faith, Guru Nanak Dev visited and instilled an important lesson for his adherents. Still visible is the sacred rock with the hand print of Guru Nanak.
Many thousands of faithful Sikhs from all over the globe visit this shrine. However, twice a year, during special celebrations, an enormous number of Sikh pilgrims attend this Gurdwara from every corner of the world. Special visas are allocated by the Pakistan government to cater for the increased demand.
The word “Panja” in Punjabi means an “outstretched palm” from the word “panj” which means “five”.
Guru Nanak along with Bhai Mardana reached Hasan Abdal in Baisakh Samwat 1578 B.K. corresponding to 1521 A.D. in the summer season. Under a shady cool tree, Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana started reciting kirtan (sacred hymns) and their devotees gathered around. This annoyed Wali Qandhari but he was helpless.
According to legend, Bhai Mardana was sent three times to Wali Qandhari so that he would provide him with some water to quench his thirst. Wali Qandhari refused his request and was rude to him. In spite of this, Mardana still very politely stuck to his demand.
The Wali ironically remarked: “Why don’t you ask your Master whom you serve?” Mardana went back to the Guru in a miserable state and said “Oh lord ! I prefer death to thirst but will not approach Wali the egoist again.” The Guru replied “Oh Bhai Mardana ! Repeat the Name of God, the Almighty; and drink the water to your heart’s content.”
The Guru put aside a big stone lying nearby and a pure fountain of water sprang up and began to flow endlessly. Bhai Mardana quenched his thirst and felt grateful to the Guru. On the other hand, at about the same time, the fountain of Wali Qandhari dried up.
On witnessing this, Wali in his rage threw part of a mountain, a huge rock towards the Guru from the top of the hill. The Guru stopped the hurled rock with his hand leaving his hand print in the rock. Observing that miracle, Wali became the Guru’s devotee. This holy and revered place is now known as Panja Sahib.