I read this in the notes on the history of our family:
Over three centuries ago, when the Sodhi family’s caravan reached a hillock, a halt was called and a good look around taken to decide on the future habitation. An inviting clump of thick trees was seen about a mile away and it was decided to make that the permanent place of residence. But fate intervened. A camel carrying oil for religious purposes shied and some oil fell on the hillock. That was taken as an omen that the place of residence should be the hillock. The clump of trees was then designated as the resting place afterlife and is now the site of the Samads [Dera Sahib], the burial place of the Gurus alias the Sodhi family.
Dera Sahib in Guru Har Sahai, is about two kilometers away from the iconic building, The Fort Pothi Mala. Rumors have it that there existed a secret underground tunnel from inside the Pothi Mala building leading to the Dera Sahib, the Samadhs. The passage was meant to serve as a stealthy escape route for the fort incumbents about 300 years ago and opened up from the “Bhora” [Subterranean room], from behind the ruins of the building.
The timeworn legends also offered tantalizing tales about the treasure inside earthen pots in the forbidden dark room. And at the age of eleven, we just had to investigate the stories- both for the tunnel and for the treasure. Teaming up with my two sisters and a cousin, one afternoon, we set out to invade the den with the spirit of the ‘Adventurous Four” of the Enid Blyton characters.
It was a flight of fourteen narrow, decomposing stairs away from the mystery of what could either be a treasure trove or skeletal remains reposed for a hundred years in a Ghadda [Round Earthen Pitcher for storing water]. Our timid minds, strangely, braved up for the foray into the sunless room. As we tip-toed down the brittle stairs cautiously, an air of staleness and dampness mingled with the stench of muddiness seemed to unwelcomingly receive us. The cold unventilated cellar was empty and devoid of life. The network of cobwebs sprawled around the walls was the only evidence of life within the room- a room ignorant of the aging time.
A couple of days of playful digging inside the Bhora gently wore off our obsession for the unfound.
But the elusive legends still remain- true or untrue, we’ll never know. A secret tunnel to the Dera Sahib may never be explored. The land designated to the family’s Samadhs now shrinking with encroachments and commercial allocation of the space may be restricting the boundaries of Dera Sahib to paltry dimensions. The neglected tombs may now be awaiting no amenability from the family, but the scant attention of villagers who collectively take up the meager maintenance of the tombs’ widening cracks from a sadder level of poor upkeep. The souls of the forefathers may never be felt in the quiet and peace of their abandoned samadhs anymore. The family passing by may never be driving through the tight muddy alley, their generous giveaway passage to the Samadhs. But Dera Sahib still faces the ruins of the Pothi Mala building and the small town of Guru Har Sahai [a village established by Guru Jiwan Mal in the name of his son Har Sahai- with tombs of both father and son nestled inside the samadhs], as though connecting to their descendants through sight. And the unusual tradition of having a ‘samadh‘ after a customary funeral at the Dera Sahib, may still be beating a dim of life into the abandoned place of resting, of those gone. But just how much longer, before the Samadhs that hold on in grieving anticipation, are in time to be gone?