A History of Hacienda de Guru Ram Das Ashram
|By Shanti Kaur Khalsa
By the mid-seventies, the sangat had grown so large it was hard to find places to hold Summer Solstice Sadhana. The Siri Singh Sahib wanted to buy some land and for months different sites were considered, but nothing we looked at seemed just right. One day, in the spring of 1977 when the Siri Singh Sahib was visiting New Mexico, he was returning home from Santa Fe when he told his students to keep driving and they went on through Espanola. He told them to turn left up this winding dirt road that led into the mountains. After several miles of steep driving, they crested onto a flat stretch of road, and he was struck with the beauty and simple, spiritual grace of the Pajarito Plateau. Standing majestically at an altitude of 7,500 feet, the land had a sweeping panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding valleys. When the Siri Singh Sahib looked out over the land, his gaze was held in rapt attention, for he saw a scene that the other people in the car could not behold. In the skies above the plateau he saw a huge gathering of luminous angels, the sight of which stunned him, and confirmed that this land was the place he had been searching for.
Most of the land in that area was owned by the Santa Clara Indians or by the Federal Government - the BLM. They stopped an old truck traveling towards them down the dirt road, and asked the driver if there was any private land in the vicinity. As it turned out, the man was a rancher who owned one of the few parcels of private land, situated at the high point of the plateau. After several rounds of earnest bargaining and negotiations, an agreement was reached on May 13 to purchase the 160 acres of land, as long as water could be found under the arid desert.
However, finding water in this mountainous region was not easy. Geologists were hired to evaluate the land, but they could make no definitive recommendations for drilling. A local water diviner was brought in, but even he could not find a place where subsurface water existed. Undaunted by these pessimistic reports, the Siri Singh Sahib selected a place and the driller set up his rig. After several weeks of drilling, many broken drill bits, and patience that nearly expired, an abundance of clear, clean water was found at a depth of 880 feet. Deep below the normal aquifer ran a subterranean river of exceptional purity. The purchase was joyously finalized, and the beautiful land was named “Ram Das Puri.”
In the fall of 1989, plans were made in Espanola to expand the main ashram building into a gurdwara. Years earlier the sangat had become too large to hold gurdwara service in the sadhana room, and they had utilized a temporary building for that purpose. When Mukhia Singh Sahib Dr. Guruchander Singh Khalsa brought the idea of building a gurdwara to the Siri Singh Sahib said, he said, “OK, I give you my blessings to do this. But I want to see the plans within seven days!” The plans were hastily produced, but the Siri Singh Sahib was not totally satisfied. He told them they had to crown the building with a gold dome. No one had the money or the expertise to produce such a dome, so the Siri Singh Sahib was told it was impossible.
Construction on the gurdwara began immediately. All the work was done by people in the sangat as seva, and funds for materials were donated from all over the world. The building rose from the ground with tall walls and a giant beamed ceiling. One day in October at 2:00 AM, they broke though the adjoining wall, opening the old sadhana room into the grand hall of the new gurdwara.
Again and again, the Siri Singh Sahib insisted that a gold dome must be built, and again he was told it was impossible. The fourth time he asked, Simran Singh came up with a design and it was decided that it was indeed, possible. The dome was built, and Mukhtiar Singh painstakingly covered it with gold.
When the gurdwara was opened in July 1990, the Siri Singh Sahib named it “Siri Takhat Sahib Takhat a Khalsa.” He made us understand that its purpose was bigger than serving a local sangat. We had built something historical that would dramatically change our lives and the lives of many in the future.
The Siri Singh Sahib later changed the name to Siri Singhasan e Khalsa, and that is how it is known today. The gold dome shines in the sunlight and can be seen from every desert hilltop in the area. It calls the Sikhs of the Guru to merge in the Sadh Sangat, forming a strong bond of unity that spreads across the entire valley.
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