After Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan waived requirement of a passport and 10-day advance registration for Sikh pilgrims from India visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib via Kartarpur Corridor, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh ‘urged’ Islamabad to apply this “to all citizens of secular India”.
The core values of Guru Nanak’s philosophy are not based on any one religion and nor are the Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat, who belong to other religions too and may not necessarily be Sikhs. The Indian Express explains why Kartarpur Corridor matters for all Nanak’s followers.
Any person who believes in Guru Nanak and follows his teachings in life, irrespective of belonging to any religion is a Nanak Naam Lewa.
Prof Paramvir Singh from Department of Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Punjabi University, Patiala, says, “Any person who follows Guru Nanak and believes in his teachings is Nanak Naam Lewa or a Nanakpanthi. During his four udaasis (travels), Guru Nanak had spread the message of oneness and people from different faiths had become his followers. Nanak simply cannot be limited to just one religion (Sikhism) because the core value of his philosophy as he said was “Sabhna jiya ka ik daata” (There is only one giver of life, one God) and “Na koi Hindu, na Musalman” (There is no Hindu, no Muslim). Bhai Gurdas, the most revered interpreter of Gurbani, has called Guru Nanak the Jagat Guru”.
What is Nanakpanthi culture? How do its remnants continue to exist in India, Pakistan etc?
More than seven decades after the Pakistan was carved out of India, Guru Nanak continues to be a binding force for the two countries.
Amardeep Singh, an independent filmmaker, writer and Sikh historian who is travelling to film a documentary – ‘Allegory- A Tapestry of Nanak’s Travels – to chronicle Guru Nanak’s travels across nine countries – Saudi Arabia, China (Tibet), Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India and Pakistan – says that he found strands of ‘Nanakpanthi culture’ existing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “There are syncretic groups of people in this region who are followers of Guru Nanak irrespective of them being Sikhs or Hindus. The syncretic faith of the ‘Nanakpanthi’ communities continues to be practiced in the Indus belt, which their forefathers’ followed before the Partition in 1947. They do not have a defining line drawn between cultures and faiths. People might identify them as Hindus or Sikhs, but Guru Nanak is the essential fabric of their existence”.
According to his research, there are close to 8 lakh Nanakpanthis in Pakistan “including in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and remote areas of Punjab province”. “There is a segment of Nanakpanthis who go to gurdwara as well as temple. Similarly, there was also a concept of ‘darbar’ in some parts of Pakistan where Guru Granth Sahib is placed along Geeta and idols. Sindhi Hindus in Pakistan are not counted among Sikhs but they follow Nanak and are Nanakpanthis.”
There is no data for specific number of Nanak followers in India, but they are believed to be in crores. Karnail Singh Panjoli, member, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, says that there are several communities within the term ‘Nanakpanthis’ too. “There are groups like Sikhligarh, Vanjaarey, Nirmaley, Lubaney, Johri, Satnamiye, Udaasiyas etc who call themselves Nanakpanthis. They follow Nanak and Sri Guru Granth Sahib. According to rough estimates, there are 12-15 crore Nanak Naam Lewas across the world but then there is no specific count and there cannot be. Within India alone, they are spread across states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana among others,” he says.
Even the people from different ethnicities have become Nanakpanthis and spread across the countries like Canada, Kenya, China, New Zealand, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc.
Why does Kartarpur Corridor matter to all, and not just Sikhs? Why Nanak cannot be limited to one religion?
While Sikh population in India is close to 2.8 crore and that in Pakistan around 20,000-25,000, the Nanakpanthis or Nanak Naam Lewas are in crores across the globe. “It is against the basic teachings of Nanak to differentiate his followers on basis of religion. If Pakistan had to waive off certain conditions, it should be done for all and not just the Sikhs. Guru’s ghar (gurdwara) is open for everyone all the time and none can be differentiated on basis of religion. In fact, Nanak believed in humanity not religions,” says Panjoli.
During his four udaasis (travels), how Guru Nanak broke religious barriers?
To spread the message of oneness and to break barriers across faiths by engaging in spiritual dialogues, the Guru travelled far and wide during the 15th and 16th centuries. From Mecca to Haridwar, from Sylhet to Mt Kailash, Guru Nanak visited hundreds of interfaith sites related to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism throughout his journeys. Some of the sites include: Mausoleum of Bahauddin Zakariya in Multan, Dargah Baba Farid in Pakpattan and Hinglaj Mandir, Balochistan (Pakistan); Mount Kailash (Tibet); Imam Reza Mausoleum (Iran); Kandahar and Khost (Afghanistan) and Nuwara Eliya (Sri Lanka). His udaasis were later documented in texts called ‘Janamsakhis’. And in fact, Bhai Mardana, who was Nanak’s disciple and his closest companion during the travels, was a Muslim.
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