It is a nippy November morning in Punjab. All roads in Doaba seem to be leading to Sultanpur Lodhi, an otherwise sleepy town in Kapurthala that has come alive to 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.
Each shop, electricity pole, tree trunk, and other structures on the road leading to historic Gurdwara Ber Sahib has been given a fresh coat of white. In the evening, all the entry points to the town are lit up to welcome the pilgrims, who have started arriving well before the celebrations begin on November 5.
Two all-weather, water-proof pandals have come up near Ber Sahib, presenting a beautiful picture in the evenings courtesy state-of-the-art-lighting. The town, which has seen an unprecedented development with the state government giving it a massive makeover, is all set for the big bash.
The week-long celebrations starting November 5 and concluding on November 12 will witness a massive state government function to be attended by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers of several states, in Sultanpur Lodhi.
After declaring it a holy city last year, the state government has pumped in Rs 200 crore for widening of roads, laying of at least five bridges, including two pontoon bridges on holy Kali Bein, preserving a minaret, erecting three tent cities, a langar hall, five helipads for the VIPs, and fencing alongside the Kali Bein, besides many other works.
The Centre has contributed its bit by reconstructing the railway station, and announcing a train from New Delhi from October 4 onwards. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) set aside Rs 20 crore for the celebrations that would include permanent lighting for the city, makeover of gurdwaras, erecting of inns, and an AC pandal for a function being organised parallel to the government. Several light and sound shows besides nagar kirtans are also being organised. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) claims to have spent Rs 5 crore on painting the houses, shops and other structures white as it undertook a ‘safedikaran sewa’.
“It is a divine experience to watch the town all decked up. The SGPC has planned a number of functions over the next 10 days,” said Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, SAD.
“After the ‘safedikaran’ and lighting, the city has started to have an appeal,” said Parambans Singh Romana, spokesperson of SAD.
In the run up to the celebrations, with the government, NRIs, Centre, SGPC and other religious organisations putting in their efforts to give the city a facelift, Sultanpur Lodhi is set to be on the tourist map of Punjab.
Having seven gurdwaras of historic importance, the ancient town is an attraction for the devotees. These include Ber Sahib, where Guru Nanak disappeared in holy Kali Bein for three days and after appearance delivered the divine message of ‘Mool Mantra’. It houses the meditation place of the Guru. Another is Gurdwara Hatt Sahib, where the Guru worked at the Modi Khana and gave away grains free to the people. The stones used as weights, touched by the Guru are still preserved there. The other gurdwaras include Kothri Sahib, Guru Ka Bagh, Bebe Nanki, and Antaryamta Sahib.
The government expects a footfall of about 10 lakh during the celebration week. “We are a population of 20,000. We are already witnessing a footfall of 15-20,000 people everyday. It was never this much,” said Congress MLA, Navtej Singh Cheema from Sultanpur Lodhi.
He added that the Tent City alone would house 35-40,000 people. “We have spent Rs 52 crore on the state-of-the-art Tent Cities. We have widened the roads, laid bridges. To ensure that the VIP movement does not cause harassment to people, the arrangement is being done in such a way that the VIPs reach the main pandal by using the pontoon brigde on the Bein.”
The government wants a befitting function on the lines of 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh organised in Patna in 2017. The main pandal measuring 160X100 meters, is located on one side of Ber Sahib, where the devotees and VIPs would pay obeisance. A minaret overlooks the water-proof and AC main pandal. The government has taken on rent 900 acres of agricultural land at Rs 48,000 per acre.
For the beautification, the government has got painted murals depicting culture and heritage of Punjab, transplanted fully grown palms on the roadside on the main road leading to Gurdwara Ber Sahib, set up a 66 KV power centre within the city and is in the process of making the wire network underground. Besides, light floras have also been installed at all main chowks, and drinking water pipes have been laid at all prominent places. Huge langars are being put up for those who participate.
The city is finally getting a bus stand, with a dome to match the heritage architecture of gurdwaras.
Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, a good samaritan associated with World Cancer Care Charitable Society would be providing healthcare at the Tent Cities. Baba Jagtar Singh Khadoor Sahib Wale has set up a 7-storey inn near Ber Sahib for the devotees.
“We have requested the locals to keep spare rooms ready. We will make arrangement of stay of the visitors in the houses if we run short of space,” said Cheema.
A Birmingham based Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewa Jatha in UK led by its spiritual leader Baba Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia is setting up a state-of-the-art three-storey building named Ek Onkar Mool Mantra Asthan at Gurdwara Sant Ghat Sahib, on the bank of the Kali Bein in association with Baba Harbhajan Singh Anandpur Sahib Wale. Chanan Singh, an aide of Baba Satnam Singh of UK said, “The building will be the eighth wonder of the world. It would depict the delivery of the Mool Mantra by the Guru. It would entail a message to the masses to conserve our water, air and earth as propagated by Guru Nanak. The 75-feet tall building would have 13 galleries in a museum with light and sound effects. It will be ready in three years,” he said.
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