Thousands of Sikh pilgrims from across the world have gathered at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab province to celebrate the 549th birth anniversary of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.
Security was beefed up in and around the gurdwara – one of the most sacred places of Sikh religion – where dozens of officials from the security agencies were deployed, Dawn reported on Monday.
Over 3,800 Indian Sikh pilgrims and thousands of Sikh and Hindu devotees from various parts of Pakistan, especially Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and interior Sindh, arrived at the gurdwara to perform their rituals which include ‘Akhand Path’, ‘Ashnan’, ‘Matha Teak’ and ‘Kirtan’, the paper said.
The pilgrims hailed the decision of India and Pakistan to build a corridor, linking Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.
Talking to reporters, the leader of the Indian pilgrims, Marjeet Singh, said, “with the opening of this corridor, the Pakistani government had won the hearts of millions of Sikhs living on the other side of the border”, the paper reported.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak committee leader Raminder Singh also lauded the steps taken by the Pakistani government and said the latest step of opening the corridor would further cement relations between Pakistan and the Sikh community.
He said that the opening of the Kartarpur corridor would be a gift for the Sikh community by the governments of both sides. He said over 10,000 Sikh pilgrims would visit Pakistan on the occasion. He stressed the need for opening more corridors between the two countries, especially in Kashmir.
Leader of female contingent from India Manmohan Kaur said that visa-free entry to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur would be a great facility for Sikh pilgrims.
She also expressed displeasure over the mismanagement by the Pakistan railways as a result of which over 113 pilgrims were left behind at Nankana Sahib.
Talking to the media, Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said mismanagement was due to the negligence of the railway authorities and the pilgrims’ displeasure was communicated to the relevant authorities.
He said the government had decided to open the Kartarpur corridor to allow Sikh pilgrims from neighbouring India to visit their gurdwara in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan would formally inaugurate this corridor on November 28, he said.
Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. It was established by the Sikh Guru in 1522. The first Gurdwara, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, was built here, where Guru Nanak Dev is said to have died.
Responding a question, Gondal said the pilgrims would visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore on November 26. They will also visit Gurdwara Rohri Sahib in Emanabad and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on November 28 and then depart for their respective countries on November 30.