For the first time, Pakistani authorities have allowed an Indian Sikh to permanently display images of ‘sacred trees’ of Gurdwaras of India and Pakistan at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib. “On the request of former bureaucrat and writer DS Jaspal, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (which looks after holy places of minorities in Pakistan) has given permission to him for permanent exhibition of his work at Nankana Sahib Gurdwara,” ETPB spokesman Amir Hashmi told PTI.
He said this is the first time that an exhibition of an Indian Sikh is allowed for permanent display at any Gurdwara in Pakistan. The exhibition at the Gurdwara, situated about 80 km southwest of Lahore, is likely to open during a festival in connection with the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in mid of November. “I will showcase a permanent exhibition of images of sacred trees at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib which will draw the attention of not only Sikhs but all nature lovers to the rich natural heritage and highlight importance of preserving our depleting tree and forest wealth,” Jaspal said after his meeting with ETPB Chairman Siddiqul Farooq on Sunday.
Jaspal is the author of ‘TRYST with TREES’ –Punjab’s sacred heritage –a pictorial documentation of 58 sacred and historical Sikh shrines in India and Pakistan named after 19 species of trees, like Gurdwara Tahli Sahib; Gurdwara Nim Sahib, Patiala; Gurdwara Babe di Ber Sahib, Sialkot; Gurdwara Ritha Sahib; Gurdwara Lahura Sahib and Ghavindi Lahore. Jaspal was honoured with ‘Siropa’, an honourary dress, by Farooq for his research on sacred trees of Sikh religion.
Jaspal said though love and respect for nature and environment were common to every faith, the naming of sacred shrines after trees was unique to the Sikh religion. “Sikhism is the only religion that has sanctified its
association with trees by remembering its most sacred shrines with the names of different species of trees. No less than 19 species of trees have the honour of more than 50 of the most sacred and historical shrines being named after them,” he said. Jaspal also gave Farooq the details of the landscape plan drawn up by him for Nankana Sahib and its environs. He said at the time of birth of Guru Nanak Dev, Nankana Sahib, then known as Talwandi Rai, was little more than a glorified village.
“Nankana Sahib and its environs formed part of the subtropical arid zone. Because of the semi-desert conditions,
only hardy species like the Van (salvadora oleoides), Jand (prosopis cineraria) and Phulahi (acacia modesta) were found growing.” During the time of Guru Nanak, he said, Van, Jand and Phulahi species formed the bulk of the vegetation in scattered groves in Nankana Sahib. These hardy trees regenerate naturally from seeds and Van was especially appreciated for its shade by both man and beast. “It is no wonder that the hymns of Guru Nanak enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, are replete with references to nature, environment, trees, vegetation, plants and animal life,” Jaspal said.