TAXILA: Gurdwara Punja Sahib on Thursday morning came alive as Sikh pilgrims chanted slogans like ‘Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa’, ‘Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh’ and ‘Jo Bolay So Nihal’. Sweets were distributed to pilgrims.
Pilgrims, wearing traditional yellow turbans were seen roaming around in halls and courtyards of the gurdwara; everyone seemed happy as they performed their religious rituals including recitation of their holy book Granth Sahib.
Female students from Khalsa School Peshawar recited mayhems which won laurels from both Sikh and Hindu devotees present at the ceremony. Following Bhog, the pilgrims performed Keerthan for purification which is followed by Ardaas or prayer. This marked the formal end of the festival and sweets were distributed among pilgrims.
According to reports, around 4,000 Sikhs attended the celebrations. Of them, over 2,500 came from India while over 500 were from various countries. As many as 2,000 Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs also attended the festival. This year’s festival marks the 323rd anniversary of Khalsa — the pure ones — a name for the Sikh brotherhood. It is one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar, commemorating the establishment of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1699, by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Gurdwara Punja Sahib is considered to be particularly important since devotees believe that a handprint of Guru Nanak, founder of the religion is imprinted on a boulder at the gurdwara.
Speaking at the ceremony, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Additional Secretary Rana Shahid said the government was committed towards providing complete religious freedom to people of all faiths living in the country. He said Sikh pilgrims from India were “ambassadors of peace” and asked them to convey to fellow Sikhs living in India that there was no threat to their community in Pakistan. He said ETPB had played a key role towards the renovation of temples and a number of projects were underway. Leader of the Indian contingent, Sardar Arvinder Singh in his address, expressed satisfaction over arrangements made for the pilgrims. In their speeches, representatives of various Sikh community organisations in different countries lauded the Pakistani government’s decision of opening Kartarpur Corridor.
The pilgrims left on Thursday evening for Nankana Sahib via four special trains to offer religious rituals from where they would leave for Gurdwara Ameenabad, Lahore and then towards India.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2022