TAXILA: Members of the Sikh community from across the country and abroad poured into Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal, the third holiest site in the Sikh religion, to mark Shaheedi Jore Mela, the 417th death anniversary of the fifth of 11 Sikh gurus, Guru Arjan Dev Ji, on Friday.
The gurdwara welcomes hundreds and thousands of worshippers from around the world on religious occasions. Attendees, Sikh or not, are asked to cover their heads before entering the gurdwara, and no one is asked about their religion, caste or creed when entering. Sikhs prostrate to their Guru as soon as they enter, while a priest, known as a granthi, recites from the scripture.
Friday’s rituals begin after dusk ends, with a musical ritual known as Kirtan - a form of devotional singing - that is led by two people on a specially designed stage with a harmonium and tablas while surrounding worshippers chime in as they listen.
“Our pilgrimage to Pakistan is above political, diplomatic and other security issues, and Sikhs living on the other side of the border consider it the land of the Guru,” said Sardar Harchand Singh, who is leading the contingent of 172 Indian pilgrims, while speaking to journalists at the gurdwara.
He was of the view that the Sikh community considers Pakistan to be their second homeland, as some of the holiest sites of the religion are situated here.
As per existing Bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has issued 215 visas to Sikh pilgrims coming from India to offer religious rituals.
India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Delhi Committee have once again refused to come to Pakistan due to differences over the ‘Nanak Shahi’ calendar and instead observed the death anniversary on May 23.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2023