Sikh pilgrims to travel to Hassanabdal from Lahore on train

Published April 13, 2024
Sikh pilgrims wait for their bus before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024.—AFP
Sikh pilgrims wait for their bus before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: Following the upgradation of Hassanabdal Railway Station, the relevant authorities have decided to bring all Sikh pilgrims from Lahore to their holy city by train to celebrate Baisakhi on Saturday (today).

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has issued 2,843 visas to Sikh pilgrims who would participate in the annual festival scheduled from April 13-22.

After entering through Wagah border, the pilgrims will be hosted by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) which has hired a train from the Pakistan Railways to bring them directly to Hassanabdal.

Taking to Dawn, ETPB Chairman Arshad Farid Khan said the board had completed all arrangements for the Baisakhi Mela, and for the first time pilgrims coming from India would use rail transport instead of buses.

“This will make the journey more safe and comfortable for the guests,” Mr Khan said, adding that the ‘technical branch’ of the ETPB had renovated accommodations and other facilities in Hassanabdal.

More than 2,800 visas issued to Indians wanting to participate in Baisakhi festival

It is expected that around 10,000 Sikh pilgrims will converge on Punja Sahib shrine in Hassanabdal where they will celebrate Baisakhi festival. The pilgrims will also be coming from the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and from different cities of Pakistan.

All arrangements, including accommodation, security, transport and medical needs, for the pilgrims are being managed by the ETPB.

The Indian pilgrims will be housed in hostels managed by the board while those from other countries will stay in various colleges and schools.

Baisakhimarks the first day of the month of Vaisakh in the local calendar. This year it will be celebrated on April. It is not only the spring festival in the region but also marks the founding anniversary of ‘Khalsa’.

Baisakhi is also the formal founding day of Sikhism as established by Guru Gobind Singh — the 10th Guru of the Sikhs.

During their stay, pilgrims would visit Gurdwara Punja Sahib, Gurdwara Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

Those from India will also visit Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sucha Sauda in Sheikhupura district, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, Gurdwara Rori Sahib, Gujaranwala and Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore, before departing from Wagah border. However, those arriving from other countries can alter their schedules.

The Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November, Baisakhi in April, Kartarpur Sahib as well as the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in June and July. Many arrive at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore They also visit Pakistan to observe the death anniversary of Sikh Guru Arjun Dev in June and Saka Nankana Sahib in February.

Visas are issued to the pilgrims from India under the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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