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Sikh pilgrims arrive for Baisakhi

Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive at the Wagah border in Pakistan, to attend the Baisakhi festival April 10, 2012. Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims arrived into Pakistan to celebrate the festival at the shrines of Panja Sahib and Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev. Baisakhi is the beginning of the solar year in the Indian state of Punjab. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive at the Wagah border in Pakistan, to attend the Baisakhi festival April 10, 2012.—Reuters Photo

LAHORE: More than 2,200 Sikh pilgrims arrived in Lahore via Wagah Border on Tuesday by three special trains for participating in the 10-day Baisakhi festival. The event is beginning on Wednesday.

Led by Shurumani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee of India Sardar Amrik Singh, the Sikh pilgrims started arriving at Wagah by first special train around 11:30am. The other two trains reached at 3:30pm and 4:30pm.

After the immigration process by the Pakistani authorities, the visitors left for Hassanabdal after being welcomed by officials of the Evacuee Trust Property Board and other departments concerned.

“We have received more than 2,200 Sikh pilgrims at the Wagah Railway Station, who then proceeded towards the Lahore Railway Station for onward travel under tight security by the Pakistan Rangers and the Punjab police,” ETPB Deputy Secretary (Shrines) Azhar Sulehri told Dawn.

He said the ETPB was expecting 800 more Sikh pilgrims from India on foot and by Samjhota Express on April 11 and 12. Many would come from other parts of the world, he said.

The official said the ETPB had arranged free transport, food and residential facilities for the Sikh pilgrims in Lahore, Hassanabdal, Nankana Sahib and other cities.

Sulehri said the visitors would spend their first three days in Hassanabdal, where they would offer special prayers at Gurdwara Panja Sahib and observe Baisakhi. From there they would move to Nankana Sahib to pay homage to Baba Guru Nanak and participate in ceremonies.

On April 16, he said, they would return to Lahore and visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib. The next day the Sikhs would go to Eimanabad and Narowal and return home on April 19.

The official said the ETPB also planned to host a grand reception for the Sikh pilgrims.

As for the security arrangements, he said: “The police in Lahore, Hassanabdal, Norowal, Nankana Sahib and other cities have been directed to provide foolproof security to the pilgrims. Arrangements like CCTV cameras have been made at the Wagah station, temples and other relevant places.”

To view photos from the Sikh pilgrimage click here.