Sikh pilgrims perform religious rituals for Baisakhi on the last day

TAXILA: The Gurdwara Punja Sahib came alive Thursday morning 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 the pilgrims.

Pilgrims wearing traditional yellow turbans were seen wandering the corridors and courtyards of the gurdwara; everyone seemed happy as they performed their religious rituals, including the recitation of their holy book Granth Sahib.

Students from the Khalsa school in Peshawar performed mutilations which won the laurels of the Sikh and Hindu worshipers present at the ceremony. After Bhog, pilgrims perform Keerthan for purification which is followed by Ardaas or prayer. This marked the official end of the festival and sweets were distributed to the pilgrims.

According to reports, around 4,000 Sikhs attended the celebrations. Among them, more than 2,500 came from India while more than 500 came 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 – a name for the Sikh brotherhood. It is one of the most important festivals 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 particularly significant since devotees believe that a handprint of Guru Nanak, founder of the religion is imprinted on a rock at the gurdwara.

Speaking at the ceremony, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Additional Secretary Rana Shahid said the government was committed to providing full 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 let their fellow Sikhs living in India know that there was no threat to their community in Pakistan. He said the ETPB had played a key role in the renovation of the temples and a number of projects were underway. The head of the Indian contingent, Sardar Arvinder Singh, in his speech, expressed his satisfaction with the arrangements made for the pilgrims. In their speeches, representatives of various Sikh community organizations from different countries hailed the Pakistani government’s decision to open the Kartarpur corridor.

The pilgrims left on Thursday evening for Nankana Sahib via four special trains to offer religious rituals from where they would depart for Gurdwara Ameenabad, Lahore and then on to India.

Posted in Dawn, April 15, 2022

Ruth R. Culp