Sikh pilgrims gather in Pakistan’s Gurdwara Panja Sahib

Gurdwara Panja Sahib
Photo (2012) by Indira Prahst

Islamabad (IANS): Sikh pilgrims from all over the world on Monday poured into the Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab province to celebrate the 549th birth anniversary of Sikhim’s founder, Guru Nanak Dev.

Over 3,800 Indian Sikh pilgrims, 148 from the UK, seven from the United Arab Emirates and thousands of Sikh and Hindu devotees from various parts of Pakistan, especially Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and interior Sindh, arrived at the gurdwara deemed as the third most sacred place of Sikh religion, to perform their rituals which include ‘Akhand Path’, ‘Ashnan’, ‘Matha Tek’ and ‘Kirtan’, reports Dawn news.

Elaborate security measures were taken in and around the gurdwara where dozens of officials from the security agencies were deployed.

Talking to the media, leader of the Indian pilgrims Marjeet Singh lauded the role of the Pakistani government in opening the Kartarpur corridor.

He said with this, the Pakistani government had won the hearts of millions of Sikhs living on the other side of the border.

The number of pilgrims had also increased compared to last year, he added.

Raminder Singh, leader of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak committee, echoed the sentiments, saying that more corridors between the two countries needed to open.

Sohan Singh, contingent leader from the Bhai Mardana Sikh committee, said every religion taught love, tolerance and respect for humanity.

However, leader of female contingent from India Manmohan Kaur expressed her displeasure over the mismanagement by the railways department as a result of which over 113 pilgrims were left behind at Nankana Sahib also in Punjab province.

Talking to the media, Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said mismanagement was due to the negligence of the railway authorities and the pilgrims’ displeasure was communicated to the relevant authorities.

The Kartarpur corridor will be formally inaugurated by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday while Punjab Governor Mohammad Sarwar would host a reception in honour of the Indian Sikhs in Lahore on Tuesday.

The Indian pilgrims would visit also Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on Monday followed by Gurdwara Rohri Sahib in Emanabad and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur on Wednesday.

The pilgrims are slated to depart for their respective countries on November 30, according to Gondal.