A ‘nagar kirtan’ comprising 500 Sikh pilgrims returned to India from Pakistan via road on Thursday after paying obeisance at the historic Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev.
The ‘nagar kirtan’ or religious procession was associated with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, which would begin on a large scale in both the countries in November.
Two days ago, the Indian pilgrims had entered Pakistan’s Punjab province to commence their procession from the Nankana Sahib.
On the Indian side, a sea of devotees assembled to receive the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book, along with the pilgrims.
As the procession amidst religious fervour entered India from the Wagah border crossing, ‘Panj Pyaras’ received the Guru Granth Sahib.
A red carpet welcome by showering flower petals was given by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), known as the mini-parliament of Sikhs, where Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, state Cabinet Ministers O.P. Soni and Charanjit Singh Channi, and local MP Gurjit Aujla were among others present on the occasion.
Akali Dal MLA Manjinder S. Sirsa, who is the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Committee President, was leading the Indian pilgrims.
Besides Sirsa, Akal Takht acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, SGPC President Gobind Singh Longowal and Chief Secretary Roop Singh, were accompanying the Sikh devotees.
The devotees crossed the Wagah-Atari joint check post and were accorded a warm welcome. They reached Attari, some 28 km from here, after also paying obeisance at the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan’s Punjab Province.
The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, originally known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, is among the holy shrines which is believed to be the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev.
Located on the banks of Ravi river, the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak settled after his missionary work.
Starting from Nankana Sahib, the ‘nagar kirtan’ will visit five ‘takhts’ (temporal seats) of the Sikh faith — Akal Takht in Amritsar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib, Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, Takht Patna Sahib in Patna and Takht Hazur Sahib in Nanded in Maharashtra, before reaching Punjab’s Sultanpur Lodhi in November to mark the 550th birth anniversary.
The Pakistan government is likely to allow pilgrims from all over the world to Sikh historical shrines like Panja Sahib, Dera Sahib and Nankana Sahib during the celebration in November, a SGPC official told IANS here.
“Pakistan feels honoured that celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak are being started from Nankana Sahib,” the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi said in a statement when the Sikh pilgrims left for Pakistan.
Pakistan last month agreed in principle to allow visa-free, year-long travel to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara for Indian passport holders and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders via the upcoming 4.2-km-long corridor which is scheduled to be opened by October 31, a week before the celebrations to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Currently, the devotees from the Indian side can pay obeisance by seeing through binoculars the white-coloured Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara located in Pakistan.