KARTARPUR, Nov 9 (APP): In what may be called the world’s ‘longest’ ever pilgrimage, it took almost 72 years to the Indian Sikhs to make it to one of their holiest shrines located just 4.1 kilometers from the border in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday inaugurated the much-anticipated Kartarpur Corridor project that would give visa-free access to the Indian Sikhs to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Brig (Retd) Ijaz Shah, Religious Affairs Minister Pir Nurul Haq Qadri, special assistants Dr Firdous Ashiq and Zulfiqar Bukhari, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, and diplomats.
As the gate built on Pak-India border was opened, the smiling Sikh pilgrims walked into Pakistan with traditional turbans and holding kirpan (small sword) in their hands.
The prime minister reached the venue of the inauguration ceremony through the shuttle service carrying the Sikh pilgrims.
Buses were awaiting the pilgrims with welcoming banners and wheelchairs were placed there for the elderly or ill persons.
The pilgrims were later driven to the venue of the inauguration ceremony after going through immigration and security checks. At the terminal, the staffers were alert to swiftly accomplish the screening process.
All around, there was an ambiance of celebration both Indian and Pakistani Punjab, though the celebration was to some extent spoiled by Indian Supreme Court’s decision in Babri Masjid case ordering the formation of a trust to construct a temple for Lord Ram and allocate alternative land to Muslims.
Former Indian Prime Minister Sardar Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Indian Punjab Amrinder Singh, Congress leaders, renowned cricketer and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s friend Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bollywood actor Sunny Deol were also part of the group.
The Sikh pilgrims were all appreciative of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa which made this longstanding demand of the Sikh community fulfilled.
The Yatrees, who so far had been content of viewing their holiest shrine from binocular towers built in Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab, would now be able to quench their thirst of the holiest pilgrimage.
The corridor would lead the pilgrims straight to the Gurdwara built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life before he died there in 1539.
The opening of the Corridor coincides with the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday to be celebrated on November 12 when the arrival of Sikh pilgrims from across the world is expected.
In another co-incidence, Pakistan was also celebrating on Saturday the birth anniversary of its national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal, also the great admirer of Baba Guru Nanak.
In his philosophical poetry, ‘Bang-e-Dara’ Allama Iqba had spoken high of Guru Nanak’s broader outlook of religion. “Phir uthi aakhir sada Tauheed ki Punjab say, Hind ko ab ek mard-e-kaamil ne jagaya khuwab se,” which translates “Again, the voice of Tawheed has arisen from the Panjab; And thus, a perfect man has awaken India from her dogmatic slumber.”
In the same book, the great poet said, “Chishti ne jis zameen men paigham-e-haq sunaya; Nanak nay jis chaman men wahdat ka geet gaya” means “The place where Chishti gave his message of truth to the people; The place where Nanak sung a song of oneness of God.”
The construction of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and renovation of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, which has now become the world’s largest Sikh Gurdwara, has been completed in record time. The ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was held on November 28, 2018.
Spread over around 400 acres, the Kartarpur Complex currently consists of a new courtyard, langar khanas, museum, library, dormitories, locker rooms, an immigration centre and an embankment to protect the temple from the floods.
Pakistan has announced to allow visit of 5,000 pilgrims to the shrine everyday with additional numbers on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities.
As a special gesture, the government also waived off the requirement of passport for Sikh pilgrims and 10-day advance intimation for whole year.
The opening of the Corridor is also realization of the dream of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had been the strong advocate of the minorities’ rights in Pakistan and had said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan.
You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
The Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the immigration counters and reviewed the arrangements where he warmly received Manmohan Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The stunning white-coloured edifice of Gurdwara Baba Nanak stands tall as a symbol of peace and harmony despite a relation full of discords between the two neighboring countries.
The Government of Pakistan had acquired around 800-acre land and handed over the same to the Gurdwara management as a gift. Out of which, 42 acres were allocated for the construction of Gurdwara Complex and 62 acres for the agriculture purpose to meet the needs of the Langar Khana.
The Gurdwara has been built in record time of 10 months, with high quality construction along with white marble and imported tiles.
The visitors will have a glance of Sikhs history at the museum setup in the vicinity where the photographs of Sikh religious leaders have been put on display.
A 12-bed hospital has also been established for any health emergency for the pilgrims.