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Pilgrim To Nankana Sahib And Othr Gurdwaras In Pakistan

Dalvinder Singh Grewal

Writer
Historian
SPNer
Jan 3, 2010
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Pilgrim to Nankana Sahib and other Gurdwaras in Pakistan

Dr D S Grewal

Searching for the imprints of footprints of Guru Nanak for upgrading my book on Travels of Guru Nanak I had just concluded my visit to Sri Lanka and published a series on Sikh Net and Sikh Philosophy Net when S.Gurbachan Singh from Dabhwali came to meet me to know more details of our visit to Sri Lanka. During discussions he saw my great desire to visit Nankana Sahib and offered to help. He took mine and my wife’s passport and five photographs each with a token amount and after about four months just three days before our planned move to Nankana Sahib i.e., on 9th November 2016, I got the confirmation of arrival of our visa. Normally Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee send groups to Pakistan on four occasions i.e., Guru Nanak’s Birthday, Waisakhi, Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s Martyrdom day and Maharaj Ranjit Singh’s Barsi. Applications are invited about five months before the event which can be submitted to the nearest SGPC/DGMC along with the passport, a token money and the photographs. Pakistan Embassy gives group visa about 3-4 days before the start of the visit. It is very important to form a group of 10 pilgrims under a common leader for a comfortable journey and for the safety of belongings and should be done at the time of application. Moving in groups also helps coordination. Having received Visa move plan of our group we were to reach Amritsar on 11th November and board the train at Atari early morning on 12th November. To our shock and dismay on 8th night Mr. Modi Prime Minister of India declared on TV that currency of Rs 500/- and Rs 1000/- of Indian currency has been banned and banks will be closed on 9th and ATMs on 9th and 10th November. On 9th I went to collect passports and on 10th November tried to get enough currency for the travel since we had only the Rs 500/- and Rs 1000/- notes with us. After a lot of running it was a sheer luck that my nephew Kulwinder Singh helped me with Rs10,000/- in Rs 100/- notes and managed some dollars in case it helped. Paying our obeisance at Sri Harmandar Sahib on 11th and having a comfortable stay at the Sarai in the complex we reached Atari early next morning. It took quite a time for checking at Bagha. Our currency was to be exchanged at the railway station Atari by State Bank of India. This however did not materialize due to confusion in new currency and the bank never opened on the day. We boarded a Pakistan bound train at about 11 AM which took us to Bagha railways station of Pakistan. A great reception was arranged at the Railways station where huge hoardings could be seen all around and Muhammad Sadiq-ul-Farook Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board and Sardar Tara Singh President Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara parbandhak Committee were present. There we had to go through lot of checking standing in queues (standing in queues for long became a routine throughout the journey). The currency was to be exchanged by Habib Bank at Bagha but instead only one private agency was exchanging currency at reduced rates. The rate of Indian currency on the day was Pakistan’s Rs 164/- for Indian currency which was however reduced to Rs 120/-. There were three trains for about 1000 passengers each. These trains and the allotted seat numbers were to remain with us throughout our journey for which subsidized rate of Rs 1855/- per seat is charged. We were served free food (langar) by Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee which had made all administration arrangements of the pilgrims throughout the journey. Rooms were allotted at Bagha itself; a room for 10 pilgrims each after depositing our passports. We were lucky to be allotted rooms at Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib but had to contend tented accommodation at Lahore which caused sickness. Most of the pilgrims fell sick due to cold on 20 November due to cold winds. Pilgrims are advised to take sufficient warm clothes when visiting to pakistan in winter to avoid sickness. A programme of our visit for ten days was issued at the railway station Bagha which included visiting Nankana Sahib, Sacha Sauda Farookabad, Hasan Abdal, Lahore, Kartarpur Sahib and Emnabad. Gurdwaras to be visited included Gurdwaras Janam Asthan Guru Nanak, Bal Lila, Patti Sahib, Tambu Sahib, Kiara Sahib, 5th and 6th Gurus and Malji Sahib at Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sach Sauda in Chuhrkana (Farookabad), Gurdwaras Janam Asthan Guru Ram Dass Choona Mandi, Gurdwara Shahid Singhnian and Bhai Taru Singh Shahid in Naulakha Bazar Lahore, Gurdwara Joti Jot Kartarpur Sahib, Gurdwaras Rori Sahib, Chakki Sahib and Khuhi Bhai Lalo. Buses were arranged by the Wakaf Board from and to each railway station at a cost of Rs 30/- each passenger one way, for Sacha Sauda @ Rs 250/- and for Kartarpur Sahib and Emnabad @ Rs 450/- per pilgrim. At Lahore we were allowed free travel to entire Lahore and I visited most part of old Lahore and my father’s college as well. The love and respect shown by the local people was really commendable. We were issued special identity cards for our 10 days stay in Pakistan which had mentioned places of visit. Our Passports were deposited with the authorities. Throughout our journey very huge security arrangements were found as we find in India for a Chief Minister or Prime Minister. The checking too was excessive and at each event making everyone to wait in queues for long. Since most of the pilgrims were above 60, it had a telling effect on them. The policemen however nowhere interfered but instead helped the pilgrims throughout politely. There were Wakf Board and PSGPC representatives to help the pilgrims throughout and their assistance was really laudable. The free kitchen throughout the journey by PSGPC too needed to be appreciated. Special arrangements by Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh Peshwar too needs special mention. Our trains travelled in the late afternoon and we travelled during nights only and reached our destinations after midnights only. This made our proper stay arrangement difficult and we could not see much of Pakistan during our journey. Communication back home too was difficult as we were not allowed local SIM cards. Calls arranged failed to provide necessary communication. One must travel light since moving with extra luggage is very difficult especially for those who are old and infirm. Completing our pilgrim from 12 to 20 November 2016 we safely retuned on 21st morning and first rang up all our relatives about our safe return as most of them had been fearing that relations between the two countries being bad it would not be safe to visit Pakistan. It however turned out otherwise. The respect and love of the local people; courtesy shown by the police and the great arrangements made by PSGPC and Wakf Board need applause.

Photos 1 Harmandir sahib 2. Welcome at Wagha 3. With Chairman wakf board 4. With President PSGPC S. Tara Singh 5. Nankana Sahib Gurdwara 6 Nankana Sahib Railway Station 7. Gurdwar Panja Sahib 8. Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore 9. Gurdwara Kartar Pur Sahib 10. Bhai Akthar from lineage of Bhai Mardana 11. Lahore children with the author.
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Tejwant Singh

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Writer
SPNer
Jun 30, 2004
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Davinder Singh ji,

Guru Fateh.

Thanks for sharing your historic journey to the Sikh historical gurdwaras in Pakistan which is a journey of the self. Perhaps, that is why our Gurus said no, no to pilgrims that Hindus and Muslims are used to doing.

Please share with us your personal feelings when you visited each historical Gurdwara which has a library worth of history behind them.
 

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