More than a thousand Indian Sikhs arrived in Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal city of Pakistan, as a part of the Nagar Kirtan, a religious procession held to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism.
The gurdwara was decorated with colourful lights and pilgrims performed various rituals including Matha Taki, Ashnan and exchanging gifts.
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said that more than 1,100 Sikhs crossed the border through Wagah on Oct 31 via Ludhiana and Amritsar.
He said they visited Gurdwara Janamasthan, Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Sodda Farooqabad and other temples, and the pilgrimage will conclude at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
“Around 1,300 visas issued for the Nagar Kirtan are over and above the contingent covered under the Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines 1974 between Pakistan and India,” he said.
“Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan for religious festivals at least four times a year under the framework of the 1974 India-Pakistan protocol on visits to religious shrines but denial to visit Pakistan to participate in religious rituals despite having valid visas is not understood,” he added.
He said Indian Sikhs were grateful to the government for issuing them the maximum number of visas, adding: “Pakistan is sacred to us and we love it, and we come here with a message of peace and brotherhood.”
Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Satwant Singh said the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was a great gift to the Sikh community, and that Pakistan is a pure land for Sikhs and a second home for the Sikh community around the world.
Another group of 178 Sikh pilgrims reached Lahore on Sunday from London through to visit their sacred places in Sheikhupura, Nankana and Narowal districts and attend Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations.
The pilgrims will also participate in Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth celebrations at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, Narowal district.