PUNJAB – a land of Intellectuals, religions and Cultural heritage

Punjab, a land of five rivers, proud itself for cultural heritage, exuberant festivals and lively hearts people. The creative land of Punjab mushroomed many religions and political movements. It gave birth to several intellectuals i.e. Baba Fareed, Shah Hussain, Bulleh Shah, Warris Shah, Sultan Bahu, Baba Guru Nanak and so on. Baba guru Nanak is one of those iconic figures the fertile land of Punjab produced. He was the founder of Sikhism – a religion whose believers are known as Sikhs. 

Essence of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur for Sikhs community:

Honestly speaking, Gurdwara has equal importance for Sikh community as Muslims has for their holy places. Basically, Sikhs celebrate four major festivals in a year. First, Baisakhi – the Sikh Solar New Year Day. Second, Maghi Festival. Third, Holla Mohalla Festiva and lastly Guru Nanak Jayanti. Guru Nanak Jayanti is among one of the most important festivals for Sikhs pilgrims. This is the day when Sikhs celebrate the death anniversary of Guru Nanak who founded the Sikh faith. The Guru Sahib has been worshipped as supreme authority of Sikhism and is considered the eleventh and final guru of Sikhism.

In 1521, Guru Nanak sahib laid the foundation of first gurdwara in Kartarpur, on the banks of Ravi River in the Punjab region. He spent last 18 years of his life there (1521 – 1539). This place has great importance for Sikh community in many perspectives; especially religious and historical. On average, 27 million Sikhs are living around the world and every year, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs devotees from India come to Pakistan to pay tribute to their legendary leader (Baba Guru Nanak). Kartarpur corridor will be a great milestone to provide them easiest pathway to reach their destination (gurdwara). Simple, launching of Kartarpur corridor, in reality, is a green signal of peace, collaboration, harmony and unity.

Development phases of Kartarpur Corridor:

Kartarpur Corridor is a four-lane highway linking Gurdaspur-Amritsar road to the International borders for Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. According to agreement, construction of the corridor was divided into two phases. As mentioned below, the construction of phase 1 and phase 2 have been completed by India and Pakistan respectively. 

Phase 1: India government constructed the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border. India will also contract the ‘state of the art’ terminal’s building. Total estimated cost for the construction of terminal building is 190 crore. The terminal complex will have all the necessary passenger’s amenities to facilitate the Sikhs pilgrims. The Ministry of home affairs approved the complete layout plan of this building. 

Phase 2: Pakistan government constructed the rest of the corridor connecting the border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Kartarpur area of Narowal. It is 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) away from the Pakistan-India border. This project is fully funded by government of Pakistan with no foreign funding involved. Around 1500 acre land is acquired, and government has paid 15 billion rupees for it. Infrastructure development of Kartarpur has done while considering all historical and religious perspectives of Sikh‘s community. During initial (planning/designing) stages of the project, Sikh representatives were also involved with a view to protect their interests.  

Building of Gurdwara:

The present building of Kartarpur Gurdwara was built in 1925 at a cost of Rs.135600. The money was donated by Sardar Bhupindar Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala. The building is very appealing from outside and equally beautiful from inner side. White color minarets with golden coating on top depict a sign of gracefulness.  Nisan Sahib, which is the Sikh flag, is the first main feature of gurdwara you see. This flag can be seen from the outside of any gurdwara to show a Sikh place of worship. The color of the flag is saffron, which stands for sacrifice and courage. 

While you enter to the gurdwara, you will see number of sign boards and symbols over there i.e. instruction boards, no smoking, switch your cell phone off, don’t talk etc. Just after the entrance from main gate, you will see number of showcase which are used to put shoes. Incomers wash their hand and mouth in order to make sure that they are neat and clean before to show up in front of their respected leader (Baba Guru Nanak sahib). All these actions depict a sign of respect.

There are four gates of the gurdwara which mean that you are welcome from every side. Moreover, the room where Baba Guru Nanak grave is located is known as Diwan hall. The hall always illuminate with lights. These lights show that blessings spreads from dawn to dusk for those who are affiliated with Baba Guru Nanak. Lastly, Baba Guru Nanak Sahib is placed on a raised platform which is called a Takht and is covered by a cloth called Palki. The Guru Granth Sahib is kept wrapped in Rumalas, which are holy cloths.

Above mentioned points are showing the importance of Gurdwara for Sikh pilgrims and also depicting the beauty of building. 

Fruits of Kartarpur Corridor – peace, economic development and political harmony

Coherence with article 36 of constitution of Pakistan which protects the rights of minorities, this step shows that how actually Pakistan is committed. The development of this corridor meant to bring a sign of harmony, a symbol of peace and religious freedom. There are bright chances that, after this step, two hostile nations will come close to each other in near future. 

The corridor is expected to open the doors of economic development. Undoubtedly, both cities have potential of trade, and good trade will facilitate both countries to reduce the barriers. It will promote the import and export of several good including vegetables, sugar, wheat, and fruits at lower prices. Moreover, the tourist industry will boost, thus helping the people of both countries. Pakistan’s leadership  is not limited itself to this corridor, but, in future it is expected that arrangement will also be done for Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the Katas Raj Temple and Sharda Peeth.

The corridor is also a great sign of political harmony. It is expected that the corridor will bring two nations under an umbrella where both sit together and resolve past conflicts through the dialogues. History predicted that nations learn from their Past and prepare for their future. For instance Japan fought World War 2 and lost its resources, people, military power, territory etc. When the War ended, they have amended their foreign policy and promised to never fight again. Similarly, Mexico and America were great enemies in past, but now both the countries celebrate ‘National Good Neighbour Day.’ every year on September 28. Purpose of this day is that, Americans can spend quality time with their neighbour. After discussing other examples, everyone knows Pakistan is also a peace loving country. It wants to co-exist peacefully with its all neighbour, including India. Therefore, the development of the Kartarpur corridor is an initiative of Pakistan to extend a hand of friendship to India. 

Special benefits for Sikhs community:

Pakistan’s government announced the two benefits for Sikhs community. Firstly, it is the first time in the history of Pakistan that, Sikhs won’t need a passport – just a valid ID. Secondly, they no longer have to register 10 days in advance and no fee will be charged on day of inauguration & on Guruji’s 550th birthday.

Inauguration of Kartarpur corridor:

Since 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain, this is the first time that Indian Sikh pilgrims would be able to travel to Pakistan without a visa. While inaugurating the project in November 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated, “There have been mistakes on both sides [in the past], but there is need to move forward. The past is there only to teach us, not for us to live in.” This pathway (corridor) will not only connect Sikhs to Kartarpur, but also provides a way among two nations to come, sit, negotiate and sort out the problems through peaceful means and purposeful talks. The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. Moreover, congress leader of India, Navtogh Singh Sidhu is the first to receive an invitation for the opening ceremony from the neighboring country.

Factually, building of the Kartarpur corridor is a win win situation, provided India welcomes it in the same spirit as Pakistan is doing.