The Tribune – SGPC raagis to perform kirtan at Kartarpur

Committee to send them on rotational basis; also to complete their official formalities

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 December 2019. In a first, the Indian Sikh ‘raagis’ would recite gurbani kirtan at the Gurdwara located across the border regularly on a rotational basis. The SGPC has prepared a list of ‘raagi’ jathas (group of sacred hymn singers) to be deputed at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

Under the plan, the first ‘raagi’ jatha will leave on December 16 morning through the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak and return after offering their day-long services at the Gurdwara. There has been upsurge in the flow of pilgrims who visit the Gurdwara through the corridor but several shortcomings in arrangements were also observed.

It was felt that more number of ‘raagis’ were required to continue the regular gurbani kirtan at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur.

Sikhs in Pakistan are in micro-minority and consequently there has been shortage of professional ‘raagis’ compared to the number of Sikh Gurdwaras located in the Muslim-dominated country.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh said for the day-long continuous flow of gurbani kirtan, the apex body had offered services of its ‘raagis’ at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

For the first day, Bhai Shaukeen Singh-led ‘raagi’ jatha would reach the Gurdwara on 16 December through the dedicated terminal and return the same evening. The following day, Bhai Gurmel Singh would take his jatha.

Though the duties would be designated by the SGPC, these jathas would go like the ordinary pilgrims, after furnishing their antecedents online and paying the service fee of $20 each. All this would be arranged by the SGPC well in advance.

The SGPC had earlier appealed to the Centre to take up the issue at the diplomatic level with its Pakistani counterparts so that special permission could be granted to the SGPC to send its ‘raagi’ jathas and sewadaars under a special category.

Now, the SGPC has decided to offer the service instantly through the ordinary channel. Dr Roop Singh said the plan of providing service of ‘raagis’ was offered in the backdrop of the feedback received from the devotees.

“The devotees who paid obeisance at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib observed the shortage of ‘raagis’ which posed as a hindrance and cumbersome for a handful of Pakistani raagis in continuing with the gurbani kirtan the whole day at the Gurdwara.

We decided to send our jathas on our own through the available channel. They will go like other pilgrims and return after offering their services the same evening,” he said.

Golden Temple’s [Harmandr Sahib] additional manager Rajinder Singh Rubi said at present there were more than 70 ‘raagi’ jathas associated with the shrine. “We plan that the instruments like harmonium, table and other allied items that were required in reciting gurbani kirtan should be donated at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” he said.

PM Imran Khan’s message for Narendra Modi: Justice leads to peace – Injustice breeds anarchy

Faizan Bangash & Sher Ali Khalti

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 10 November 2019. With the opening of Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan, the Sikh community in India has been provided easy and direct access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Devji.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, situated in Kartarpur (Shakargarh, Narowal), is the second holiest place for the Sikh community.

While inaugurating the Kartarpur Corridor here on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan termed it a gift for the Sikh community all-over the world, especially those living in India, from the people and Government of Pakistan. He welcomed thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India in Pakistan and urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.

Urging his Indian counterpart to give justice to Kashmiris, PM Imran said prosperity in South Asia region was only possible if Kashmir issue was resolved. “It’s just a beginning; let’s hope the relationship between India and Pakistan becomes like it should have been,” added the PM. The premier said Narendra Modi must know that justice brings peace and hatred causes chaos in a society.

He said a leader was the one who brings people together and doesn’t divide them to get their votes through spread of hatred. “When I was elected as the prime minister, I told (Narendra) Modi our biggest problem is poverty.

I told him that if we open our borders, mutual trade will eliminate poverty,” Imran Khan said while addressing the people of both countries at Kartarpur Corridor. He called upon Indian premier to give justice to the people of occupied Kashmir.

Imran said, “Eight million people in occupied Kashmir are being treated like animals. They have been brought under forcible rule of 900,000 Indians troops.” He warned Modi to end injustice as such decisions bring chaos.

He urged the Indian premier to give justice to the people of occupied Kashmir and liberate the Subcontinent. He said the problem of occupied Kashmir had gone beyond a dispute over territory and became a human rights issue.

Once justice was done to Kashmiris and their right to self-determination was given to them, situation of the entire region would improve. “Look at Germany and France, both countries fought wars and killed thousands. Today, their borders are open and trade has brought progress to the region.”

Imran Khan said that justice was only reflected in society of human beings and urged the Indian PM to rid the region of the dispute of Kashmir. The PM also recalled the role of great African statesman Nelson Mandela for playing the role of a leader for his country and uniting the people.

Appreciating the teachings of Baba Guru Nanak Devji in his speech, he said: “There is humanity in the philosophy of Guru Nanak. Humanity is what separates human beings from animals. Our God also talks about humanity and our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as a blessing for all mankind.”

The PM congratulated the government officials and ministers over swift and on-time completion of the Kartarpur Corridor project. He said, “I learnt a year ago about the value of Kartarpur Sahib. This is the Madina for the Sikhs of the world.”

He said that the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and other departments and ministries concerned worked diligently and completed the project in just 10 months. He said he did not know fully how efficient and capable his government was.

Addressing the ceremony, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said it was a historic moment for Sikhs. “Imran Khan has created history with Kartarpur Corridor; Kartarpur has been opened for Sikhs from all over the world,” he added.

The foreign minister congratulated the Sikh all over the world on opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and welcomed the Sikh pilgrims present at their holy site. He said, “The doors of Kartarpur Sahib are open for the Sikh community.”

The foreign minister said “we need to see today who was sowing the seeds of hatred in the region”. He congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan on the opening of the historic corridor.

Qureshi said, “09 November was also the day when the Berlin Wall fell, which changed the map of Europe”.

The foreign minister said, “If the Kartarpur Corridor can open, then the LoC’s temporary closure can also be ended.”

He said that the way the doors of Kartarpur have been opened, the doors of Srinagar’s Jama mosque should also be opened so that Muslims could pray the Friday prayers there.

Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also forced to thank Prime Minister Imran Khan over opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. Speaking at an event, Modi said Prime Minister Imran had understood the emotions of the Indian people. “I would like to thank the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, for understanding the sentiments of the people of India,” he said.

He said that it had become easier for Sikh pilgrims to go to Guru Nanak’s Gurdwara because of the corridor. “I would like to thank the authorities in Pakistan who helped create this corridor in a short span of time,” he said.

“Imran Khan has made history,” said Navjot Singh Sidhu at the inaugural ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor. He termed it an ointment on the wounds of people who witnessed bloodshed during the Partition.

He called Imran Khan the ‘king of hearts’. He said Alexander the Great had won hearts of people because of fear, while Imran Khan won hearts of people by promoting peace.

He thanked Imran Khan for taking a bold step. He said for the first time in the history, boundaries between the two countries have been dismantled. “No one can deny the contribution of Imran Khan,” said Sidhu and sent Munna Bhai MBBS’s hug for Modi.

He demanded opening of borders so that people could have their breakfast in India, their lunch in Lahore and then return to their homes in India after completing their trade and business tasks.

Former Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Indian Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh, Bollywood actor and Indian parliamentarian Sunny Deol, Panjab CM Sardar Usman Buzdar, Panjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and other noted figures were also present on the occasion.

Sikh Yatris from different cities of India including Amristsar, Ambala, Patiala, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Chandigarh, Delhi as well as from different nations like Canada, USA, France, England, Sweden were present at the inauguration ceremony.

While expressing their views, Yatris unanimously hailed the project and expressed the hope that further relaxation would also be given to them so that they could visit Panjab as per their will.

Besides, the Sikh community members from Pakistan including former MPA Ramesh Singh Arora, sitting MPA Mahender Pal Singh and others also lauded the role of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in successful completion of the project.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri also addressed the ceremony.

He said the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor was the greatest message of peace after the Partition in 1947. He said the prime minister had fulfilled his commitment to provide access to Sikh community to visit their holy shrines.

He said while being in Baghdad, Baba Guru Nanak used to visit the shrine of Imam Musa Kazim daily which gave a message of harmony as he had devoted his life for peace and harmony.

The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh said by opening of Kartarpur Corridor, the 70-year old demand of Sikhs had been fulfilled for what they were thankful to both the governments.

Dawn – Comment: Guru Nanak travelled widely but always returned to Kartarpur

Abdul Majid Sheikh

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 07 November 2019. As the world celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, the followers of Baba Guru Nanak flock to Kartarpur. Just how this place came into being and how many times did Guru Nanak return to Kartar­pur is what will be recounted here.

To set things in perspective two sources called janam sakhis as selected by Bhai Gurdas and as recorded in the ‘Miharban’ and the ‘Puratan’ traditions will be tapped into.

According to these sources, a rich official referred to as karori was assigned by the Mughal court to “apprehend” the Guru. As the karori set off to undertake his assignment he was struck by blindness and other ailments.

Just how the Guru assisted him is disputed since the Puratan does not mention it whereas the Miharban calls it a “miracle”.

Puratan janam sakhi details his journeys

Anyhow, the karori set up a small village on his land and named it Kartarpur. To secure the land either it was donated to the Guru or was purchased by one of his rich followers. The fact remains, though, that Kartarpur was founded for, or because of Guru Nanak.

Miharban janam sakhi mentions at the conclusion of Guru Nanak’s “five journeys” that Kartarpur had become his home during his travels and it was established during his journeys.

From Kartarpur Guru Nanak did return to his birth village Talwandi (now called Nankana Sahib) several times to meet his family. But it was Kartarpur he returned to from all his five travels to the world beyond Punjab.

Here I must describe his travels as narrated in different traditions. What’s interesting is that no matter which tradition one reads, they all end at Kartarpur.

In Bhai Gurdas’s Var I, he visited all major pilgrimage centres, including Mount Sumeru in the Pamirs, north-west of Kashmir, somewhere near the Kalash Valley. It holds a special place in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism as these faiths consider it to be “the centre of the earth”.

From Makkah to Lanka

Next, he went to Makkah and Madina with his Muslim devotee Bhai Mardana. Here a legend is often narrated, though not mentioned in any janam sakhi, that Guru Nanak was sleeping with his feet towards the Kaaba when he was admonished by a mullah, to which he said: “Oh mullah, drag my feet towards the direction where Allah does not exist.”

He headed to Baghdad next where his Muslim devotee passed away. There Guru Nanak buried him. Mardana’s grave can still be spotted near the old Baghdad railway station with a plaque on which is inscribed, “Here lies buried Mardana, a friend of the Guru named Nanak, who buried him here.”

On Mardana’s death, Guru Nanak returned to Kartarpur from where he also visited Patna and Multan.

Puratan janam sakhi details the directions in which Guru Nanak travelled. We see him walking towards Lahore, then to Panipat, Delhi, Benares, Nanakmata, Kauru and returning to Talwandi.

From here he travelled to Pakpattan, Goindval and Saidpur, now called Eminabad. Here, he was taken as a slave by the Mughal emperor Babar. After listening to his words it is claimed he was freed with great respect.

He then came to Lahore staying for some time near Miani Sahib Graveyard and then returned to Kartarpur.

The second journey was with Mardana and Saido to Lanka. The third journey was with two other companions Hassu Lohar and Sihan Chhimba to Kashmir.

The fourth journey, mentioned earlier, was to Makkah and the fifth journey was to Peshawar and the Gorakh Nath temples. In this trip, he met Lahina of Khadur, who was to be named Angad and went on to become the second Sikh guru.

Guru Nanak finally returned to Kartarpur and stayed there until his death in AD 1538.

As he neared his end his Muslim, Hindu and Sikh followers wished to perform his last rites according to their faith. He asked them to bring fresh flowers.

As they disputed over his last rites, a chador was placed over him and the flowers. Next morning the flowers were still fresh but his body had disappeared.

At Kartarpur, one can see a grave where the flowers were interred and a samadhi where the flowers were cremated indicating that the spirit of Kartarpur is beyond any religion but of a belief that all human beings, irrespective of gender, faith, race or class, are equal.

That is why Kartarpur Corridor’s opening represents a window for peace between neighbours who for time immemorial have been one.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said right after he took office that if India takes one step, he would follow with two.

Kartarpur represents that very spirit akin to the fresh flowers of Guru Nanak.

Abdul Majid Sheikh recently authored The Probable Origins of Lahore and other Narrations

BBC News – Kartarpur corridor: A road to peace between India and Pakistan?

Original article published on 29 November, still useful to get an idea of how we got where we are with the Kartarpur Corridor
Man in Blue

Secunder Kermani

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 29 November 2018. Seventy-five-year-old Gurcharan Singh was just a child during Partition in 1947, when his family left their home in the city of Sialkot, in modern day Pakistan, to head to India.

Now on a visit to the Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in the Pakistani village of Kartarpur, he was delighted that the two countries had agreed to construct a corridor allowing visa-free access to pilgrims from India.

“Since Pakistan was created our community has wanted this,” he told the BBC. “Two families,­ Indians and Pakistanis, are meeting again.”

The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is one of the holiest places in Sikhism. It’s believed to have been built on the site where Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion, died in the 16th Century.

The temple (Gurdwara) is located around 4 km (2.5 miles) from the border with India, but tensions between the neighbouring countries have meant Sikh pilgrims have often found it difficult to visit. Some have had to be content with viewing it through binoculars from India.

The “Kartarpur corridor” will however lead from the Indian border straight to the gurdwara, with the sides fenced off.

The move has been welcomed enthusiastically by the Sikh community, and also represents a rare instance of co-operation between the two countries, which have fought three wars against each other since independence.

Relations between India and Pakistan remain strained, but at a ceremony formally starting construction work on the pathway on the Pakistani side of the border, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “We will only progress when we free ourselves from the chains of the past”.

A number of Indian politicians were amongst those attending.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the BBC the Kartarpur project would help improve the countries’ relationship.

“The more people meet, the more they realise how much in common we have, and what we are missing by not resolving our outstanding issues.” he said.

Formal talks between India and Pakistan have stalled since an attack in 2016, which Indian authorities blamed on Pakistani-backed militants. Pakistan denied the claim.

Prime Minister Khan directly addressed the commonly held view that Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence services don’t want peace with India, whilst civilian governments generally do.

“My political party, the rest of our political parties, our army, all our institutions are all on one page. We want to move forward,” he said.

However India’s Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, said the initiative did not mean “bilateral dialogue will start”, adding: “Terror and talks cannot go together. The moment Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, bilateral dialogue can start.”

Pakistan denies supporting militants targeting Indian forces in Kashmir and in return accuses India of supporting separatist movements within Pakistan.

Following his election victory this summer, Mr Khan announced that for every “one step” India takes on improving relations, Pakistan would take “two”.

However, a planned meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September was cancelled by Indian officials, amidst anger over stamps issued by Pakistan commemorating what they termed Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

Analyst Michael Kugelman, from the Wilson Centre, told the BBC the Kartarpur border crossing was a “significant” development but it would be wrong to suggest that the next step was a peace process.

“It’s a confidence building measure but at the end of the day India and Pakistan are still at loggerheads”.

Many observers have also predicted that substantial progress on dialogue between the neighbours would have to wait at least until after elections are held in India, next April or May.

Mr Kugelman said: “It’s politically risky for the Indian government, particularly for a Hindu nationalist government like the current one, to extend an olive branch to Pakistan during the height of campaign season.”

The Kartarpur corridor is due to become operational next year, in time for celebrations of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak.

Dawn – Kartarpur corridor opening for India’s Sikhs in November

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 17 September 2019. A corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims travelling to a shrine in Pakistan will open in early November, in time for one of the religion’s most sacred festivals.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur, Pakistan, would be inaugurated on Nov 9, just ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak on 12 Nov 2019, Pakistani project director Atif Majeed said on Monday.

The project is a rare recent example of cooperation between the two nuclear powers, who came close to war in February following a militant attack on police in India-held Kashmir. India revoked the special status of its portion of the disputed territory last month, inflaming relations once again.

The Sikh minority community in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just over the border in Pakistan. The temple marks the site where the guru died.

To get there, travellers currently must first secure hard-to-get visas, travel to Lahore or another major Pakistani city and then drive to the village, which is just four kilometres from the Indian border.

Instead of visas, the Sikh pilgrims will be given special permits to access the shrine.

Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, an 800-metre bridge over the River Ravi and an immigration office.

Up to 5,000 Indians will be allowed access daily, with plans to eventually double the capacity, Majeed said.