Colombo, November 11 (newsin.asia): Pakistan, which is an avowedly Islamic country, is to set up a university to study and do research on Sikhism and the life and teachings of its founder Baba Guru Nanak.
To be named the Baba Guru Nanak University, it will be located at Nankana Sahib in the Pakistani province of Punjab. The foundation for the building was laid by the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on October 28, said Intisar Ahmad Sulehry, Press Attache at the Pakistan High Commission in Sri Lanka.
“This will be the first university of its kind in which focus will be laid on Punjabi language and the Khalsa,” Sulehry said in an article in Ceylon Today on Monday.
“The university would sponsor research and academic studies on the life of Baba Guru Nanak. The university will also work to promote religious tourism, besides serving as a community center for the Sikh community in Pakistan and abroad,” he added.
“Pakistan is a land of peace and harmony where followers of all religions enjoy full freedom to profess and practice their creed. The Sikh community lives in peace and amity in all parts of Pakistan. Their Gurdwaras are to be found in all parts of the country, and the Government of Pakistan has taken the responsibility for their upkeep and maintenance,” Sulehry pointed out.
Significance Of Kartarpur Gurdwara
The diplomat emphasized the speciality of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib located at Kartarpur, Tehsil Shakargarh, Norowal district near the Indian border district of Gurdaspur. The Kartarput Gurdwara is closely associated with Baba Guru Nanak.
“The Gurdwara is one of the most sacred shrines of the Sikhs. In fact, Sikhism emanated from this religious center where Guru Nanak DevJi spent the last eighteen years of his life and groomed his followers,” Sulehry explained.
“Among his spiritually guided disciples was Guru Angad Dev who spread his message far and wide and shaped a separate identity for the adherents of the new religion. Guru Nanak DevJi was revered by the Muslims and the Sikhs alike,” he emphasized.
Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 28, 2018. Phase I of the corridor was completed and opened on November 9. Pakistan built the corridor from the Indian border to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
“The initiative for opening the corridor was taken by the Government of Pakistan to meet a long-standing request of the Sikh community across the world, particularly from India.
The ceremony was attended by Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer and the then Punjab Minister for Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs and Museums and Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Central Minister for Food Processing from India. A large number of the people from the Sikh community and journalists from both countries attended the historical event besides Ambassadors/Diplomats of various countries in Pakistan and people from different walks of life.
Details Of The Project
Sulehry said that 1500 acres were set aside for the Kartarpur Gurdwara project. The first phase of the project included building of an immigration terminal at the border and a bridge on the River Ravi at the crossing point, expansion and renovation of the Gurdwara, and reconstruction of necessary facilities for the Yatrees (pilgrims). These have been completed.
“The religious beliefs of the Sikh community and the customary Sikh designs have been taken into account while designing the building of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib,” Sulehry said.
In the second phase, hotels and hostels will be built for visitors, besides temporary residential facilities to accommodate ten thousand pilgrims. These will be completed well before the coming events.
The plan also includes construction of a 500 m road up to the border terminal to facilitate transportation of the pilgrims. The immigration terminal at the border will have spacious parking facilities, besides medical and other utilities.
After getting the visit permit, the pilgrims will be transported by buses to the parking lot next to the Gurdwara. 6.8 km of road and 800 m long bridge over the Ravi River have been constructed. Security posts will be established along the route to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.
After reaching the parking area for permit holders, they will be allowed to enter the Gurdwara after bio-metric registration. Once within the holy precinct, they will be free to perform their religious rites and rituals during the given time.
“Reconstruction of the aging structures near the shrine, on modern lines, is an important component of the project along with the planned renovation and expansion of the Gurdwara precincts. The new buildings are designed to cater to all the needs of the visitors. They include a public kitchen, places of worship and a library,” Sulehry said.
Signing of MoU
On October 24, this year, after protracted negotiations, Pakistan and India signed an agreement to open the Kartarpur corridor for Indian pilgrims. The agreement will facilitate visa-free travel of 5,000 pilgrims daily, in groups or individually, on foot or by bus, to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, from dawn to dusk throughout the year.
The number of Sikh pilgrims would be increased on special occasions, subject to the available capacity. The pilgrims will travel on valid documents.
Commemorative Coin, Stamp and Song
To mark the opening of Kartarpur Corridor, the Government of Pakistan released a commemorative postage stamp and a coin for pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. Moreover, Pakistan also launched an official song on the occasion to welcome the Sikh pilgrims.
Prime Minister Imran Khan opened the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, to mark the 550 th.birth anniversary of Bab Guru Nanak.
“The landmark project initiated as a peace-building measure for the region and to promote inter-faith harmony, is entirely funded and executed by Pakistan as a gift for the Sikh community,” Sulehry said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, as a gesture of goodwill, waived off the need to show the passport and pay a fee on the opening day of the corridor which marked Baba Guru Nanak’s 555 th. birthday.
(The featured image at the top shows the Kartarpur gurdwara lit up in the evening. Photos by Govt.of Pakistan)