LAHORE: A delegation of Sikh pilgrims from India arrived at Wagha railway station on Tuesday to attend the Khalsa Janam Din and Besakhi festival ceremonies at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal.
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Siddiqul Farooq, Shrines Additional Secretary Khalid Ali and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) acting pardhan Sardar Tara Singh received the delegation.
Speaking to the media, the ETPB chairman said that the arrival of the pilgrims proved that Pakistan was a country of peace loving people. He said Pakistani citizens were free to spend their lives in accordance with the teachings of their religions. He stressed that the minority communities were completely safe in the country. “We consider Sikhs living all over the world as members of one nation. We welcome all followers of Baba Guru Nanak to attend their religious rituals in Pakistan regardless of whether they live in India, the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada,” he said.
Farooq said best possible arrangements had been made for accommodation and medical and travel needs of the pilgrims. He said foolproof security arrangements had also been ensured.
Sardar Preetam Singh, leader of the delegation, thanked the Pakistani government for facilitating the pilgrims. He condemned the terrorist attacks in the country and expressed sympathy with the families of the deceased.
Later, the pilgrims left for the Punja Sahib. They will stay at the gurdwara for three days (April 12-14). The main ceremony will be held there on April 14. The delegation will visit Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib, on April 15 and Sucha Sauda, Farooqabad, on April 16. On April 17, they will return to Lahore and visit Gurdawara Rohri Sahib (Aimenabad) and Gurdwara Dera Sahib. The last stop on their itinerary will be Kartarpur, Narowal. On April 19, the ETPB will arrange an event for the delegation at Aiwan-i-Iqbal where Governor Rafiq Rajwana will be the chief guest. The delegation will leave for India on April 21.
Sikh community in the country had started Besakhi celebrations with Akhand Path (recitation of Guru Garanth Sahib) on Monday. The recitation would continue till 8am on April 14 (today).
Dilawar Singh, a Sikh resident in Lahore, told The Express Tribune that Nagar Keertan (singing hymns in processions) would be the main Besakhi ritual at Hasan Abdal. He said the ritual would continue for three hours.
Other major festive occasions for Sikhs in the year include birth anniversaries of Guru Nanak in November and of Guru Ram Das in June and death anniversaries of Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in June.
Speaking to The Tribune, ETPB Chairman Siddiqul Farooq said that 2,500 visas had been issued to Sikh pilgrims to attend the Besakhi celebrations. He said so far 2,300 pilgrims had arrived in the country.
Besakhi marks the beginning of the harvest season in the province, of the new year according to the Hindi (Bikram Sambat) calendar and the birth of the Khalsa in the year 1699.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.
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