LAHORE: There may be increasing tensions between India and Pakistan over the death sentence of Indian spy Kalbushan Yadav and the abduction of a retired Pakistan army official, but authorities of the latter country continued the tradition of extending a warm welcome to Sikh pilgrims.
Over 1,500 Yatris crossed the Wagha Border on Wednesday to celebrate Khalsa Janam Din and the Besakhi festival.
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Siddiqul Farooq welcomed Sikh pilgrims at the Wagah Railway Station. He told the media that around 1,500 Sikh pilgrims were visiting Pakistan to celebrate 319th Khalsa Janam Din and Besakhi Festival.
During their 10-day stay in Pakistan, they would visit their religious sites in Nankana Sahib and Hassanabdal. They would also attend an event in Lahore on April 20 before their return to India through Wagha Border.
Considering the present law and order situation, Farooq said the government had made special security arrangements for Sikh pilgrims by deploying Rangers and police officials.
Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale has also reached Lahore to help the Sikh pilgrims.
Lahore food festival to start on 10th
As per the programme, the visitors would leave for Gurdawara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal right after landing in Lahore. They will stay there for three days from (April 12 to 14). The main ceremony of Besakhi Festival will held there on April 14 during which they will perform their rituals.
Subsequently, they will visit Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahab on April 15 and Sucha Sauda, Farooqabad, on the next day. Sikh pilgrims will also reach Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on April 18 and Kartarpur in Narowal on April 19.
They will return to Lahore on the same day and to attend a seminar titled Besakhi at Awan-e-Iqbal on April 20. Punjab Governor Malik Rafiq Rajwana will be chief guest on the occasion. After completing their annual rituals, the pilgrims will leave for India through the Wagha Border on April 21.
Sikhs from Peshawar leave for Hassanabdal
The Sikh community from Peshawar also left for Hassanabdal on Wednesday to take part in the Besakhi festival.
“Around 319 years have passed as our 10th Guru Gobind Singh found the Khalsa Panth in 1699 and declared the five K’s including Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kachera and Kirpan as the permanent testament of our religion. Besides, this festival is also celebrated in April to commemorate the harvesting season of wheat,” said Charajeet Singh, a Sikh elder of Peshawar, who was leaving for Hassanabdal.
Around 15,000 Sikh pilgrims congregate in Panja Sahib, Hassanabdal, every year because of the presence of rock believed to have the hand print of Guru Nanak imprinted on it. During the festival, pilgrims recite their central religious scripture of Sikhism, the “Guru Granth sahib” for almost 48 hours to celebrate the founding of the khalsa order. The Sikh community located anywhere in the world celebrates Besakhi by participating in special prayer meets and processions.
“It’s a three-day celebration. We recite our holy book and enjoy the free food offered to us. Anyone can eat any time if he or she feels hungry,” Charajeet added.
Additional reporting by Saba Rani in Peshawar
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