Asian studiesPolitical studies

Open Doors, Open Hearts: Pakistan Facilitates Sikh Pilgrimage for Baisakhi

Baisakhi, alternatively referred to as Vaisakhi, holds significant cultural and religious importance, particularly in the regions of Pakistani and Indian Punjab, as well as in other parts of both nations. The festival is observed annually on April 13th or 14th and marks the commencement of the new solar year alongside the celebration of the harvest season.

This day holds particular reverence for commemorating the establishment of Sikhism as a collective faith in the year 1699. At its core, Baisakhi conveys a message of peace and love, embodying values central to the festival’s observance.

It is notable that this year, Pakistan has granted visas to 2,843 Indian Sikh pilgrims, enabling them to partake in the Baisakhi Mela festivities and the celebration of Khalsa Janam Din.

The government of Punjab in Pakistan has officially recognized the celebration of Baisakhi, acknowledging its significance within the region. The festival serves as the celebration of the Punjabi New Year and is a time when Punjabi people come together around the first crop of the Rabi season. Farmers take this opportunity to offer prayers for a bountiful harvest and continued prosperity. Additionally, this day holds considerable importance in Sikh tradition as it marks the founding of the Khalsa Panth by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Professor Kalyan Singh, a distinguished educationist and Sikh activist in Pakistan conveyed to APP that Sikhs honor Vaisakhi by visiting key religious sites known as Gurudwaras. These sacred places are often intricately decorated for the occasion. He further elaborated that many individuals participate in parades and special processions through the streets, referred to as Nagar Kirtans. Responding to an inquiry, he clarified that the term ‘Nagar’ signifies a town, while ‘Kirtan’ denotes the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhism

In a statement made on Sunday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his greetings to the Sikh community on the occasion of Baisakhi, noting that Pakistan is a vibrant blend of diverse faiths and cultures. He further emphasized that the celebration of Baisakhi enriches this cultural tapestry, adding to the nation’s overall beauty.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif affirmed that the government of Pakistan, in conjunction with its provincial authorities, would extend comprehensive support and facilities to Sikh pilgrims arriving from around the world to participate in Baisakhi celebrations. The principal event of the Sikh religious festival, known as Baisakhi Mela, took place at Gurudwara Panja Sahib in Hasanabdal on Sunday, attracting thousands of Sikh pilgrims from various countries, including India.

Moreover, Baisakhi is intertwined with various traditions that celebrate the spiritual journey of Baba Guru Nanak, who is said to have experienced a profound spiritual awakening that provided him with a vision of the true nature of God. As a part of Sikh rituals, Baisakhi’s cultural festivities integrate various spiritual meditations inspired by Baba Guru Nanak’s teachings, emphasizing the pursuit of spiritual growth through mindful contemplation and virtuous living, as these reflect the presence of the divine within each person.

Following the celebrations in Hasanabdal, on April 15, the pilgrims will travel to Nankana Sahib, where they will pay tribute at Sacha Sauda (Farooqabad) during their visit. Their journey will continue with a visit to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (Narowal) on April 18, allowing them to honor and reflect upon significant sites in Sikh history.

The pilgrimage will proceed with a visit to Gurdwara Rodi/Rori Sahib in Eminabad on April 20, where the Sikh pilgrims will dedicate a day to spiritual reflection and reverence at the sacred site.

The culmination of the spiritual journey will occur on April 22, when the Sikh pilgrims bid farewell to Pakistan, marking the completion of their 10-day pilgrimage. Sardar Ramesh Singh, the head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Punjab’s provincial minister for minority affairs, emphasized that Baisakhi and Khalsa Janam Day are two distinct yet significant festivals. He highlighted the historical importance of Baisakhi, noting that it commemorates the day in 1699 when the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, established the Sikh Panth at Anandpur Sahib. Pakistan houses numerous sites of significance to Sikhism, and each year, countless adherents visit the country to perform their religious observances.

At each of the sacred sites, including Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Rodi Sahib in Eminabad, Kartarpur, and Gurudwara Panja Sahib in Hasanabdal, the atmosphere is filled with fervent religious zeal as processions proceed through the streets. The local Muslim community demonstrates mutual respect by assisting Sikh pilgrims with the preparation and decoration of the paths, adorned with banners in homage to the Sikh faith. This cooperation not only enriches the spiritual experience for the pilgrims but also fosters interfaith harmony and understanding.

Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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