550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak: Festive fervour at peak, President in Sultanpur Lodhi today

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
Hundreds of devotees at Sultanpur Lodhi on the eve of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, on Monday. In the past few days, lakhs of people from across the country have offered prayers at Gurdwara Ber Sahib. Gurmeet Singh

Festive fervour peaked in the holy city of Sultanpur Lodhi on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak as lakhs of devotees descended on the town. Among those who thronged, were CMs of two states — Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur — along with Indian origin MPs from UK and New Zealand. President Ram Nath Kovind will pay his obeisance at Gurdwara Ber Sahib on Tuesday, the day of the main celebrations, when the volume of visitors is likely to go up substantially.

A senior official from the CMO said that the President is scheduled to reach Sultanpur around 10.30 am and after visiting Gurdwara Ber Sahib, he will attend the state government’s function and later go to the SGPC pandal.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh along with other dignitaries will Tuesday preside over a function organised by the state government at Sri Guru Nanak Darbar (the main pandal), where a Sehaj Path is underway. The bhog of Sehaj Path will be attended by the CM and his entire Cabinet.

Apart from the President, Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore are among the dignitaries who will be here Tuesday, Shiromani Akali Dal senior vice president Daljit Singh Cheema said.

Read | Women raagis hold the stage in Sultanpur Lodhi

10k security personnel on duty

Around 10,000 security personnel have been deployed at every nook and corner of the town and its surroundings to manage the devotees. To ensure effective response by its personnel, Punjab Police, which has set up an Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) in the town, is monitoring their movement through a specially designed App. The App ensures the rank-wise GPS location wise details of each and every police employee assigned duty inside the city. The security towers around the gurudwara and several other locations are being monitored round the clock with help of CCTV cameras and drones.

Several roads closed for traffic

Monday saw devotees take over the entire town with several roads being closed for traffic.

Long queues were seen leading to Gurdwara Ber Sahib from morning till evening. Around half a dozen children went missing, but were later reunited with their parents with the help of the police. Several nagar kirtans that arrived in the city Monday added to the rush. Even e-rikshaws ferrying devotees to the gurdwara were unable to ply with ease on jam-packed roads. The tent cities, with the capacity of accommodating 35,000 devotees, were also packed to capacity.

Also on Tuesday, 5000 devotees on reached Sultanpur Lodhi from Zira on foot covering 45 km in six hours. The MLA from Zira Assembly constituency, Kulbir Singh Zira, said that the it was a matter of pride for the Zira constituency to take part in the sewa at Sultanpur Lodhi during 550th Parkash Purab.

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Spotlight on SGPC stage

Two BJP CMs visited the SGPC stage in Sultanpur Lodhi on Tuesday. Haryana CM Khattar, while giving the credit of Kartarpur Corridor to PM Modi, said: “These are very auspicious days as 500-year-old dispute over Ram Mandir got solved peacefully without any controversy. It could not have happened without the blessings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji who had always given the message of universal brotherhood.” He added that the opening of Kartarpur Corridor and the Ayodhya verdict will be remembered for ages to come. Speaking in Punjabi, Khattar said that this was the place where Guru had given the message of ‘Na Koi Hindu na koi Muslman’ and Ik Onkar.

Jairam Thakur, while speaking from SGPC stage, said the role of the centre government was praiseworthy for opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. He said that in a recent meeting with PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah there were instructions to us to celebrate Guru Nanak’s birthday with great religious fervour in our respective states.

Lakhs offer prayers

In the past few days, lakhs of devotees from across the country have offered prayers at Gurdwara Ber Sahib. “I am blessed to have paid obeisance at the Gurdwara Ber Sahib on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. It is a one-time opportunity which I did not want to miss,” said 70 year-old Jarnail Singh, who came from Gurdaspur.

Read | Punjab: Ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, paint job in holy town gets political colour

A Punjabi-origin UK MP, Neena Gill, after paying obeisance at the gurdwara said that USD 20 fee was quite a high for ‘Kartarpur’ Darshan. “I went with the first Jatha to Kartarpur and now I have come here where the great celebrations are going on and I find that it is well organised despite the sea of the pilgrims coming to Sultanpur Lodhi,” she said, adding that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

News Zealand MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakhashi said that it was a great honour to be here, adding that everyone should spread the Guru’s message particularly about gender equality and ending disparity among the rich and the poor. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal appealed to the people to celebrate the anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev by eliminating social evils like corruption, atrocities and poverty

Festivities across state

Gurdwaras in Jalandhar, Kapurthala and other districts of Punjab were decorated beautifully where hundreds of devotees prayed on the eve of Parkash Purab. The entire state was soaked in religious fervour and various ‘nagar kirtans’ (religious processions) led by ‘Panj Pyaras’ (five beloved ones) were taken out. Apart from 70 big langars in over 1000 acres inside the Sultanpur Lodhi, hundreds of langars were underway in the 100 km radius of the town.