Pakistan's Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur and its importance for the Sikhs: All you need to know

FP Staff

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, also called Kartarpur Sahib, is a gurdwara in Kartarpur, Narowal District, Pakistan. The shrine at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur in Pakistan, roughly 3 kilometres from the International Border, is among the holiest of holy sites for followers of Sikhism is believed to be the final resting place for Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh religion.

The gurdwara is also notable for its location near the border between Pakistan and India.

Recently it has been in news due to it's connectivity to the Kartarpur Corridor, which is a proposed border corridor between the neighbouring nations of India and Pakistan, to set up the border-crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, to Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district.

Once opened, it would allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev died in 1539.

Sources said that the work on the corridor is expected to be completed by 31 October 2019, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Why is the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara important?

The gurdwara was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, settled after his missionary work. Gurdwara Darbar Sahib was the place where Guru Nanak is believed to have assembled the Sikh community and lived there for 18 years until his death in 1539. Guru Nanak is one the first of the 10 Sikh Gurus, who all collectively wrote the holy book Guru Granth Sahib, which is the principal scripture of Sikhism.

The original structure of the Kartarpur Sahib, the resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, was once destroyed by floods. It was reconstructed by Bhupinder Singh, the then Maharaja of Patiala and grandfather of current Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. It was renovated again during General Pervez Musharraf's regime.

The shrine of Guru Nank Dev which is located in the gurdwara is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the tall grass that would otherwise obstruct the view of the shrine. Buses full of pilgrims, accompanied by Pakistan Rangers and Army convoys, were allowed to approach the religious site of Kartarpur. The land that was closed to Indians in 1947 and could be seen only with the help of a telescope from the Indian border post.

Issue of pilgrims

The gurdwara was opened to pilgrims after repairs and restoration in 1999, and Sikh jathas have been visiting the shrine regularly ever since.

This was one of the outcomes of the historic bus trip to Lahore by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in February 1999, and there are no restrictions on visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib once a pilgrim has entered Pakistan on a valid visa.

During the tenure of Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the opening of Kartarpur border crossing was first discussed in 1998. After further discussions during the 1999 bus diplomacy, Pakistan renovated the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara and made it available for viewing from the Indian border.

Sikh jathas (a Jatha is an armed body of Sikhs) from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year €" for Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev. These Indian pilgrims are given access to all the gurdwaras in Pakistan.

'Katarpur Corridor'

The corridor, once built, will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the shrine in Kartarpur. A bridge will need to be constructed over the Ravi and there shall be no need for passports or visas.

India is to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district to the International Border, as informed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Singh also informed that a high-level committee chaired by him will regularly review, monitor and oversee the implementation of activities to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Recently, on 14 July, India conveyed its concerns to Pakistan on possible flooding of areas adjoining the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara due to the construction of a causeway by the neighbouring nation and urged it to make a bridge like India is doing.

Pending the construction of the bridge over the old Ravi creek by Pakistan on their territory, India offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The talks with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was held at the Pakistan side in Wagah for which an Indian delegation crossed over to the other side of the international border.

The Indian delegation was led by Home Ministry Joint Secretary SCL Das and comprised representatives from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, the Punjab government and the National Highway Authorities of India.

Demand for Kartarpur corridor

The demand for a Kartarpur corridor is nearly 20 years old. It was first officially raised by Vajpayee with Sharif in February 1999.

After talks between the two prime ministers, the Lahore Declaration was signed, under which, among other things, it was agreed upon that the two sides were fully committed to undertaking measures to reduce risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons. It was here where the topic of building the Katarpur Corridor also began.

Subsequently, it was a part of India's agenda whenever delegates met during bilateral meetings with Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also put it on the table in a speech in Amritsar in 2004. Also over the past two decades, India also asked for Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib to be included in the 1974 protocol on religious shrines.

With inputs from agencies


Also See: Kartarpur corridor talks: Connectivity, safety of pilgrims to be discussed as India and Pakistan resume dialogue to finalise project modalities

Kartarpur corridor: Pakistan agrees to visa-free travel for 5,000 pilgrims per day, assures no anti-India acts to be allowed

Pakistan removes pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from Kartarpur corridor panel ahead of meet with India

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