WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28: Sikhs worldwide rejoice today, as one of the most revered sites in their faith just received “holy city” status by Pakistan. Today is Guru Nanak Gurpurab, the birthday of the first Sikh Guru, and his place of birth has been honored with a new status. Each year, thousands of Sikhs, Nanakpanthi Hindus and other followers of Guru Nanak’s philosophies make the pilgrimage to Nankana Sahib.
In the days prior the festival, devotees flood the streets singing hymns, marching in processions and displaying martial arts and mock battles—a trademark of the faith. Forty-eight hours prior, Sikh houses of worship host nonstop readings of the Guru Granth Sahib, or Sikh holy book. (Wikipedia has details.) Finally, in the wee morning hours of the birthday (Gurpurab), hymns and readings precede a massive, free, communal lunch. This year, Times of India reported expecting more than 250,000 pilgrims at the communal lunch at Nankana Sahib. The lunches are always staffed by volunteers and open to both rich and poor in a spirit of service (seva) and devotion (bhakti).
The first of 10 Sikh Gurus, Nanak Dev Ji was born in 1469 in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi, in present-day Pakistan. Each year, Guru Nanak’s birthday falls on the full moon of the month of Kartik; this translates, roughly, to the month of November in the Gregorian Calendar. Though each Guru birthday is a cause for celebration, Nanak Dev holds a particularly high status in the faith.
A ‘GOODWILL GESTURE’ FROM PAKISTAN
At a recent dinner, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced the new status of Nankana Sahib as a holy city—a “goodwill gesture,” he called it, toward Sikhs in India and in other communities worldwide. (Read more in India Today.) Furthermore, persons with Indian passports visiting Pakistan can now travel to Nankana Sahib regardless of what type of visa they hold, thus preventing major headaches for many travelers. Think this isn’t a big deal? Think again! These gestures display significant strides toward peace between the two countries, as Pakistan and India have gone to war three times since the split in 1947. (News Track India has the story.)
Furthermore, strict security will be in place for all Sikh pilgrims during this year’s pilgrimage, as newspapers have reported a Taliban kidnapping threat issued to Indian pilgrims.