The Kartarpur Sahib Corridor-Reimagining the Relationship with Sikh Heritage and the Religious Diplomacy of Inclusive Pakistan.

 
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Byline: Muhammad Saleem Mazhar and Naheed S. Goraya

Introduction

Kartarpur, meaning 'place of God', is located in Tehsil Shakargarh, Narowal District in the Punjab. The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, an imposing white structure, stands in the middle of lush green fields 2.5 km off Shakargarh Road in Kartarpur. The first Guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, founded Kartarpur in 1504 AD and his Sikh commune comprised people of all religions and castes. He spent the last 18 years of his life there, one of the holiest sites under Sikhism, (Kartarpur Fact-Finding, 2019 April 18).The Kartapur Gurudwara covers 42 acres (21, 650 Sq.m Building), making it one of the largest in the world.

It was Sharif, the former Pakistani Prime Ministerand former Indian Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee (1996, 1998-99 and 1999-2004) who anticipated the Kartarpur corridor in early 1999, as part of their Delhi-Lahore Bus diplomacy.The renovation of GurdwaraDarbar Sahibat Kartarpur was started in early 2000 by the assistance of Canadian and American Sikhs (Khalid, 2019). On November 28, 2018, the construction project of the corridor was inaugurated by Imran khan, Pakistani Prime Minister while likewise the foundation stone for the Indianpart of the Corridor was laid by M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President of India. The corridor connects 2 significant Sikh Shrines, DeraBaba Nanak Sahib, Gurdaspur in India and Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, giving access for Sikh Pilgrims from Indian Punjab to Pakistani Punjab on November 26, 2018 (Sevea, 2018).

According to officials, "the corridor can accommodate up to 5,000 pilgrims per day and up to 10,000 can visit the Gurudwara daily" (https://minorityrights.org/2019/11/09/opening-the-kartarpur-corridor-is-a-symbol-of-peace-and-respect-between-religions-and-deserves-applause-says-mrg/).This "corridor of peace" is the latest effort to mend cultural liaison between the two countries.The corridor carries significance for 2 reasons, particularly:

  1. Visa requirement has been waived off, just a valid ID needed

  2. No registration is required 10 days in advance.

The project has been called a breakthrough of peace between India and Pakistan, two South Asian neighbors with a hostile history (https://www.dw.com/en/why-kartarpur-corridor-is-unlikely-to-defuse-india-pakistan-tensions/a-51166467)

Route

Before this Corridor opened, in order to reach Dera Baba NanaK from the Indian capital of New Delhi, one had to fly to Amritsar in the North-Western Indian state of Punjab, 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the Pakistani border. From there, through travelling by car to the city of Dera Baba Nanak, where the corridor begins, lies the place, 1 kilometer away from the border (https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/india-pakistan-kartarpur-corridor-opens-intl-hnk/index.html). The distance to Kartarpur was otherwise 112 miles (180 Km) from Nankana Sahib (Khalid, 2019).

The Birthplace of Sikhism

Sikh means, seekers of truth. Sikh religion doers not have any concet of Prohets, otar and they call their Guru an illuminated soul (Rao, 2019). Sikhism is the 5th biggest religion of the world. Its followers celebrate the birth of their Guru in the Punjabi Desi month of Katak on the day of Full moon (PooranMashi).The Sikh religion was founded in Punjab, "the land of five rivers", now separated between India and Pakistan, with most of the world's 27 million Sikhs living in India.The Sikh Community has a high degree of ethnic homogeneity and a string sense of loyalty to Punjab. It is entirely permissible to claim that Sikh history originates with Guru Nanak, lasting for two centuries through a line of nine successors (McLeaod, 1999: 4).

The first Gurdwara in the world was built in 1520s in Kartarpur. (https://www.brecorder.com/2018/12/05/456784/kartarpur-religious-tourism-potential/). The changing course of the Ravi River swept up the original village, and the shrine itself had gone through several rebuilds and renovations over the centuries."After Nanak died, there was a dispute between the local Hindus and Muslims. Hindus, who claimed Nanak as their Guru, wanted to cremate his body, while Muslims, who saw him as their peer, wanted to bury him. It is believed that Guru Nanak's body was turned into flowers, which were then divided between the two communities"(https://www.koamnewsnow.com/lifestyle/indiapakistan-peace-corridor-opens-sikh-temple-to-tourists/1140154185).After his death, on the demand of his followers, both grave and Samadhi2 were constructed (Khalid, 2019).

Life and Teachings of Baba Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak was born in 14693 and grew up in his father's4 village, named Talvandi5. In his young age, he did employment in the services of Daulat Khan LodinSultanpur. From here, he began travelling where he finally settled in Kartarpur6. There he died,according to the available resources, in 1539 (McLeod, 1999: 5). While Guru Nanak himself has described about the era he lived that, "This age is like a drawn sword, the Kings are butchers; Goodness hath taken wings and flown (Singh, 1990: 99). Guru Nanak started a reformist movement to abolish Shirk7 in Hinduism. His teachings revolved around belief in one God and one humanity. The most interesting feature of Guru Nanak's days was Sufism. Guru Nanak (1469-1539) lived in an age of political disintegration (Banerjee, 2000: 1, 810). Guru Nanak's verses have many references to a class of Muslim Faqeers called Jangam (MacAuliffe, 1909: 169). Sikhs are the moderate reformist group that has emerged from Hinduism.

Its founder, Guru Nanak chose to embrace the good teachings of all religions that have universal applicability.Granth Sahib has 5,894 ballads, 292 couplet of BhagatKabeer and 134 ballads of Baba FareedGanjShakar. Challenging the dogma across religion, Guru Nanak enticed Muslims and Hindus as his followers. Hisphilosophical drive claimed for an inclusive religiosity that endorsed people from various sects, castes and religions to congregate and worship one God.People of all religions are welcome at Sikh temples because Sikhism teaches inclusiveness and equality without gender discrimination, apart from the sarovars8(Regen, Saifi and Suri, 2019).Nanak believed in the doctrine of transmigration. Holding wine and pork unlawful, he abstained from animal food and enjoined against cruelty to animals, Just as Nanakpraised Muhammadans, he also praised the incarnations of gods and goddesses of the Hindus. But he knew them all to be the creation and not the creator (Singh, 1984).

Guru Nanak believed that in order to avoid sin, live in the world as Nuphar remains dry no matter if it grows in water, like the duck, for that it swims in water yet its feathers remain dry-this was the teachings of Guru Nanak. In search of truth, he travelled for 20-25 years. His 5 travels are very famous and every time he returned to Kartarpur. Those who settled in Kartarpur because of Guru Nanka, laid the foundation of first informal Sikh Community (Baradari). Guru gave them three principles of work, worship and charity. The worship led to the singing of ballads and Langar9 which was open to every creed. This practice gave birth to volunteer service. In any Gurdwara of the world, if one goes, one will find Kirtan10 and Langaraltogether, i-e; Worship and Charity. Guru Nanak kept doing farming since to earn and work is an important factor of Sikh religion. Therefore, it is likely sure that nowhere in the world, any Sikh beggar is...

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