Nankana Sahib is about 48 km from the capital Lahore, one of the only areas where the Sikh community resides. There are about 35 Sikh families here, but many of them are slowly migrating out to mainly United Kingdom and Dubai, a local Bhaijee (Sikh priest) told the group. Saurabh was surprised when he found that the Muslims who lived around the gurudwara helped in maintaining the building and purity of the place. “The most satisfying part was – be it the small Sikh community or the Muslims in the area, they looked after the shrine wholeheartedly.”
After meditating for two days in the peaceful environment of Nankana Sahib the group of devotees travelled to their second destination, Panja Sahib.
The history of Panja Sahib dates back to 1521 when Guru Nanak was meditating under a tree in peak summers. A group of devotees asked the local ruler for water to quench their thirst but were refused. Annoyed by the singing of spiritual songs, the ruler threw large rocks at the Guru from the top of the hill. Guru Nanak stopped the rocks with his hand and put aside one large rock and fresh water sprang from under it. The large rock with the hand imprint and spring continues until today, the pilgrims bring back the holy water and believe it to cure illnesses.
Raman Dhiman, 48, who visited Panja Sahib in 2010 said: “Apart from the hospitality of the Muslims towards Sikh worshipers, the well maintained gurudwaras in a Muslim country and the purpose of Sikhism to complete this pilgrimage – there was much more to my trip.”
During the long drive from Nankana Sahib to Panja Sahib, Raman stopped at a small village market to buy a meal and mementos. “I was hesitant to interact with the local people and tell them that I was from India,” Raman said. But when she did interact, she was surprised to see how “the hospitality increased and there was a sudden feeling of belonging to each other amongst the people.”
“The shopkeeper charged me half the price he quoted, the dhaba (road-side café) owner gave me a free drink and the family sitting on the next table made conversations as if I knew them. It was unbelievable. I didn’t feel like I was in a different country, the people wore the same clothes, followed the same culture and spoke the same language. It just felt very special. They all kept insisting that I should come back to their village sometime again,” she said. Saurabh agreed: “The local people were anyway very welcoming, but even more welcoming and warm when they figured that we came from India.”
“This posed a thought in my mind. The differences between India and Pakistan are the result of a few political officials and terror leaders, but not the common public. On one side thousands are dying safeguarding the borders between the two countries. On the other side, local public is welcoming guests from across the border,” Raman said.
Pilgrimage to Pakistan may not be an easy thought to most Sikh followers, but Pakistan has well protected the heritage and allows Sikhs to visit their historic remains. Beyond completing this religious journey, Pakistan leaves most devotees with beautiful lifetime memories.
Posted by Prerna