Saturday, December 1, 2007

Nankana Sahib, Sikh Holy Site, Punjab, Pakistan

Direction to Guru Nanak's Birthplace

Nankana Sahib: the Birthplace of Sikhism’s Founder Guru Nanak

Sachi G. Dastidar

During our trip to Lahore, capital of Punjab Province of Pakistan, cultural capital of Pakistan and her second largest city, we took a few side trips, among them a visit to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.

It is a short distance from Lahore, about 80 to 90 kilometers, and took us hour and a half in a rented car. During our journey we invited our hosts Professor Shakila and her mother, Didi, to join with us. The journey passed through lush green plains of Punjab after the monsoon rain. After we left the main north-south national highway, we were welcomed by a big sign telling us this is the Janam Asthan – birth place – of the Founder of Sikh religion. As our car approaoched the pilgrimage town we could see the spires of the Gurdwara (temple) Nankana Sahib as well as Hindu temples. Before the 1947 partition the town was Hindu-Sikh majority, but none exist now, except for a few Sikh workers at the holy site. The Gurdwara was built in the 1600s, and new structures added many times.

After you enter through the huge front gate, there is a large courtyard. Immediately you are asked by the military guard if one is Sikh or Hindu, as the site is open to only Sikhs and Hindus. After registering our passport we told that we have two guests who are Muslim and they must accompany us. The guards were polite and obliged us without any second thought. As we walked around the beautifully maintained structure we occasionally met Sikh men who asked us is we were Hindu or Sikh. All of those Sikh workers we met were Peshawari Sikhs or Sikhs from Peshawar, the capital of Northwest Frontier Province (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa[TPF1] ), hundreds of miles from Nankana. Doors were opened to us for prayer at the inner sanctum; that we did. Still in the temple compound is adorned by paintings of the time going back to several hundreds of years. The workers invited us to join with them in langar, free vegetarian lunch. It was a wonderful hot summer that provided us time for meditation at the cool marble floor. Close to the inner sanctum there was a gold palki – a shoulder-carried human carrier that was used by Guru Nanak.  Next to it sat a soldier with a machine gun guarding the precious item. Almost across the temple there was a high steeple Hindu temple built in Punjab style that was locked but unavailable to visitors but remains as a testimony of Pakistan’s Hindu heritage. (Pakistan Government maintains a few of the Sikh temples but no Hindu or Jain temples.) As we were leaving some Sikhs asked us if we will be visiting the holy Sikh shrine Swarn Mandir or Golden Temple at Amritsar, Punjab State, India. Hearing our affirmative answer they gave us their names and places of birth to offer prayers (puja) in their name that we did.

Entrance to Gurdwara of Guru's Birth

Inside Guru Nanak's Birthplace

At the Inner Sanctum of Guru Granth Sahib

The Inner Sanctum

The Golden Palanquin

The Courtyard

A Famous Picture

The Entrance to Inner Sanctum

At the Entrance

Entrance to Guest Quarters

View of the Temple

One of the Pictures Depicting Sikh Life

A Panaromic View

Entrance to the Gurudwara