6th December 2018
After arriving in the colonial bastion of Lahore in Pakistan our group were treated to the colourful sight of many members of the Sikh community converging on Lahore Fort and the Dera Sahib Gurdwara. Our visit coincided with the breaking news that a 'corridor of peace’ between the Indian border city of Dera Baba Nanak and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Sikhism's founder Guru Nanak, in the Pakistani Punjab, will open to Sikh pilgrims.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has now laid the foundation stone for this project in Punjab, whilst the India’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu performed the groundbreaking on his side of the corridor at a ceremony just two kilometres from the border.
The 23rd November 2019 marks the 550th birthday of the Sikh Guru, and the Kartarpur corridor of around 3 km is due to be open well ahead of this anniversary providing visa free access to Sikh pilgrims from India. The move comes more than 70 years since India and Pakistan were granted independence in 1947, when the province of Punjab, where Sikhism was born, was split between the two countries.
It appeared to be a great celebration for all and it was fantastic for us to witness this move by both these nations to acknowledge the spiritual aspirations of the Sikh minority who live in both countries. Hopefully, the announcement also signals a gradual move towards more cordial relations for the future.
During my free time in Lahore I also visited the shrine of Mian Mir, the spiritual instructor of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He is revered by Sikh's as he is said to have laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. My visit to the shrine was enhanced by an impromptu invite to join a contingent of Sikh pilgrims from London for lunch at the shrine – a custom you may be familiar with if you have visited the Golden Temple. The group was made up of UK based Sikhs enjoying a 10 day holiday in Pakistan, many for the first time. Like our group, they were bowled over by the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Pakistani people. As one of their group said over lunch 'there is one God and we all need to respect this whichever faith we follow’. It seemed poignant given that we were a group of people with very different religious beliefs all visiting a Muslim Sufi shrine.