By Promod Puri
It is hailed as a “Corridor of Peace” between India and Pakistan.
The Kartarpur Corridor to be ready by November of this year is also a long-awaited and welcome historical development for Sikhs worldwide. The much-desired Corridor will connect the border town of Dera Baba Nanak from the Indian side and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
The 4.7 kilometers border corridor would be a sacred passage to the historic site of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), settled and assembled the faith’s commune after his missionary travels.
The highlight of the Corridor is that it is visa-free for pilgrims and devotees of Sikhism and from other religions to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur.
Till now, Sikh devotees from the Indian side gather in large number on higher places to have sacred viewing of the Gurdwara across the border.
The Indian government at one time was reluctant to the Corridor project, because of the poor state of the relationship between the two countries. Instead, it offered to install several powerful binoculars close to the border for viewing of the Kartarpur Gurdwara.
With the change of mind, perhaps the original proposal was mooted by ruling BJP prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, that the present Modi Government tend to be a partner in the upcoming project.
An 800-meter-long bridge will be built over the Ravi river to lead up to the transit terminal where shuttle buses will take the pilgrims from India to Pakistan.
The Kartarpur Gurdwara is a revered Sikh historical shrine where according to one Lahore-based historian Fakr Syed Aijazudin, the place houses the last copies of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism.
The Kartarpur Corridor has been an old, forceful and relentless demand of the Sikhs to the leadership of both the countries. It was only in September 2018 that the Pakistan Government unilaterally decided to start construction work for the Corridor.
The announcement was instantly welcomed by the government of India when prime minister Narendra Modi compared the decision to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying the project may help in better relations between the two nations.
The peace Corridor is reported to be complete close to the 550th-anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday.
The Sikh Guru founded Kartarpur in 1504 AD and established the first commune for his followers there. He lived in Kartarpur till his death. It is believed that the tradition of langar, an iconic part of Sikh faith, began here.
Guru Nanak was a firm believer in “karta,” meaning a doer. This relates to a person who besides being religious, is actively involved in doing work to earn one’s pious living. While in this engagement one also keeps social and family ties, rather than seeking a religious seclusion life as a hermit in search of god and peace. Hence, he named his place of final settlement Kartarpur.
The original 16th-century shrine on the banks of river Ravi was built by the followers of Guru Nanak Dev, including many Muslims. But it was ravaged by floods. The present Kartarpur Gurdwara was built by late Maharaja of Patiala Sardar Bhupinder Singh in 1925 at the site where Guru Nanak died.
After the partition of India in 1947, the Kartarpur region was awarded to Pakistan. The Gurdwara was sort of abandoned and showed signs of ruin. Later in 1995, the Pakistan Government began the repair work and fully restored the sacred Sikh shrine in 2004.
The sanctity of the site was always upheld by Nanak’s Muslim devotees as well. And today Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib has emerged as the ultimate symbol of peace among the Punjabis on both sides of the border.
The “Corridor of Peace” would be the eventual tribute by both the nations of India and Pakistan to the teachings of Guru Nanak.