Pakistan’s Sikh heritage could be a bridge to peace, if not bound by its hostile ties with India

Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, the last resting place of Guru Nanak, is located on the Ravi River in the Narowal district in the province of Punjab in Pakistan. Surrounded by farmland, it is a modest structure, a unique building that houses the seat of the first Sikh guru, with some improvised rooms in which the guards live.

However, the gurdwara is developing slowly. Plans for a private Langar (popular kitchens) were created when I visited the sanctuary several years ago. With Sikh religious tourism in Pakistan experienced rapid growth in recent years, the State has renovated several of these forgotten Sikh historical shrines in collaboration with the Sikh community here.

I was on the edge of Ravi that looked deep in the fields that were on its eastern shore. With the arrival of the monsoon, the river was grown. People here believe that every monsoon, the river breaks their banks and reached the boundary wall of the shrine to offer obedience to Guru Nanak.

A few days before my visit, a great snake was captured in the courtyard of the sanctuary. The guards also said, he was there to pay homage to the guru.

Guru Nanak spent 17 years in this place, working in their fields and walking in the waters of this ancient river every day. A gurdwara was built during his life in which he performed every night kirtan (singing devotional songs) and then served in Langar.

It is here that Guru Nanak named Bhai Lehna as his spiritual successor, the person who calls Guru Dev, thus laying the foundations for the institutionalization of Sikhism.

Beyond the river, somewhere in the fields, camouflaged by a thick layer of trees, is the most dangerous frontier in the world. An electric fence led high-wattage search, equipped with thousands of soldiers, marks the country’s transition to India.

While Pakistani and Indian troops periodically exchange fire in the line of control that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir and the boundary of work that divides Jammu Punjab, the international border remains peaceful. However, tension rises behind the appearance of peace. The quotas of the armies on both sides remain vigilant, aware of the fragility of peace.

In defying the sense of high antagonism, hundreds of devotees gather every day at the border on the Indian side to see Gurdwara Sahib Kartarpur, armed with powerful binoculars. Pakistan, for them, is not an enemy country, but the home of Guru Nanak.

There are around 200 historical gurdwara scattered throughout the country marking important historical events in the life of Sikh gurus. These include the birthplace of Guru Nanak and Guru Ram Das and the smadh of Guru Arjan and that of Guru Nanak.

Every year thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India and other parts of the world come to Pakistan, the land of the gurus, to visit these places of historical interest. These are remarkable pilgrimages that abandon the cultivation of historical baggage between India and Pakistan and allow many Sikhs to reconnect to a country that is not their own but still occupies an important place in their imagination. \

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