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Sikh in Hasanabdal Pictures

Sikh Panja Sahib HasanabdalThe Sikh baptism ceremony, Baisakhi, also known as the harvest festival in Punjab was celebrated by Sikhs at Shri Swami Narayan Temple on Saturday.

It was on this day the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, chose to transform the Sikhs into a family of soldier saints, known as the Khalsa Panth. It marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year.

The celebrations began at the small temple located within the Swami Narayan at 9pm although worshippers started gathering since evening to attend the ‘Akhand Path’ (continuous reading of the Sikh Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib).

“The Akhand Path is usually arranged two days before and the Bhog Sahib, the completion ceremony, is on the morning of Baisakhi but in Karachi Akhand Path lasts for seven days,” informed Sameet Kumar, the Gayani (religious leader) of the temple.

He said that Baisakhi is not a grand affair in Karachi because most of the Sikhs travel to Thatta, Lahore or India where large-scale celebrations are held. “It is specially colourful in the villages where Sikh farmers celebrate the harvesting season by dancing on the fields,” he adds.

Sikh Arrival Pakistan Panja

Baisakhi, he explained, was created by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, who performed the Amrit ceremony and baptised the first Sikhs in 1699. It was during the Baisakhi festival when Guru Gobind Singh came out of a tent carrying a sword and challenged any Sikh who was prepared to give his life, to come into the tent. The Guru returned alone with his sword covered in blood. He then requested another volunteer and repeated the same action four times until five men disappeared into the tent. The crowd was very concerned until they saw five men return wearing turbans with the Guru. These five men became known as the Panj Pyare, or ‘Beloved Five’.  “The Sikhs were given a clear identity and a code of conduct to live by on this day,” he said. Baisakhi, this year marked the 308th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh’s gift of Panth Khalsa to all Sikhs everywhere.

After the Kirtan (singing of hymns from Guru Grath Sahib) that lasted two hours, langar was served. Audiocassettes that reflect the values taught to them by their Gurus were also distributed among the members, a common ritual of Baisakhi.

Sikh arrival hasanabdal pakistanA number of Sikh pilgrims who have come to Pakistan to celebrate the Besakhi Fistival assailed the administration for poor accommodation arrangements. They were also critical of, what they called, 'inadequate steps' taken by the concerned authorities at Wagha border during clearance of visas.  
Besaki is a religious rite that Sikhs celebrate in the month of April, as wheat crop is reaped and farmers are financially well off and free. Sikhs, during this festival, pay homage to Guru Gobind Singh, said the group leader of the visiting pilgrims. He said Guru Gobind Singh fulfilled the concept of Guru Nanak in Anand Sahib.

The pilgrims also expressed dissatisfaction with train facilities provided to them by the Pakistani government. They termed them poor and said that they received worse treatment during travel from Nankana Sahib to Punja Sahib.

The yatris including Advocate Aris Malhotra, leader of Shromini Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Manjeet Sing, Deputy Leader Santa Singh (who led a group of 1,550 yatris) expressed dissatisfaction with what they called 'lack of accommodation' terming it 'insufficient' and called that they should have been accommodated in schools and quarters.

sikh panja sahib hasan abdalAdvocate Malhotra said, "I am running from pillar to post and requesting the authorities to provide accommodation but in vain." He said that he would approach President General Pervez Musharraf and Religious Minister Ejazul Haq to bring to their notice failure of the concerned authorities in providing accommodation to Sikh yatris.  He said they have been lying in verandas along with their families including ladies and innocent children for the last couple of days. Some other yatris including Mahesh Singh, Bhupindar Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Indar Pal Singh, Gurjeet Singh, Swarn Singh Gill, President Nankana Shaib Sikh Yatri Jata, regretted the treatment meted out to them at Wagha border.

They alleged that the staff were very few during clearance of visas; only two sections were opened to deal with them against 10 arranged in the past. This caused great trouble to them, they alleged.

Surjeet Singh, Preety Singh, Ritta Singh and Bulweer Singh criticised the Pakistan authorities for making poor travel arrangements in trains. Over 3,000 yatris where stuffed in 12 bogies that were without any food and drinking water facility. Hundreds of yatris had to keep standing during the travel due to shortage of seats. Delay of six hours to reach Punja Shaib from Nankana Sahib was like rubbing salt in their wounds, they said.

However, a good number of yatris enjoyed the edibles/Langar distributed at Punja Sahib. They said that the rates of food items were balanced and quality was fine. Jaghat Ram Singh appreciated the arrangements of Langar in Punja Sahib. He also praised the attitude of local people with them.

According to officials, Minister for Religious Affairs Ejazul Haq will grace the occasion on the third day of festival. He is scheduled to meet group leaders of yatris to get information about the arrangements made by the government during their stay in Pakistan to perform religious rites.

15-04-2007 15:45 Attock News
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