ISLAMABAD: Over 600 Sikh pilgrims from India have arrived in Pakistan to take part in three-day celebrations of the 551st birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, which started on Saturday, local media reported.
The main ceremony of the three-day celebration will be held on Monday at Gurdwara Janamasthan in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak. The pilgrims arrived in Lahore on Friday through the Wagah border crossing. They were required to carry COVID-19 negative test reports which were checked by Punjab health authorities.
“Today, a total 602 Indian Sikhs arrived here via Wagah border to participate in the 551st birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib,” Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) spokesman Asif Hashmi told the media.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) is a Pakistani government-run body that administers properties, including religious trusts, left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India in 1947 when the two countries gained independence from Britain.
Every year, more than 2,000 Sikhs come to Pakistan to participate in Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations. The number is lower this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Much of Sikh heritage is located in Pakistan, including Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, which is also of particular importance to the Sikh community as it was built in tribute to Guru Nanak, who established the town of Kartarpur in 1515. It is also his final resting place.
In November last year, Pakistan opened a visa-free passage, the Kartarpur corridor, connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib to the border with India and allowing Indian Sikhs to visit the site.
The opening of the corridor on Nov. 9, 2019 marked the first time Indian Sikh pilgrims could enter Pakistan without a visa since 1947.
The corridor was temporarily closed by Pakistan in March over restrictions to slow the coronavirus outbreak, but Islamabad reopened it in October. It remains closed, however, from the Indian side.