Kartarpur Sahib: A Corridor to Unite

The concept of Kartarpur city was conceived by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and was also given the concrete shape by Guru Ji himself in 1522 AD; when he moved and settled there. He was 52 years old when he settled there and lived last 18 years of his life there with his family. In fact, it is longest stint of Guru Ji’s life in one place. This serene, congregational cum egalitarian commune that Guru Ji conceived became a magnet attracting adherents of different faiths to it, who followed Guru Ji and made it their home.

Unfortunately, during the turmoil of drawing of the partition lines of the sub-continent by the Radcliffe Commission, this idyllic commune became a traumatic victim. Although, the district of Gurdaspur was awarded to India, but one Tehshil Shakargarh out of the four of the district along with Kartarpur was awarded to Pakistan. With most of Sikh population migrating to India, this serene town found itself almost abandoned. Since the partition in 1947, the Gurdwara remained in disuse and it was only reopened in 1999 to coincide with Indian PM Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan. Although the essential renovations were carried out for the reopening, but the existing building rebuilt by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1920 is in urgent need of upgrading.


Eighteen (18) years after the reopening of this historic Gurdwara after the partition in 1947, we saw a new ray of hope when the PM of Pakistan, Imran Khan in November 2018 laid the foundation stone for the corridor linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side of the border. The news has generated a lot of excitement, enthusiasm as this year of 2019, we all will be celebrating 550th Prakash Purab of the founder of this Sikh Faith and of this commune. Interestingly the number 18 has some magical association with this place, as Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent 18 years of his life here. This place is the final resting of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev with having Samadh of Hindus and Sikhs and a Mazaar of Muslims, peacefully coexisting under its one roof. This is the shrine has the potential to become a beacon of peace between the two warring nations after 72 (4 x 18) years of the partition. This shrine can be the binding glue to the people’s hearts of the two nations. This corridor has the potential to be the model for opening of more land corridors between the two nations. The bridge over Ravi could become the peace bridge linking the two nations.  After all, this town was developed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who promoted harmony, brotherhood between people of different religions all his life. Even in his death, he left a legacy of love, and a bonding place for people with divergent faiths and viewpoints.

It was with this hope; we visited West Panjab in Pakistan in March 2019. We were trying to eyewitness the hope, aspiration, enthusiasm that the construction of this peace corridor was generating on both sides of the divide. I could feel the genuine love, comradery, regards and warmth of Panjabi hospitality the moment we stepped into the other side of the border. Although, this was exactly a month after the Pulwama attack had taken place, which had brought both the nations close to brink of hostilities. The well-wishers, family members and friends were against our making of this journey so close to tragic incident out of concern for our safety. Their argument was we could become a collateral victim in the event of escalation of hostilities and sabre rattling. The well-meaning advice really put a big question mark on our scheduled visit. But, by placing our hopes and fate in Guru Ji’s hand, with prayers on our lips and looking at it as Guru Ji’s calling, we decided to go ahead with the earlier scheduled tour.

After the two hours’ drive from Lahore we arrived there. We took a tour of the shrine and soaked in the feeling of Guru Ji’s divine presence. Overall, the journey was really a humbling experience and warm welcome unbelievable. But a major transformation in the heart takes place on entering the Kartarpur soil and breathing its fresh air. Here Guru Ji had shown the way to satisfy the physical and spiritual hunger, and even today the same magical effect can be experienced. The soil and air are enough to the well the eyes into steady stream of tears of emotional feelings of being blessed to be there. The ambience and lush green farms transports you to another world. The experience is difficult to pen in words, but can be beautifully captured in the following words of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, although he used them in another context:

Karataar pur karataa vasai santan kai paas.1. Rahaau.” (SGGS, Pg. No. 816)
Translation: In Kartaarpur, the City of the Creator Lord, the Saints dwell with the Creator. 1. Pause.

Then having the langar (community meal) there was again an out of world experience. Imagine breaking the bread made from wheat of Guru Ji’s farm and savoring it with the Dal (lentil soup), along with sabzi of aloo-matar (vegetable dish of potatoes and peas) again from Guru Ji’s fields. Even the water used for cooking and drinking is from Guru Ji’s own wells that he used for drinking and for his fields.


Next, taking a tour of the construction activity in preparation of the corridor opening was eye opening. The road on Pakistan side is 4.5 KM and on the Indian side is 0.8 KM. There will be a bridge on River Ravi 0.8 KM long on Pakistan side. The pictures included capture the pace of this huge construction project which is scheduled for completion by November 2019. The corridor has the potential to realize the collective Sikhs yearning that has been aptly captured in a line of the prayer as:

Khuley darshan deedar tay sewa sambhal daa daan Khaalsaa jee noo bakhsho.”
Translation: Kindly bless the Khalsa with the boon open visitation, management of the holy shrines.

We have been making this prayer for the last 72 years, and if we wish for it to become a reality, then we will have to take steps and make efforts to visit this shrine. Based on the personal experience I can add that the experience will be the heavenly and will provide feeling of bliss. Along with the hope, enthusiasm there is a concern that the flood of humanity visiting could potentially impact it in several ways as:

    • The enthusiasm to renovate the shrine and make it bigger, grander could leave the scars in terms of erasing the historical artefacts and landmarks. We have done this in many historical shrines, where the expensive marbles have been installed in the name of a befitting memorial, but the historical evidence and heritage has suffered collateral damage.
    • The new construction activity could lead to creation of a concrete jungle, replacing the lush green fields, open space and its ambience.
    • Becoming an environmental and ecological graveyard, because of trash, discards of wrappers of the packaged food, polyethylene bags, plastic spoons, Styrofoam plates and cups etc.

It is our sincere desire and prayer that we preserve the heritage that has been left untouched because of disuse as a result of partition. Of course the heritage sight needs the upgrading, but it should not come at heavy price of erasing the artefacts and history forever. After all the visitors to this shrine are going there to get first hand taste and feel of history and the ambience that Guru Ji created during his stay there and gave shape to the model for ideal life style that he preached. Let this place become a living model of the life style Guru Ji preached and practiced. Guru Ji epitomized purity and simplicity in life and let this shrine spread that message to the entire mankind. So, even if we have 125,000 visitors leaving their footprints there, we just leave behind an ecological footprint of one visitor. Now, that will be a new evolutionary, environmental friendly road map based on Guru Ji’s life that will resonate with the entire mankind.


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

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