Sikh temple celebration, a ‘peace bridge’ between India and Pakistan (photos)

A special corridor between the two countries leads to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, where Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent the last years of his life. The temple has been spruced up and renovated, and will welcome up to 10,000 visitors a day.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As celebrations get underway for the 550th anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Pakistan is opening a visa-free corridor to allow Indian Sikhs to visit the temple dedicated to the Guru.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is backing the project wholeheartedly as a sign of conciliation towards neighbouring India and a way to promote inter-religious harmony and peace in the region.

Mr Khan will preside over the ceremony inaugurating the Kartarpur corridor, which leads directly to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, where Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent the last 18 years of life before, dying in 1539.

The temple is located in Narowal, a district in Pakistani Punjab, about four kilometres from the border. It is one of the holiest places for Sikh believers, second only to the Gurdwara Janam Asthan, built in Guru Nanak’s birthplace. The current structure dates back to 1925 and was built on the foundations of the previous building, destroyed by floods.

Preparations are underway to mark the anniversary of the Guru's birth next Tuesday (12 November). Pilgrims from all over the world are expected, many from the United Kingdom and Canada, home to some of the largest Sikh communities.

Meanwhile, since the first light of dawn this morning hundreds have started streaming across the border from India, following others who have already made the trek. One of them is Karan Deep Singh, from Malaysia. “For over 70 years, pilgrims haven't had the chance to cross over, to come over, and that is just... it's just... it's going to be a really emotional moment,” he said.

Pakistani authorities approved the Kartarpur corridor in November 2018, a step Indian Sikhs have been waiting for a long time. The issue was first discussed in 1998, but shelved several times due to ongoing tensions between the two countries over Kashmir.

To facilitate travel, Prime Minister Khan waived passport and border fees for pilgrims on the day the corridor opened. Pakistan is also paying for new amenities at the temple complex, including a new courtyard, museum, library, dormitories, locker rooms, immigration centre and embankment to protect the temple in case of floods.

It is estimated that up to 5,000 pilgrims will be accommodated per day, for a maximum of 10,000 pilgrims visiting the shrine every day.

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