Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Taxila was brimming with life and enthusiasm as over 10,000 Sikh devotees chanted religious slogans on Friday morning to commemorate the formation of Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. The devotees included Sikhs and Hindus from across the country and other parts of the world who had gathered to celebrate their religious feast.
The last day of the festival was marked by jubilation and enthusiasm as the temple was packed with pilgrims dressed in colorful attire. Following Bhog, the pilgrims performed Keerthan for purification which was followed by Ardaas or prayer. The festival ended formally with the distribution of sweets among pilgrims.
Sardar Harvinder Singh, a granthi at the temple, stated that the annual Baisakhi festival is one of the most significant celebrations for the Sikh community, as it marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year. He added that Sikhs from all over the world visit various gurdwaras to offer their prayers and seek blessings.
Addressing the Bhog ceremony as the chief guest, Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), Habib Ur Rehman, announced that the board is taking all possible measures for renovation, upgradation, and protection of worship places of minorities in Pakistan. He emphasized that development works are going on rapidly in temples and gurdwaras across the country. He urged pilgrims from India to inform people there about the treatment they receive in Pakistan. He also announced that a digital library and museum was being established in Nankana Sahib to highlight the historical heritage of worship places of minorities.
During the ceremony, the birthplace of Sikh leader Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Gujranwala was announced to be renovated. The Chairman also mentioned that the number of scholarships for Hindu and Sikh students named after Baba Guru Nanak had been increased from 50 to 100, and this number would be further increased.
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Speaking on this occasion, Amarjit Singh Bhalipur, the party leader of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), expressed his pleasure at the construction and development of gurdwaras. He added that Indian pilgrims were extremely grateful to the government of Pakistan for making the best arrangements. He stated that the authorities in Pakistan had shown them a lot of love, and they felt at home.
Finally, the pilgrims were sent to Lahore by special 58 air-conditioned coaches amid tight security measures. The Britannica Encyclopedia states that with 25 million followers worldwide, Sikhism is the sixth most practiced religion in the world.