Jhelum (Pakistan): Seventy-two years after partition, Pakistan last week opened the doors of Gurdwara Choa Sahib in Punjab province's Jhelum district – the second historic event in two days after a Nagar Kirtan that started from Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in neighbouring country entered into Punjab on Indian side via the Attari-Wagah land route.
The two events, which carry religious significance for the Sikh community, come in the run-up to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, in November. The event began with Sukhmani Sahib path and ardaas after which formal inauguration plaque was unveiled and langar (community kitchen) started. Gurdwara Choa Sahib stands on the northern boundary of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rohtas Fort. The building, commissioned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and completed in 1834, had been lying closed since 1947 after Sikh community members from the area migrated from Pakistan.
The opening ceremony was attended by officials from Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and members of Sikh and Muslim community. The iconic shrine has been opened for Sikh community as a gift in 550th birth anniversary year of Guru Nanak. The shrine holds great importance for Sikh community as it is believed Guru Nanak, during one of his udasis (journeys), reached here on his return from Tilla Jogian temples where he went to meet the Nathpanthis. There was a drought like situation and people had no water to drink. It is believed that Guru Nanak stayed here, prayed and a natural water spring (choa) came up, quenching thirst of people.
PSGPC president Satwant Singh said, there cannot be a more auspicious day than today when a gurdwara, which was lying neglected and closed for 72 years, has been reopened. Now we will be preparing a plan for restoration of this gurdwara. I would like to give a message of peace and brotherhood to people of India and also that we must come together and do everything possible to celebrate 550 years of Guru Nanak in the best possible way.
He said that Choa Sahib is now open for all devotees from India and other countries considering they have all required permissions like visa at individual level. Making arrangements to host hundreds of pilgrims from India or other countries will take time but anyone can visit at individual level with required permits, he said.
The priority now is Kartarpur Sahib corridor and 550th birth anniversary celebrations. Once the restoration of (Choo Sahib) gurdwara is complete and infrastructure like roads is created, we would like to invite Sikh community from entire world to come and pray here.
PSGPC has also decided to open Gurdwara Sri Khara Sahib (Mattu Bhai Ke) at Noshehra Virkan in Gujranwala, also lying closed since the Partition. We are planning to open it in coming weeks, he added.