Loading...

India pilgrims in historic visit to Pakistan temple

Published: November 10, 2019 12:29:44 | Updated: November 10, 2019 14:16:10


 

A historic corridor to one of Sikhism's holiest shrines is now open, allowing Indian pilgrims rare visa-free access to the site in Pakistan, reports BBC.

The Kartarpur corridor leads from the border straight to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, 4km (2.5 miles) away.

But tensions between India and Pakistan have made the shrine hard to access in recent years.

However, they reached an agreement over access last month, fulfilling a long-standing wish of the Sikh community.

The corridor - which is in Punjab, a region divided during the partition of British India in 1947 - has opened just days before the 550th anniversary of the birth of Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak, on 12 November.

There are only two major border crossings between the two countries, at Wagah between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan and further south at Munabao, where the train running between India's Jodhpur and Pakistan's Karachi stops.

The first Indian pilgrims to use the Kartarpur corridor included former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of India's Punjab state; and 150 Indian parliamentarians.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan, inaugurated the corridor on either side of the border on Saturday morning.

Devotees from all over the world, including the UK and Canada, are also visiting for the celebrations.

Officials say the corridor can accommodate up to 5,000 pilgrims per day, with up to 10,000 able to visit the shrine every day.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Indian Sikhs have long wanted easier access to the gurdwara

Indian visitors to the shrine will require a passport but they will be carrying travel permits instead of visas. However, they will not be allowed to leave the premises of the shrine in Pakistan or stay overnight.

The shrine was built to commemorate the site where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life. It is considered to be the second holiest site for Sikhism after Gurdwara Janam Asthan, also in Pakistan, which was built on the site where Guru Nanak was born.

The existing shrine in Kartarpur was built in 1925 after the original was destroyed by floods. It was restored by the Pakistani government in 2004.

Media captionPakistan's FM, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, says the Kartarpur corridor was "a goodwill gesture"

However, the facilities have recently been upgraded to allow the complex to accommodate more pilgrims. Construction began soon after the corridor was officially announced in November last year.

 

Share if you like