Islamabad/New Delhi, Nov 8 (EFE).- Millions of Sikh men and women, dressed in colorful attires, visited temples in India and Pakistan on Tuesday to celebrate the 553rd birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
The devotees donning their traditional turbans and barefoot took part in community kitchens for the poor and processions, reciting their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
The biggest celebration in India took place at the Golden Temple in the northern city of Amritsar, located near the border with Pakistan.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the holiest Gurdwara (where Sikhs worship) and is one of the central symbols of the Sikh religion.
The temple was lit up on the eve of Guru Nanak’s birthday to host processions and community kitchens for tens of thousands of worshipers.
Devotees, their heads covered with colorful turbans or just pieces of cloth, thronged the shrine and waited in long queues to offer prayers inside the gold-plated marble shrine first built in 1604.
Many of the devotees took a dip in Amrit Sarovar, a pool surrounding the temple complex, against the backdrop of the rising sun.
A dip in the pool is believed to be sacred and can cure some ailments.
The complex also houses one of the largest langars, or free community kitchens, where visitors were fed throughout the day.
With 25 million followers worldwide, according to the Britannica encyclopedia, Sikhism is the sixth most practiced religion in the world.
The great majority of Sikhs live in the Indian state of Punjab. India is home to around 24 million Sikhs or less than two percent of the country’s 1.3 billion population.
Guru Nanak founded the religion and its philosophy in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent in the late 15th century.
After the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, several Sikh religious places fell in Pakistan, like the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Nankana Sahib town, around 80 km (50 miles) west of Lahore.
The other important Sikh shrine in Pakistan is Darbar Sahib in the border town of Kartarpur, where the guru lived for 18 years and died in 1539.
Thousands of Sikhs from all over the world flock to Pakistan to take part in the celebrations, including a considerable number of Indians who cross into the neighboring country through the Wagah border crossing.
“The Pakistan High Commission in India has issued about 3,000 visit visas to the pilgrims participating in the 553rd birth celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak at Nankana Sahib,” foreign ministry spokesperson Asim Iftikhar told EFE in Islamabad.
“Pakistan Railways has run three special trains for Sikh pilgrims from Wagah station to Nankana Sahib station,” Iftikhar said.
Pakistan opened a religious corridor with India in 2019 to allow Indian pilgrims to visit the Darbar Sahib shrine in that country without visas.
The corridor remained closed for 20 months due to the coronavirus pandemic and was reopened last year. EFE