The first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, founded Kartarpur in 1504 on the right bank of the Ravi River andIn the later years of his life after four Udasisi (long tours for Sikhi Parchar), he settled himself permanantly in Kartarpur in 1522, Guru Nanak settled down at the township of Kartarpur( which means Creator’s Town) on the banks of river Ravi in Punjab which was founded and established by Guru Nanak himself earlier and stayed there for the rest of his life for 17 years till his jyoti jot in 1539.
He had worked as a peasant, earning his own honest living by cultivating the lands and doing, kirt, Sewa, Satsang, and Simran with the provision of langar for all male-female, rich-poor, needy, and for the followers, who come from far and wide places to listen to the Master’s hymens. Here He met bhai Lehna ji , and Baba Budha ji.
The first guru of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, founded Kartarpur in 1504 with the help of bhai Duni Chand and Bhai Doda on the right bank of the Ravi River ,120 km. from Lahore and 4 km from the Indian Border and established the first Sikh commune there.
This village, Pkhoke Randhawa belongs to Chaudhary Randhawa. Here Guru Nanak Sahib while visiting his in-laws in-between his udasis , usually sit near the well where all the Sangat also used to gather to listen to his adhiatmic talks. One day Duni Chand also came to have darshan of Guru Sahib. He was so much impressed that and given Bheta of 100 acre of land for his religious activities. In 1504 Guru Sahib had habitat this city in the name of Kartarpur, where he stayed 17 years, 5 months, and 9 days after completing his four Udasis, from 1522 till his jyoti jyot in 1539. He brought his parents and Mata Sulukhni with his two children, Baba Sri Chand and Baba Lakhmi Das also. Bhai Gurdas Ji writes in his vars.
“ਬਾਬਾ ਆਇਆ ਕਰਤਾਰਪੁਰ, ਭੇਖ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਸਗਲ ਉਤਾਰਾ
ਪਹਿਰ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ਕਪੜੇ ,ਮੰਜੀ ਬੈਠ ਕੀਆ ਅਵਤਾਰਾ
Here he had converted the lands into agricultural land and worked as a peasant. He did hard labor to earn his own honest living at the age of 53 years. He has given this philosophy to his followers also to do the “Kirt, Vand Chhako and Simran Karo” The beginning of regular Keertan started for the sangat and Langar for poor, needy, for the Sangat who comes from near and far off places to listen to his updesh, started in Kartarpur. Guru Sahib managed to build rooms for people who used to come from long distances and Langar hall where all people used to sit together in pangat without the discrimination of female-male, rich-poor, low – upper castes, sit and eat together.
Baba Budha ji met Guru Nanak Sahib here in Kartarpur. When at Kartar Pur, Guru Nanak sahib used to cross Ravi and initiated Kirtan in the early hours of the morning. A boy of seven years of age use to bring milk and present Guru Nanak Sahib with great reverence. He used to sit there to listen to Kirtan. One day the Guru asked the boy, “O boy, why do you come so early while your age requires you to eat, play and sleep.” The boy replied, “Sir, one day my mother asked me to lit the fire. When I put fire on the wood, I observed that the little sticks burned first than the big ones. From that time I thought that age is no bar, even I can have an early death. so I attend your holy communion.” The Guru was very much pleased to hear these words of wisdom from the lips of the boy of 7 years and said, “Although you are only a little boy, yet you speak like a ‘buddha’ (an old man).”From that day the boy was called Bhai Buddha. He was held in such high esteem that he was commissioned to impress the saffron tilaks or patches of Gurudom on the foreheads of the first five successors of Guru Nanak and had darshan of eight Gurus. In 1539 before jyoti jyot of Guru Nanak, Bhai Lehna was appointed as a successor of Guru Nanak renaming him Guru Angad – meaning ‘part of you’. Baba Budha had done the gurgadi ceremony. Here began the tradition of Guru lineage.
.On Asu sudi 10, 1596 Bikrmi, Monday, September 22, 1539 AD Guru Nanak breathed his last at Kartarpur. Hindu and Muslims both grieved and spread flowers over His dead body. The next morning when they lifted the sheet for the last rites, body was missing, only fresh flowers which were divided by both Hindus and Muslims among themselves and they did the last rites according to their own way and wishes. Therefore, both samadhi and a grave were created by each community with a wall in between, on the left bank of Ravi
In the year 1539, knowing that his end was drawing near, Guru Ji, after having tested his own two sons, Baba Budha, Bhai Lehna, and some of the followers over the years installed Bhai Lehna Ji (Guru Angad Dev Ji) as the Second Guru. Following his death in 1539, Hindus and Muslims both claimed him as their own and raised mausoleums in his memory with a common wall between them on the right bank of the Ravi River. The changing course of the Ravi River eventually washed away the mausoleums. A new habitation was formed by his son Baba Sri Chand Ji and his followers, representing the present-day Dera Baba Nanak on the left bank of the Ravi river.
The Kartarpur Corridor connecting Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan on the Pakistan-India border in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) from the India–Pakistan border, creating a link that allows pilgrims holding Indian passports to visit both the Kartarpur shrine and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side of the border. Pakistani Sikhs are unable to use the border crossing, and cannot access the Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak without first obtaining an Indian visa. During the 1947 partition of India, the region was divided between India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe Line awarded the Shakargarh tehsil on the right bank of the Ravi River, including Kartarpur, to Pakistan, and the Gurdaspur tehsil on the left bank of Ravi to India. In 1948, the Akali Dal demanded that India should acquire the land of the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib. The demands persisted till 1959, but the Punjab state government controlled by the Indian National Congress advised against any modification of the boundary fixed by the Radcliffe Award. For many years following partition, Indian Sikhs could visit Kartarpur informally by crossing a bridge on the Ravi river which joined Dera Baba Nanak with Kartarpur Sahib, as border controls between the two countries were not strictly enforced until 1965. This bridge was eventually destroyed in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, and border controls became more tightly regulated.
In 1969, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi promised to approach the Pakistani government for a land-swap so that Kartarpur Sahib could become part of India. None of this materialized. However, in September 1974, a protocol was agreed between India and Pakistan for visits to religious shrines and was later updated by increasing the number of visits and the number of sites. However, Kartarpur was never included among the sites included in the 1974 protocol. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, India had requested its inclusion but this was not agreed to by Pakistan. The Kartarpur Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy.
Gobind Singh, the caretaker of the gurdwara at Kartarpur, said the gurdwara had “remained shut from 1947 to 2000”. The gurdwara had no staff, despite receiving pilgrims. The Pakistani government started repairing the shrine in September 2000 ahead of the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s death and formally reopened it in September 2004. The Kartarpur Corridor mission was initially started by Bhabishan Singh Goraya, who pursued the cause for 24 years. According to Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala, the gurdwara had been abandoned till 2003. It served as a cattle shed for the villagers and its lands were taken over by sharecroppers. Since 2003, however, the Pakistani government has reportedly taken initiatives for the upkeep of Sikh religious shrines.
Manmohan Singh, during his first term as the prime minister of India, also tabled the issue in a speech in Punjab in 2004. The ‘composite dialogue process between India and Pakistan initiated in 2004 also discussed access to Kartarpur via an Amritsar–Lahore–Kartarpur road link. In 2008, the Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee raised with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi the idea of “visa-free travel” to Kartarpur. There was apparently no official response, but privately, Pakistan began to express its openness to the Sikh community. However, even up to 2012, the Indian government had no response, the hostility between the countries was apparently to blame.
On 20 June 2008, at a press conference in Dera Baba Nanak arranged by Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala, John W. McDonald, a former American ambassador and founder of Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, called for “a peace corridor, a peace zone” connecting shrines on both sides of the border. On 28 June 2008, the Indian foreign minister at the time, Pranab Mukherjee, said that the Indian government would carry out a feasibility study for the peace corridor. However, since the 2008 Mumbai attacks took place, the relations between India and Pakistan nosedived and the initiative faltered.
Members of the Sikh community in Washington DC worked with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy to carry out an independent feasibility study. In August 2010, their report titled “Kartarpur Marg” was released by Surinder Singh and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy. According to the report, the cost of the corridor would be 17 million US dollars, which the Sikh diaspora agreed to raise. The report had said that it would cost Pakistan $14.8 million and India $2.2 million. In November 2010 the Punjab state legislative assembly unanimously passed a resolution in favor of an international passage between the two sites and forwarded it to the Indian Union government on 1st October 2010.
In August 2018, Indian Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu attended the Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s inaugural ceremony where he was told by the Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa of Pakistan’s willingness to open the Dera Baba Nanak–Kartarpur corridor on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary. In August 2018, another resolution related to the corridor in the Indian Punjab Vidhan Sabha was moved by chief minister Amarinder Singh, which was passed unanimously. Following this, the government of Indian Punjab decided to approach the prime minister of India related to the opening of the corridor. On 30 October 2018, a group of Sikh Americans sought the Indian prime minister’s help in opening the corridor. In November 2018, the Indian Cabinet approved the plan to set up the corridor and appealed to Pakistan to do the same. The Pakistani foreign minister S. M. Qureshi responded by tweeting that Pakistan had “already conveyed to India” that it would open a corridor. In August 2019, India and Pakistan agreed to allow visa-free travel of Indian citizens to Kartarpur, but differences persisted about Indian consular officers being located at the site
On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid down on the Indian side; two days later, on 28 November 2018, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did the same for the Pakistani side. Khan said “Pakistan believes that the road to the prosperity of the region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace”, adding that “Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community” The corridor was completed for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on 12 November 2019. Previously, Sikh pilgrims from India had to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is a 125 kilometers (78 miles) journey, even though people on the Indian side of the border could also physically see Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur from the Indian side, where an elevated observation platform was constructed.
On 24 October 2019, S.C.L. Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Union Home Ministry from India and Pakistan Foreign Office Director-General South Asia and SAARC Mohammad Faisal met at Zero Point near Dera Baba Nanak in the border town of Gurdaspur to ink the memorandum of understanding. The signing of this agreement has paved the way for 5,000 Indian pilgrims to visit the holy site without a visa on daily basis. Under the agreement, the pilgrims would come in the morning and return in the evening after visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. Each visitor would be required to pay USD $20 as a service charge, which as per Pakistan Foreign Office’s DG South Asia & SAARC Mohammad Faisal, would only cover one-third of the current operational cost. India however, had urged Pakistan to waive off the fees for pilgrims. In response, on 1 November 2019, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan announced on Twitter that Sikh pilgrims coming from India for a pilgrimage to Kartarpur will not be charged any fee on the day of inauguration and on Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary on 12 November 2019. The Pakistan government as a “special gesture” had also waived off the passport requirement for Kartarpur pilgrims extending up to one year. However, the Indian government decided against availing “concessions” announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced that a passport would be required per the agreement between the two countries.
Design of Kartarpur Corridor Complex and construction
The Complex is having an international standard hotel, hundreds of apartments, two commercial areas and two-car parking lots, a Border Facility Area, a power grid station, a tourist information center, and several offices. Over 400 acres of land was acquired by the Government of Pakistan to establish the main gurudwara complex and the surrounding area. The main temple complex has been expanded 10 times from the original 4 acres to 42 acres. The master plan of the Gurudwara complex has been prepared to keep in mind future requirements for visitors from countries other than India.
Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organization constructed 4.7 kilometers (2.9 mi) of dedicated expressways, including an 800-meter (2,600 ft) bridge over the River Ravi. Pakistan also opened an immigration office and expanded the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur to accommodate the incoming pilgrims. The first phase of the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor project was completed in early November 2019. Land Ports Authority of India, National Highways Authority of India, and Ceigall India Ltd constructed the Indian side of the corridor. An integrated check-post (ICP), 3.5 km four-lane highway, and a 100-meter bridge at Dera Baba Nanak were also constructed.
On 9 November 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor at a ceremony that was held in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib complex, Kartarpur and around 12,000 pilgrims were present at this ceremony. Imran Khan received the pilgrims and formally inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor by removing a curtain that was lifted by hot air balloons from a huge kirpan (dagger). On the occasion, Prime Minister Khan said “Pakistan believes that the road to the prosperity of the region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace, saying that Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community.
Ahead of Guru Nanak’s 550th Prakash Purab celebrations the Kartarpur corridor, connecting Sri Darbar Sahib Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Punjab with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur was thrown open on 9 November 2019 facilitating the first Jatha (batch) of more than 550 pilgrims to travel to the last resting place of Guru Nanak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, welcomed the move and compared the decision for the corridor between the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries. During the inauguration speech, he also said, “I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan Niazi for respecting the sentiment of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the pilgrimage and handed over the flag of the Jatha to Jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Harpreet Singh.
Under the leadership of Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, the Jatha traveled through the corridor into Pakistan to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. The Indian Sikh delegation that included former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, and actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol arrived through Kartarpur Corridor to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak and attended the inauguration ceremony on the special invitation from Pakistani Prime Minister Khan.
Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, speaking on the occasion, thanked both governments for the corridor.] Navjot Singh Sidhu in his speech said that Prime Minister Khan had won the heart of the Sikh community by opening the corridor.
It is a visa-free travel corridor but an Electronic Travel Authority document known as ETA is required, which can be obtained by registering an application at the online website of the Indian Government. Even with a USD$20 fee waiver for all for two days I.e. November 9 and 12, the initial turnout was low due to the complicated booking process and the fact that many Indian citizens lack passports. Aam Aadmi Party, BJP Indore MP Shankar Lalwani, The former DSGMC president, and SGPC demanded that the Government of India simplify the process.
Although detailed procedure and instructions with frequently asked questions are provided on the Indian government website https://prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in/, some of the important conditions of travel are:
Only Indians residents or overseas citizens can travel by corridor, Pakistanis cannot.
Children or aged persons of all ages can register to apply.
After 15 days of travel by a corridor, another registration can be done for the second visit.
Registration can only be done online at the above-mentioned website of the Indian Government.
RailTel Corporation of India launched a free RailWire WiFi service to pilgrims at Dera Baba Nanak railway station and Integrated Check Post. Jalandhar-based Republic Motors provided six campus electric carts for the travel of pilgrims from Integrated Check Post (ICP) to zero points. On 8 November 2019, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced that the Government of Delhi will bear all expenses and costs of the Kartarpur Sahib pilgrimage under Mukhyamantri Teerth Yatra Yojana.
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