All roads lead to Dera Baba Nanak

Seven-year-young Pinky in her favourite red frock reaches the heavily policed rain shelter eagerly with her parents. But the binoculars have not been taken out because of the rain on Thursday, even as the family is one of the early pilgrims from Jalandhar to catch a glimpse of the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. Soon, people crowd in the shelter as the rain lashes in, looking at the check-post in Pakistan built with its Mughal minarets. Pinky blushes when asked what she has come to see before her mother chides her, “Tell them you are here for Babede darshan (Seek the Guru’s blessings)!” The child nods and a smile lights up her face.

In the Sri Darbar Sahib Gurdwara at Dera Baba Nanak, built in 1515 to commemorate Guru Nanak Dev’s coming to see his family after an Udasi (journey), sits a man huddled in a shawl. He looks so ancient that one wonders what his age would be. Smiling, he replies, “I’m 98, just two years short of 100.” The celebrations bring pleasant memories and he joins in recalling, “As a boy and a young man, I would happily walk to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara until Partition took it away from us.”


It is a season of smiles as the young and old eagerly await the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor with the song for the moment being ‘Dere Babe Nanak de ajab gazab da mela (It is a new and amazing fair at the abode of Babe Nanak)’. It is a happy occasion for the border area that has seen many seasons of sorrow. Come hail, rain or storm, the young and all old are looking forward eagerly for this much-awaited moment for which devotees prayed for after painful years of militancy and after.

It is also a time for merriment with women coming into the gurdwara to do sewa (voluntary service) at the Darbar Sahib. Middle-aged Gurdev Kaur and her friend Murti, who have come all the way from Mansa, are busy sifting rice for thousands of people who may come there. It is also time for merriment and laughter. Working by their side is the local fair-faced Kashmir Kaur who points her hand and says, “I’ve just come from nearby.” The other women correct her: “Don’t raise your hand towards Pakistan! You are from Dera Baba Nanak!” Peals of laughter follow. The women volunteers, not in a mood to give credit to any of the politicians this side or that, say with folded hands, “All this has been made possible by the grace of Baba Nanak himself.”


The road from Gurdaspur to the tented city of Dera Baba Nanak is lined with placards with a benign picture of the Guru and announcement of the 550th birth anniversary. The road from Batala is lined with free kitchens for pilgrims with women busy chopping farm-fresh vegetables and kiosks set for piping hot tea along with mathis or jablebis for accompaniment.

It is the ‘sanjha chhako’ slogan of Nanak and the strong tradition of community kitchens by the Sikhs that can be seen. Simrat Sumera, a writer and teacher, says, “Batala is very important in the journey of Guru Nanak for it was here that he was married to Mata Sulakhni. We in Batala celebrate the wedding every year.”

So while it is speeches and functions for the rulers, the common people gear up for the pilgrimage to Kartarpur in the true spirit of sharing.

PORT OF PILGRIMAGE Community kitchens, songs, prayers and joy mark the journey of pilgrims on the road to Kartarpur Corridor; it’s a happy occasion for the border area that has seen many seasons of sorrow

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