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Guru Nanak’s Kartarpur

Ensconced nicely like a white nugget in the russet glory of ripening wheat fields between River Ravi and Bein is Kartarpur where the founder of Sikh faith spent 18 years before leaving for his eternal abode. Kartarpur village was founded by Guru Nanak where he lived a happy eighteen years of his life, far from the madding crowd to the accompaniment of sounds and rhythms of his version of Punjabi utopia. Kartarpur had lain dormant and forgotten as a dusty hamlet after partition when the proximity to a border which had seen two major wars and several near wars rendered it unapproachable. There is something in the soil and air of the place that evokes reverence and a feeling of bucolic nonchalance amongst all visitors, a throwback perhaps to those times when Guru Nanak tilled the land and intoned aloud the immortal verses that formed the Sikh religion’s Holy Scripture i.e Guru Garanth Sahib.
Guru Nanak was born on 15 April 1469 at R?i Bhoi K? Talva??? village in the Lahore province of the Delhi Sultanate, present day Nankana Sahib, Punjab, Pakistan to Hindu Khatri parents and displayed a precocious adherence to spirituality right from childhood. He stunned his teachers on his very first day of initiation into the written alphabets where he related the first alphabet to one God as the supreme deity and creator of the universe. There are several apocryphal stories attributed to his early days when he displayed signs of being blessed by divine grace. He married at the age of eighteen at Batala and had two children Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand.Sri Chand founded an ascetic sect of Sikhism called “Udasis” whose syncretic teachings formed the main discourse of Sikh religion till the introduction of Khalsa doctrine by the tenth Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Nanak’s message was a social revolution against the excesses of Hindu caste system in fifteenth century which sprang from the Indus Valley plains of Punjab that had since ages retained a separate cultural and social identity compared to the culturally and religiously segmented Gangetic plains. The inclusivity and egalitarianism of Indus Valley were potent ingredients for a social code based on human dignity and equality which was sanctified as a religion by Guru Nanak. It was a religion that sprang out of the dusty brown expanses and green fields of the granary of subcontinent i.e Punjab. It abhorred casteism and celebrated human agency through pious acts. Guru Nanak’s message as codified in Sikh religious scripture Guru Granth Sahab, the 11th living Guru in perpetuity, comprises a trinity of sharing with poor, earning a honest living, and intoning God’s name to ward off five evils of lust, wrath, greed, attachment and entitlement.
The new faith was unique in challenging the entrenched prejudices and superstitions that had bound the poor in serfdom to the tyranny of Hindu clergy. It was a faith that had repudiated inequality in favour of a religious egalitarianism that threatened the “ancien régime” of Brahmin supremacy and was thus treated with suspicion by the beneficiaries of the old order. Thus began a saga of heroic resistance to the conspiracies of detractors that wanted to dilute the social impact of the new message on the newly formed fraternity of equals. The Sikh faith touched its nadir in torrid times of post Ranjit Singh era, especially after 1857, when the loss of an empire and ensuing anarchy created a brief crisis of identity amongst the community. The Akali movement that rose to cleanse the Sikh religion of heresies and impure influences took control of the Gurdawaras in 1920s from ritual ridden clergy and restored the pristine purity of Sikh faith, shorn of all superstitions and complex rituals.
Darbar Sahab Kartarpura as a Gurdawara was initially constructed by Maharaja of Patiala in 1925 on the site where Guru Nanak had breathed his last on 22 September 1539. Due to Guru Nanak’s popularity with both Sikhs and Muslims a conflict arose about his last rites. Guru Nanak’s last rites were conducted by both Sikhs as well as Muslims as per their custom and the sites for the last rites preserved for posterity as a great example of inter faith harmony. That he was owned by both Sikhs and Muslims is a living testament to the healing touch of his pro people teachings and humanism. The seeds of hatred sown amongst both the communities during the tumult of partition seem to have given way to the same fraternal feelings that had led to a loving spat between the two communities on the eve of the last rites of their revered Guru 480 years ago.



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