The centuries-old Sikh religious festival of Baisakhi- also known as Sikh baptism ceremony– like other religious festivals including Passover and Easter before it – takes place in the dark shadow of the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic at Gurdwara Punja Sahib Hassanabdal on Tuesday.
The traditional hustle and bustle with multi colored turbans missing, group prayers, services, entertainment and martial arts as well as procession named Nagar Kirtan – and features chanting, singing and colourful clothing, singing and chanting hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, none of that will happen this year at Gurdwara Punja Sahib Hassanabdal. With a few participants, the Granthi, or Chief Pastor Kulbeer Singh offered the main Bhog ceremony while Pardhan (President) Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh offered the Ardas. On this occasion, special prayers were also carried out by Sikh elders for safety and prosperity of Pakistan in this testing time when whole world is suffering from coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic.
For the followers of Sikhism, Baisakhi- celebrations to mark the new year of Sikh religion and also known as spring harvest festival is important event in Sikh calendar in which not only Sikhs living in Pakistan celebrate the event at Gurdwara Punja Shaib Hassanabdal but also highest number of pilgrims from India as well as across the world participate the three day festival here. Chief Pastor Kulbeer Singh said that every year the festival begin with a visit to the gurdwara, followed by parades, singing and chanting hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. None of that will happen this year. He said that in an extraordinary step to prevent from coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, the Sikh community, the largest religious minority of the country, has closed all gurdwaras and offered the highest religious festival in low key with few participants.
President Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Satwant Singh and Dr Aamer Ahmed Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) expressed and shared their best wishes for the local and international Sikh community with the hope and pray that soon Sikh pilgrims across the world will be visiting these Gurdwaras again when the situation will be normalized.
Deputy Secretary Shrines Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Imran Gondal said that in a joint meeting of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), it was unanimously decided that this year there would be no celebrations of Baisakhi and no pilgrims would be allowed to visit from India and rest of the world and therefore the event was observed in low key on Tuesday.
Sundeep Kaur – a member of local community said that this year due to non celebrations , she was missing her friends from Buner area of KP and Afghanistan. She said her some fiends from Dubai were also scheduled to visit Pakistan this year but due to coronavirus COVID-19, their visit was cancelled.
Tara Singh- a local Sikh shopkeeper said that with all places of worship closed as part of the government’s social distancing measures and group gatherings not permitted during lockdown, the local Sikh community has also not participated in the celebration.