Interview with P.S. Pasricha, chairman of the Takhat Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Gurdwara Board.
NANDED is only days away from one of the most important festivals of the Sikh faith. The city is gearing up to play host to the huge influx of pilgrims at the end of October. In an interview to Frontline, P.S. Pasricha, former Director-General of Police, Maharashtra, and chairman of the Takhat Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Gurdwara Board, explains what Gurta Gaddi means to the faithful.
Could you tell us about the history of the gurdwara and how Nanded became a holy place for the Sikhs?
The Sikh community had 10 Gurus. Our last Guru, Gobindsinghji, came to Nanded to ask the Marathas to help him strengthen his forces in order to fight the Mughal empire, which at that time was under the supremacy of Aurangzeb. Historians say Guru Gobind Singh was attacked by some of his own men and died owing to severe injuries in his back. He was only 42. However, before he left for his heavenly abode, he ordained that henceforth there would be no mortal Guru for the Sikhs. They would have to follow the teachings in the Guru Granth Sahib, which would be their leader. Nanded, therefore, is extremely significant for the Sikhs. This was where Guru Gobindsinghji died and left behind a legacy and philosophy so progressive that people of all faiths come here to pay respect to the great leader and his teachings.
The tercentenary celebrations mark two events in the Sikh calendar. Could you say something on the events?
It was in 1708 that Guru Gobindsinghji said the Guru Granth Sahib would be the Guru of the Sikhs. It is now 300 years since he left this legacy for us. For the first 100 years, we were fighting the Mughals. Then came the British. This is the first time that we are celebrating the consecration of the holy book and observing the death anniversary of Guru Gobind in free India. The elevation of the Guru Granth Sahib is called Gurta Gaddi. The second event is called parlok gaman, or the heavenly journey of the Guru. These events took place in October 1708.
What have you planned for the tercentenary celebrations and what arrangements have you made for the pilgrims?
It will be a massive gathering of Sikhs and others who have faith in the Guru Granth Sahib. Ours is not a religion as much as it is a way of love. Anyone who believes in universal love will be attracted to our way of life. The Sikhs have always done everything on a grand scale. These tercentenary celebrations are no exception. Of the 20 million Sikhs all over the world, we expect at least 2.5 million to pay homage to the tenth Guru. We have been planning this since last year and I think we are now ready.
In view of the religious and national significance of the events, the gurdwara complex has been renovated. The entire Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib complex is being redesigned to accommodate a minimum of 40,000 devotees in its main hall. A Guru Granth Sahib Bhavan has been constructed to facilitate religious and cultural congregations. About 4,000 devotees can gather here for talks, films and kirtans. Through the days of the celebration we will conduct prayers, talks and cultural programmes. The main thing is we need to have the facilities to accommodate anyone who visits, and I think we have accomplished that.
A world-class museum of Sikh history is being developed. Gobind Baug is an eight-acre garden complete with musical fountains where visitors can enjoy a bit of greenery and quiet. A number of Yatri Bhavans have been especially built to accommodate visitors.
Indeed, the entire city of Nanded has been upgraded. There are new roads, an airport, a renovated railway station, better water supply and sewerage systems. A 100-foot-platform, with adequate bathing points, has been built along the Godavari with Central government funds.