Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peace-seekers at a Peaceful Place: Gurdwara Panja Sahib




“Show your ID card” the security personnel asked.

I took out my ID card and showed it to him.
“No, you can’t go inside”  

“But why?” I asked

“Muslims are not allowed to enter the Gurdwara, now move on” He said while gently pushing me aside.

“But why?” I kept on asking…

I was at the gate of Gurdwara Siri Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal.

“Muslims are not allowed to enter” - it felt like a hard slap on my face.

I think this was the first time I realized how it feels like to be a minority in a country. When you are under different sanctions and restrictions or when you are stopped from doing things or visiting any religious or other places.

What also crossed my mind was that this place was associated with one of the greatest personalities of South Asia and Punjab in particular, Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who spread the message of peace, love and humanity among all human beings, without any discrimination. Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji is equally respected among Muslims too. Peace does not have any religion; Love does not have any borders. Where there is peace and love, we all bow our heads.

But I couldn’t also forget the fact that the current security issues of Pakistan are a major concern and needless to say that there is always a threat to security. We have to admit that terrorism has affected us in ways more than we can fathom. Even we cannot visit those holy places which are respected and highly regarded among peace-lovers. I hope things will change for the better and the gates of these havens of peace will be soon opened to all.

However, my friend Shahzad Ahmed finally made it possible to enter the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, thanks to his strong willed efforts. During our visit we also met another nice and humble young man Inderjit Singh. Shahzad’s friend Umar introduced him to us. I, along with my friend Shafqat stepped inside the Gurdwara in the company of Inderjit.

Gurdwara Panja Sahib is one of the holiest places of the Sikh religion. I am not going into the details here but it is important to mention the religious and historical significance of this place. According to the Sikhiwiki

Guru Nanak along with Bhai Mardana reached Hasan Abdal in Baisakh Samwat 1578 B.K. corresponding to 1521 A.D. in the summer season. Under a shady cool tree, Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana started reciting kirtan (sacred hymns) and their devotees gathered around. This annoyed Wali Qandhari but he was helpless.
According to legend, Bhai Mardana was sent three times to Wali Qandhari so that he would provide him with some water to quench his thirst. Wali Qandhari refused his request and was rude to him. In spite of this, Mardana still very politely stuck to his demand.

The Wali ironically remarked: "Why don't you ask your Master whom you serve?" Mardana went back to the Guru in a miserable state and said "Oh lord! I prefer death to thirst but will not approach Wali the egoist again." The Guru replied "Oh Bhai Mardana ! Repeat the Name of God, the Almighty; and drink the water to your heart's content."

The Guru put aside a big stone lying nearby and a pure fountain of water sprang up and began to flow endlessly. Bhai Mardana quenched his thirst and felt grateful to the Guru. On the other hand, at about the same time, the fountain of Wali Qandhari dried up.
On witnessing this, Wali in his rage threw part of a mountain, a huge rock towards the Guru from the top of the hill. The Guru stopped the hurled rock with his hand leaving his hand print in the rock. Observing that miracle, Wali became the Guru's devotee. This holy and revered place is now known as Panja Sahib.”

The word "Panja" in Punjabi means an "outstretched palm" from the word "panj" which means "five".

Passing through the gate, I raised my head and saw the magnificent architecture of the Gurdwara, the gold and white colored domes shining brightly under the sun. Families were sitting along in corridors and near the holy water pool. Children and men were taking the holy bath or dip in the pool (Ashnaan).
The Vaisakhi Mela had ended just a day before our visit and though most of the pilgrims from India and other countries had left for Lahore and Nankana Sahib, there were still many local and foreign pilgrims around.

I have visited many Shrines and Darbaars before and I should say that I felt the same calm and peace in this place as well.

While showing us around, Inderjit Singh narrated to us the historical and religious significance of this place. He told us about the architecture, rituals, Siri Granth Sahib and Panja Sahib. He guided us through the different parts of Gurdwara and in the end we dipped our feet in the holy water of Panja Sahib and touched the Holy Stone.

The experience of this visit shall forever remain a memorable one for me as throughout day I could literally feel the peace and calmness of its air in my heart. Just before leaving Inderjit Singh asked us about experience and feelings after visiting Gurdwara. Before I could collect my thoughts and express in words (which was quite impossible at that high time) Shafqat said “We are peace seekers and where there we will find it, we’ll bow our heads”
I, Inderjit Singh and Shafqat Aziz

All I can wish for is that the walls of hatred to be brought down and message of love, peace and harmony be spread around. If something had gone wrong somewhere in the past, we have to work hard and correct it ourselves now. I hope peace prevails and people from different religious faiths live together in harmony.

And to remember Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji through his own words
Love the saints of every faith:
Put away thy pride.
Remember the essence of religion
Is meekness and sympathy,
Not fine clothes,
Not the Yogi’s garb and ashes,
Not the blowing of the horns,
Not the shaven head,
Not long prayers,
Not recitations and torturings,
Not the ascetic way,
But a life of goodness and purity,
Amid the world’s temptations

***

12 comments:

  1. It is such a nice account given by Shiraz Hassan. Thank you Shiraz. Hope to visit this shrine again after a gap of 13 years. Your piece will be great help. Places of worship bring peace besides bridging the gap between communities and give message of live and let others live peacefully.

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  2. wonderful, it shows all you need is a little patience and belief and you can make your way through... very nice account.

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  3. Beautiful read... beautifuler experience.

    Lucky you who is touched by the essence of secular mind. May you travel far and wide and never get lost. Amen! :)

    Keep sharing.

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  4. Awesome piece Shiraz. Thanks for writing your experience. Yes it feels odd to know in the house of God, if any of His own creation is denied entry. I have been to Golden Temple Amritsar, with no one asking me who was I, but sadly our own biggest mosque, in Makkah, stops nonMuslim entry almost 25 km before the mosque.

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  5. Bahut khoobsoorat Shiraz bhai... the spiritual experience at a hallowed place is beyond religion and petty disputes among people. There are security threats to religious places, both in Pakistan and in India, that does not allow free movement of people. I highly commend your effort to visit Gurudwara Panja Sahib and sharing your experience. There is no limitation on anyone to enter a Gurudwara anywhere in the world based on caste, religion, color or sex. This is in line with the principles advocated by Guru nanak dev ji in your blog. The security concerns limit that in Pakistan but they can be eased out with the efforts of people like you.

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  6. Great work. I want to visit Gurdwara Panja Ji and Nankana Saab Ji one day.

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  7. ‎"Peace does not have any religion; Love does not have any borders. Where there is peace and love, we all bow our heads."

    I agree completely with that. :)

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  8. Right! peace does not have any religion.Every religion gives the lesson of love and peace.And this blogspot has great information about Gudawara Panja Sahib...after reading this blogspot i knew more about it.Whenever you visit the Pakistan
    you must visit our site....cheap flights to pakistan

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  9. I want to visit Gurdwara as well. I have tried to enter into Lahore's Gurdwara along with priyanka. BUT they stopped us. And Reason was same...

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  10. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Hindu Saint

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