Kartarpur Corridor May Finally be the Answer to Encourage Religious Pilgrimages Between India & Pakistan

The foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor was laid down by both India and Pakistan within two days of each other. Kartarpur Sahib is the only Gurudwara in Pakistan in which Muslims are allowed to enter. The place holds special significance for Sikhs because their founder, Guru Nanak, lived the last 18 years of his life there. It is also the place where the Sikh community’s second Guru, Bhai Lehna, later named Angad, hailed from.

Ravindra Singh Khurana, Ex-Vice President, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) believes that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is a great step from a religious point of view.

Located on the banks of river Ravi, Kartarpur has no habitation around it. There used to be a railway station named ‘Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’ which was 117 kilometers from Lahore. Indians who were only two kilometers away from the border had to see the final resting abode of the Nanak through binoculars placed at a Gurudwara in Gurdaspur, on the Indian side of the border. Now, the visa-free entrance will let them physically visit the holy place.

Though many people are happy that this border is opening up, many feel that the decision is leaving them out. This is because Kartarpur isn’t the only religious place that has been cordoned off by partition.

Katas Raj, also known as Killa Katas, holds major significance for Hindus in India. The temple is situated around a natural pond believed to be created by a teardrop of Lord Shiva. Legends claim that when Shiva was carrying the dead body of his wife Sati, one teardrop fell in this area and created the pond. It is believed that another teardrop fell in Ajmer, Rajasthan. It is also believed that the Pandavas lived in Katas for 12 years.

Katas Raj was a popular destination for Hindus before Partition. Believers from all over the country used to visit the holy to celebrate Shivratri, a major Hindu festival. But the war between India and Pakistan in 1965 barred Indian pilgrims from visiting the temple, up till 1984.

It was only in 2005 when LK Advani, then BJP President, was invited to the inauguration of the restoration work in Katas Raj that the temple regained the spotlight. The following year, 300 Hindus from India visited the temple for Shivratri. After that, 2,000 Pakistani Hindus visited the temple so as to keep the tradition of Shivratri alive in the temple.

Pakistani author and anthropologist Haroon Khalid said that the Valmiki temple is not as popular among Pakistani Hindus as the Katas Raj or Hinglaj. “These two are arguably the most famous Hindu pilgrimages in the country.

As far as Hindus from India visiting temples in Pakistan, Khalid said that the “upper caste Hindus might be skeptical of visiting Valmiki’s temple, which has essentially been the temple of ‘untouchables’ for generations”.

In 2016, India issued over 5000 visas to Ahmadis but security concerns prevented the adherents from attending. Over 6000 Ahmadis had attended the same conference the year before.

The Kartarpur Gurudwara in many ways evades the issues of border conflict. But whether it sets a precedent for other religious places, remains to be seen.

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