Wednesday, October 8, 2008
ROOTED in a culture that is lively and full of vigour, Sikh festivities are colourful and celebrated on a fairly massive scale. The tercentenary celebrations of the elevation of the Adi Granth as the perpetual Guru of the Sikhs, to be called Guru Granth Sahib thereafter, at Nanded city in Maharashtra are no exception. The city has the unique distinction of having been visited by the first and the last Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. The festival, known as Gurta Gaddi in Punjabi, and the observation of 300 years of Guru Gobind Singh’s departure for the heavenly abode will be held in late October and early November at Nanded, which is home to one of the five most important seats of authority of Sikhs, the Takhat Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib. The Langar Sahib Gurdwara in Nanded has made arrangements to feed 1 crore pilgrims between Dasara on October 9 and the 10th Guru’s 300th death anniversary on November 3. The Gurdwara Sachkhand Board, the governing body of the Takhat Sachkhand Shri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib, and the Nanded district administration have geared up for this special occasion in the history of the world’s youngest religion. A princely allocation of Rs.350 crore has been earmarked to develop the city’s infrastructure in view of the celebrations, an exercise that is a component of the work going on under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
The Gurta Gaddi celebrations will start on October 27 when Sikhs will observe the “Takhat Ishnan”, or the purification of the Sachkhand Gurdwara. The faithful carry pitchers of water from the Godavari and pour it on the Gurdwara in a symbolic act of cleansing.
On October 28, the festival of Diwali will be celebrated with deepmala – rows of lamps will illuminate the gurdwara on that day. The main Gurta Gaddi festival is slated for October 30, when the consecration and elevation of the Adi Granth as Guru Granth Sahib will be re-enacted. The Granth Sahib will be brought from the Nagina Ghat Gurdwara on the banks of the Godavari in a procession amid the chanting of Gurbani. It will be consecrated at the Sachkhand Gurdwara, where devotees will get a glimpse (darshan) of the holy book. The event will be marked by the recital and singing of Gurbani. On November 3, the 300th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh’s death (parlok gaman) will be observed in the gurdwara, once again amid the recital of the Gurbani. In April 2005, the Sachkhand Gurdwara Board and the Nanded Waghala City Municipal Corporation (NWCMC) drew up plans for the celebrations, which they estimated would attract about 30 lakh pilgrims. In a city with a population of five lakh people, the arrival of just five lakh pilgrims would mean supporting double of its usual population. Collector Radheshyam Mopalwar said: “The surroundings of Nanded had to be developed at least temporarily before the festivities. A plan was prepared in 2004, and it was approved by the State Cabinet on February 2 the next year.” The plan, prepared in consultation with U.P.S. Madan, former president of the Sachkhand Gurdwara Board, sought to develop infrastructure to house pilgrims and facilitate easy access to the city.
Mopalwar, who took over as Collector on March 1, 2005, presented the plan to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 18, in Pune. The Centre agreed to bear 50 per cent of the cost of the project, which included development of Nanded city under the JNNURM.
Before the plan was put into action, the gurdwara premises and the surrounding localities were quite congested. But now the old buildings have been replaced by new accommodation complexes spread over 2.24 lakh sq ft. There are 1,500 rooms in this complex, which surrounds the gurdwara. Mopalwar said: “The new plan gave the gurdwara precincts a spacious courtyard of 2.8 lakh sq ft and an outer corridor of 4 lakh sq ft. This space is enough to ensure easy movement of pilgrims during the celebrations.”
The families that were displaced by the project are now accommodated in the Abchalnagar housing project, which is not far from where they lived before. “We completed the Abchalnagar residential colony in record time. Tourism Minister Ambika Soni, who laid the foundation for the colony in 2007, inaugurated it after it was completed,” said Municipal Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar. Apart from the 1,500-room complex, accommodations were developed at places such as the Langar Sahib Gurdwara. Forty private buildings have been rented for the purpose of accommodating pilgrims. Pilgrims will also be housed in school and college buildings that have been rented for the duration of the festival. At 40 camps on the outskirts of Nanded, some 2 lakh pilgrims will be accommodated. These camps have facilities for water supply and sewage disposal. There is also ample parking space for pilgrims who will drive in from other parts of the country, including Punjab