During the 10-day period of turmoil in Punjab, following the incidents of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at various places, the number of devotees visiting the Golden Temple declined considerably, as people could not reach the holy city due to road blockades by Sikh protesters all over the state.
However, everything has now returned back to normal and devotees and visitors, including foreigners are once again making a beeline to the shrine. The shrine is once again jam-packed with devotees who have come from different parts of the country and even from abroad to be part of the Gurpurab (birth celebrations) of Guru Ram Dass ji, the fourth Sikh guru and founder of the city of Amritsar, which falls on Thursday.
The SGPC ‘serais’, even those that are privately owned, are virtually full to its capacity, as a result visitors have look for accommodation in hotels, particularly those in the vicinity of the shrine.
Admitting that there had been a sudden influx of devotees to the shrine, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said this event was very important for not just the Sikh community, but also others. He said, “Locals too participate in this event with a great enthusiasm as the Guru had founded this holy city and seen it grow.”
Bedi agreed that there had been a dramatic fall in the number of devotees to the shrine as Sikhs were angry over the sacrilege incidents and they came out in large numbers to register their protest. As a number of highways, bridges and roads remained blocked for about a week, people found it difficult to reach the holy city. The few who did manage to come did so by rail or air.
Bedi said unlike other years, the Gurpurab celebrations will be kept at a low-key affair due to the sacrilege incidents and also the death of two Sikhs in a firing incidents in Kotkapura a couple of days back. He pointed out that SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar himself had directed that as a mark of respect for our scripture, the celebrations this year must be kept at a low profile.
Unlike the past, there will be no illumination or display of fireworks at the Golden Temple on Gurpurab. The celebrations will largely be confined to offering prayers and listening to ‘kirtan’.
‘Nagar kirtan’ taken out
As is the custom, a ‘nagar kirtan’ (religious procession) was taken out through parts of the old walled city on Wednesday. The procession led by the ‘Panj Pyaras’ commenced after ‘ardas’ was performed by Harmandir Sahib head granthi Giani Jagtar Singh at the Akal Takht.
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, however, was conspicuous by his absence at the start of the ‘nagar kirtan’. Though many of the devotees who took part in the procession thought that the jathedar had deliberately avoided coming to the Akal Takht, SGPC officials said it was not necessary for the jathedar to be present in all such ‘nagar kirtans’.
The ‘nagar kirtan’ after going through various bazaars ended at the Golden Temple. For Thursday, the SGPC has planned out a number of religious events at Dewan Manji Sahib Hall, which will include ‘kirtan samagams’.
The district administration has already declared Thursday as a holiday, as well as a dry day in Amritsar.