Peace-Seekers at Gurdwara Panja Sahib

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“Show your ID card” the securitypersonnel 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 SiriPanja 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 realizedhow it feels like to be a minority in a country. When you are under differentsanctions and restrictions or when you are stopped from doing things orvisiting any religious or other places.

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

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

However, my friend Shahzad Ahmedfinally made it possible to enter the Gurdwara Panja Sahib, thanks to hisstrong willed efforts. During our visit we also met another nice and humbleyoung man Inderjit Singh. Shahzad’s friend Umar introduced him to us. I, alongwith my friend Shafqat stepped inside the Gurdwara in the company of Inderjit.

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

GuruNanak alongwith Bhai Mardana reached Hasan Abdal in Baisakh Samwat 1578 B.K. corresponding to 1521A.D. in the summer season. Under a shady cool tree, Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardanastarted reciting kirtan (sacred hymns) and their devoteesgathered 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 somewater to quench his thirst. Wali Qandhari refused his request and was rude tohim. In spite of this, Mardana still very politely stuck to his demand.

The Wali ironically remarked: “Why don’t you ask your Masterwhom you serve?” Mardanawent back to the Guru in a miserable state and said “Oh lord! I prefer death tothirst but will not approach Wali the egoist again.” The Guru replied “Oh Bhai Mardana ! Repeatthe Name of God, the Almighty; and drink the water to your heart’scontent.”

The Guru put aside a big stone lying nearby and apure fountain of water sprang up and began to flow endlessly. Bhai Mardana quenched his thirst and felt gratefulto 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 threwpart of a mountain, a huge rock towards the Guru from the top of the hill. TheGuru 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 reveredplace 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 raisedmy head and saw the magnificent architecture of the Gurdwara, the gold andwhite colored domes shining brightly under the sun. Families were sitting alongin corridors and near the holy water pool. Children and men were taking the holybath or dip in the pool (Ashnaan).
The Vaisakhi Mela had ended just aday before our visit and though most of the pilgrims from India and othercountries had left for Lahore and Nankana Sahib, there were still many localand foreign pilgrims around.

I have visited many Shrines andDarbaars before and I should say that I felt the same calm and peace in this placeas well.

While showing us around, InderjitSingh 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 dippedour feet in the holy water of Panja Sahib and touched the Holy Stone.

The experience of this visit shall foreverremain a memorable one for me as throughout day I could literally feel the peaceand calmness of its air in my heart. Just before leaving Inderjit Singh askedus about experience and feelings after visiting Gurdwara. Before I couldcollect my thoughts and express in words (which was quite impossible at thathigh 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 wallsof hatred to be brought down and message of love, peace and harmony be spreadaround. If something had gone wrong somewhere in the past, we have to work hardand correct it ourselves now. I hope peace prevails and people from differentreligious faiths live together in harmony.

And to remember Baba Guru Nanak DevJi through his own words
Love the saints of everyfaith:
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…
Shiraz Hassan
Shiraz Hassan is a magazine reporter and feature writer for Sunday Magazine in Lahore, Pakistan, where he covers social issues, art and culture. At the magazine, he has published more than 400 features related to social problems, culture and 'show biz.' Shiraz has also worked as a news editor at the radio network “MAST FM 103” in Lahore.

He writes about culture and heritage of South Asia, particularly Pakistan. He advocates rich culture of this land and tries to explore facts. Recently he was given an award from the Federal Ministry of Population Welfare for his article on population crises. Writers Guild also awarded him a Medal of excellence for his work.
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