The Punjab government is pulling out all the stops to make the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev-the founder of the Sikh faith-a memorable event. The government is in the process of completing a number of projects that will ease the journey for the thousands of pilgrims-from within the country and abroad-that are expected to throng the holy sites of the Sikh faith including Sultanpur Lodhi, Dera Baba Nanak, Amritsar and Kartarpur.
The Punjab government has already spent over Rs 550 crore on infrastructure works in these cities, apart from setting up institutions and museums to commemorate the event. Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, who is personally supervising the arrangements, says his government is willing to spend any amount to ensure that the 550th anniversary celebrations will be remembered for all time to come. As he told india today, “We have gone the whole hog in setting up the celebrations for Guru Nanak Devji…because there is nothing bigger than him for us.” (See interview: “As a Sikh, I am proud…”)
The works that the Punjab government has undertaken include Guru Nanak Dev Ji Centre for Invention, Incubation and Training institutes at various locations and a Bebe Nanaki University College for Girls, in Fattu Dhinga, Sultanpur Lodhi. Together, these initiatives will cost over Rs 300 crore.
Historians Indu Banga and Sumail Singh Sidhu with senior journalist Roopinder Singh (centre) in a panel discussion on Nanak’s teachings
In addition, the state is spending Rs 480 crore to set up a National Institute of Inter-Faith Studies at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and Rs 300 crore for a heritage museum, ‘Pind Babe Nanak Da’, again at Sultanpur Lodhi. The government has also initiated a host of infrastructure works in the sites and villages identified with Guru Nanak Dev, apart from providing massive facilities for the pilgrims expected through the year-long celebrations.
To commemorate the 550th year of his birth, india today magazine brought out a special edition titled Guru Nanak: Seer, Saint, Saviour, Redeemer and Spiritual Preceptor. It is a compendium of essays by experts that explore all the facets of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak. Among those who contributed were experts such as J.S. Grewal, Indu Banga, B.N. Goswamy, Bhai Baldeep Singh, K.T.S. Tulsi, Navtej Sarna and Rabbi Shergill.
The special commemorative issue was released on November 5 in Chandigarh by Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Punjab’s minister for rural development, animal husbandry, dairy development, fisheries, panchayats and higher education. Present on stage were Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, and Raj Chengappa, Group Editorial Director (Publishing).
Punjab minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa speaks at the release of the India Today special edition on Guru Nanak
Speaking on the occasion, Bajwa listed out several of the works undertaken by the state government to make the celebrations memorable. He said the state government had earmarked 70 villages in the state, which the 15th century saint either visited or passed through, and allocated an additional Rs 1 crore to each of them for development work.
Bajwa also talked about the need to support and push the Punjabi language and script. He cited how Sanskrit had faded away, taking in its wake interest in the Vedas and its teachings, and feared the Punjabi script would meet the same fate. He reiterated that the Gurmukhi script’s loss in essence would mean a loss of Guru Nanak’s works too, as most of his teachings are recorded in it.
Bajwa hoped the corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak, on the Indian side, and Kartarpur Sahib on the other side of the fence, would help improve relations between India and Pakistan. In his remarks, Chengappa underlined the universal message of Guru Nanak, ‘Ek Omkar’, and how it remains supremely relevant in these times of strife.
ENTRANCED Kabir bani recital by Pt Madhup Mudgal; (below) the cover of the India Today special edition on Guru Nanak
Earlier, welcoming the gathering, Bandeep Singh, Group Photo Editor, described the first guru of the Sikhs as a “luminous fountain of light, spirituality and compassion, not just for Sikhs and Punjabis but for the entire humanity”. He described the india today special issue as a “prism-an effort to celebrate the VIBGYOR light emanating from Guru Nanak Dev in all its hues”.
India Today’s special edition on Guru Nanak
In the panel discussion that followed, historians Indu Banga and Sumail Singh Sidhu deliberated on the relevance of Guru Nanak’s teachings today. The discussion was moderated by senior journalist Roopinder Singh. At the start of the event, a Kabir bani recitation by Pt Madhup Mudgal and his troupe held the audience enthralled.