Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Gurudwara in no man's land in Kutch, Gujarat

Kutch (Gujarat): A Gurudwara in no man's land has put worshippers and the government in a fix. It is the last human abode on the India-Pakistan border in Gujarat. Located at Lakhpat in Kutch, the five-and-a-half-century-old Gurudwara is a protected monument. The local Sikh community wants to develop it into a major pilgrimage center but they are finding it difficult to convince the government.

Once a thriving town, Lakhpat lost its maritime significance in 1851 AD, when River Sindhu changed its course. Today the town is almost deserted, with only a few families living here and instead has become home to a revered Gurudwara.

"The importance of this Gurudwara can be gauged from the fact that though there's not one sikh family living in the radius of 60 km, we still have langars (community meal sharing) all the year round. People travel for thousands of kilometers to visit the Gurudwara," says Jathedar Surinder Singh.

Legend has it that Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of the Sikh religion, embarked for Haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca from Lakhpat. Bhai Shrichand, Guru Nanak's son, constructed the Gurudwara to commemorate this event.

Winner of a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award in 2004, this Gurudwara houses relics like a carved wooden cradle, wooden sandals of Guru Nanak, ancient manuscripts and markings of two of the important heads of the Udasi sect.

Those managing the Gurudwara are however unhappy. "Government instead of helping us is creating hurdles for us, telling us not to do this or not to do that. It does not even give permission, if they do give it to us we would get it built," says Jathedar Surinder Singh.

The Sikh community wants to develop this as a major religious center. They want to build a guesthouse and renovate the entire area. However, with it being a protected monument and that too close to the border, the government is having a having a tough time balancing religious sentiments and strategic requirements.

Sikhism and Gurudwara News : www.sikhtourism.com