Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nanak Jhira, Bidar gurudwara, a beacon for devotees

Bidar is emerging as an important spiritual tourism destination. The Nanak Jhira Gurudwara here attracts hundreds of tourists every day. On Tuesday, over 50,000 people from across the country converged on the gurudwara to celebrate the 536th Guru Nanak Jayanti. Devotees believe that the first Sikh Guru visited Bidar on his way to Sri Lanka in March 1512. "Then, Bidar was a dry place with no source of drinking water. People were forced to use brackish water. The Guru moved a stone under his feet and an eternal spring of fresh water gushed out. The spring flows even today. People believe it has magical powers and cures diseases," says Amar Singh Ragi, the gurudwara manager.
Sahib Singh, one of the `Panch Pyares' of Sikhism, was born in Bidar. That is why it attracts devotees from far and wide, he says. The gurudwara trust runs a hospital and a free canteen for tourists.
People begin to arrive in Bidar three days before the Jayanti. Volunteers sweep flours, clean walls, help in the kitchen and even guard the shoes of visitors to the gurudwara, which is decorated with lights, flags and banners for the occasion.
`Nishan Sahib,' the flag of Sikhism, which is treated as a symbol of the gurus, enjoys a special place during the celebrations.
Every year, hundreds of flags are brought from various gurudwaras in the country. Devotees from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh walk along with the Nishan Sahib and take turns to carry it to Bidar. The faithful start reading sacred texts on the eve of Kartik Purnima. The chanting of songs and couplets goes on till 2.30 a.m., when firecrackers are burst to celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak. People take a dip at Amrit Kund, a small artificial pond in front of the gurudwara. They join in the singing of bhajans. Next day, they take out a procession in town.
This year's procession included children dressed up as Sikh warriors engaged in a mock war. Men did not seem tired even after performing the `Bhangra' for hours. Traffic was diverted from the main road and special arrangements were made for the procession.
"Bidar has come to be known as the Amrtisar of the South and has become a compulsory stopover for Sikh tourists," says Bidar-based businessmen and gurudwara volunteer Manpreet Singh Khanuja. "It draws not only Sikhs living in different parts of the country, but also people of other faiths. The State Government needs to promote Bidar as an important tourist destination and provide more facilities," Mr. Khanuja said.
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