Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab on the world religious tourism map

Sultanpur Lodhi will be the first place in Punjab to be on the world religious tourism map because of its sanctity and heritage value. This was disclosed by Chief Minister of Panjab. The CM also paid obeisance at Ber Sahib gurdwara on the occasion of the prakash purb of Guru Nanak Dev.

Representatives of the World Tourism Organisation had visited Punjab to identify places that have religious importance and Sultanpur Lodhi had been identified as a befitting place to be on the map. No place could hold more importance since this is where the Guru attained enlightenment, he pointed out.

At present, the Tourism Department is implementing a Rs 3.61-crore project to promote tourism in the Kapurthala - Sultanpur Lodhi tourist circuit and the ecological restoration of the Pavitar Bein project has been expedited. Keeping in view the religious value of this holy town, the government had initiated a series of steps to develop the city under the guidance of the newly constituted Sultanpur Lodhi Development Board. The infrastructure, health facilities and transport connectivity of this historic town would also be upgraded which would further boost sikh religious tourism.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Punjab heritage edifices being restored to boost tourism

The land of five rivers Punjab is also known for its grand history existing in its centuries-old forts, fortresses and Serais or, traditional lodgings created by the erstwhile rulers of Punjab. It's been always felt that these historical buildings hold a huge tourist potential, provided they are properly maintained. The Punjab Government, in collaboration with the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has taken up the task of restoring heritage buildings for the promotion of tourism in the State. The restoration is being done by the UNWTO giving utmost attention to keep the original beauty of the heritage buildings intact.

For this mega restoration project, UNWTO has prepared a Master Plan and the Punjab and Central government are providing the resources including skilled artisans. The 'Shahi Samadhian' or the royal cremation ground is one of the many historical places in Punjab that are presently undergoing a makeover. Restoration work is also being done at the memorial or Samadhi of Baba Alla Singh, the founder of Patiala city.

The Punjab government wants to promote Amritsar, Kapurthala and Patiala as tourist destinations. The State government had earlier tied up with the UN World Tourism Organization to jointly promote Punjab as a global destination for religio-heritage tourism.

"The Golden temple is not the only Sikh heritage site in Punjab. There are lots of other places, which are overlooked. Lots of pilgrims go to Anandpur Sahib, which is wonderful. But just down the road is Kiratpur, which is very important from the point of view of Sikh heritage. It's a lovely little town having lots of lovely Gurudwaras, heritage gardens and so on. These places are missed since they are not publicized well enough. We want to emphasise those," an official observed.
If the princely state of Patiala boasts of the Sheesh Mehal and Bahadurgarh Fort, Kapurthala city is proud of its Jalaukhand fort. Besides majestic forts and palaces, there are historical Sikh shrines and edifices that attract tourists.

The Punjab government has listed 65 heritage sites to refurbish, out of which 12 are to be restored by the end of this year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gurudwara Nanak Shahi the main Sikh Gurudwara in Bangladesh

Gurudwara Nanak Shahi the main Sikh Gurudwara in Bangladesh, is situated on the campus of the university of dhaka near the arts faculty building. It is believed to have been built on the initiative of a Sikh priest, Almast, sent by the sixth Sikh guru, Hargobind Singh (1595-1644), during the reign of Emperor jahangir. Some others believe it was built by the ninth Sikh guru, Teg Bahadur Singh (1621-75), and that from here communication was maintained with other Sikh Gurudwaras in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

This shrine commemorates Guru Nanak's visit to Dacca. For some years in the recent past, the place had suffered neglect, and it was on the 2nd January 1972, after the liberation of Bangladesh, that Sri Guru Granth Sahib was installed again at the shrine. The room where the congregation met was 9 by 9 meters. Towards the left is an ancient tank, newly cleared of debris, with a baoli in its midst.

The Gurudwara was founded by a missionary sent to Bangladesh by Baba Gurditta, son of Guru Hargobing (6th Guru) within 17th century and was completed in 1830. Religious celebrations include weekly prayers every Friday. Social functions such as Baishakhi are celebrated. Old relics-an old handwritten volume of Guru Granth Sahib, a copy of the Portrait of Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Teg Bahdur's sandals are preserved here Suitable accommodation is available for visitors.

Gurudwara Nanakshahi in Ramana behind the public library adjoining the Dacca University campus, was originally an Udasi Charan-Paduka founded by Baba Nath, successor of Bhai Almast, in memory of Guru Nanak Dev. When Guru Tegh Bahadur was at Dacca during the late 1660s, Bhai Nattha was the Udasi mahant and Baba Bulaki Das the Guru's masand here. On the eve of the Partition, possession and priesthood was the subject of court cases between Baba Tribeni Das and another claimant Gobind Das, and later between Tribeni Das and one Manik Lal. Ultimately Tribeni Das was adjudged the lawful guardian of the Gurudwara, but in the wake of the Partition, he left for India never to return. A Sikh, Swarn Singh looked after this place in his absence. After the creation of Bangladesh after Indo-Pak war, a Sikh deputation was sent from Takht Sri Patna Sahib to Dacca. With the help of Sikh soldiers the members of the deputation led by Captain Bhag Singh of Calcutta recovered possession of the Gurudwara, cleaned it and held a congregation in it on 2nd January, 1972. Even Sayyad Nazar-ul-Islam, then acting President of Bangla Desh attended the congregation and gave assurance about the safety and reconstruction of this and the other Gurudwaras.

The Gurudwara is open to all, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex. The place of prayer is known as 'darbar sahib' and has entrances on all sides, unlike other places of worship. At the northern end of the prayer hall a copy of the holy book of the Sikhs, the granth shahib, is kept on a wooden platform. A pair of wooden sandals, believed to belong to Guru Teg Bahadur Singh, has been preserved in a glass box just under the Granth Sahib.

The daily religious rites at the Gurudwara include reading from the Granth Sahib and recital of prayers. Every Friday a weekly assembly is held from 11 am to 1 pm. The chief granthi reads from the Granth Sahib. kirtan and prayers continue for over two hours. The prayer service ends with the distribution of food. There are also arrangements to distribute food in the morning. Sikhs regard this as a way of enhancing understanding among people. A weekly congregation is held by it in Gurdwara Nanakshahi, on every Friday, which is attended mostly by the devoted staff of the Indian High Commission, some Sikh devotees from the neighbouring lands and some devout Hindu residents of Dhaka.

There are also about eight or nine smaller Gurudwaras in different parts of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Gurudwara Management Committee runs the affairs of these Gurudwaras with financial support from the devotees, foreign visitors, donors and grants from the Bangladesh government.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, a major tourist attraction in Leh Ladakh

Built by Buddhist Lamas nearly five centuries ago to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, to Ladakh, the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is visited by Hindu and Sikh devotees, besides tourists. Although the Ladakh's culture and religion is deeply influenced by Buddhism, the existence of Gurudwara 'Pathar Sahib' adds to the region's religious history and identity.

Legend has it that many centuries ago a demon had terrorised the people of Leh. Baba Guru Nanak, who visited the region around 1516 A.D, came to know about the problem and decided to bless them with his sermons. Locals welcomed him with open arms. His growing popularity angered the demon and in a fit of rage, he decided to kill Guru Nanak with sa large boulder. The boulder, however, turned into wax as soon as it touched Guru Nanak.

"Thinking the Sikh Guru must have got killed by the boulder, the demon appeared only to be shocked to find Guru Nanak Dev meditating. He pushed the boulder with his right foot, but as it had already melted into wax, his foot got embedded in it. Realising, Guru's enormous powers, the demon fell at his feet and sought forgiveness," said Rajender Singh, the caretaker of the gurudwara. Since then, resident Lamas revere the boulder and offer prayers to it. In 1948, the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib's maintenance was taken over by the Army.

The region has a sizeable Sikh population and devotees visit the site to have their wishes fulfilled.

"By the grace of God, my wish has been fulfilled. My younger brother, whose wish has also been fulfilled, has helped me take part in the `Akhand Path', a continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib (the religious textbook of Sikhs). We have a great belief in Gurudwara Pathar Sahib," said Harjinder Singh, a devotee from Punjab.

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Sikh athletes to don turbans at Olympic Games

Some Canadians might not agree with the notion of altering or adding to the national team marching uniform for an Olympic opening ceremonies. Yet after listening to Canadian field hockey player Ravi Kahlon's eloquent explanation, you at least understand the reasoning why he and three fellow Indo-Canadian players will wear turbans when marching into the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Games on Friday.

The four players - Victoria's Kahlon, Bindi Kullar of North Delta, Gabbar Singh of Surrey and Ranjeev Deol of Mississauga, Ont. - don't wear turbans in everyday life and don't ever intend to. So why now, on this mammoth stage, with the world watching?

A turban is a Sikh religious symbol and in no way an Indian national symbol. Kahlon said as a Canadian he would never wear any symbol of Indian nationhood during the Olympics or at any international competition. This is no different than wearing a cross on your chest or a Jewish yarmulke during the opening ceremonies, which nobody would have any problem with," said Kahlon, an RBC mortgage specialist, and outstanding forward appearing in his second Olympic Games.

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