Seventy-two years after Partition, Pakistan on Friday opened the doors of the historic Gurdwara Choa Sahib in Punjab province to Sikh devotees, including from India, in the run-up to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November. Lying closed since 1947 after Sikh community members from the area migrated from Pakistan, the gurdwara in the Jhelum district of Punjab province was in a state of neglect.
The Gurdwara Choa Sahib, located close to Rohtas Fort -- a UNESCO world heritage site, was reopened in a colourful ceremony in the presence of several high officials and community members. The ceremony began with an 'ardaas' (prayer) and 'kirtans' (devotional songs) performed by Sikh community members.
Dr Aamer Ahmed, chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) that looks after the holy places of minorities in Pakistan, was the chief guest. Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee (PSGPC) president Sardar Satwant Singh was also present on the occasion.
"Gurdwara Choa Sahib has been opened for worship and visit. It is also opened for foreign Sikhs...whether they come from India or any other part of the world, they are welcomed to visit this historical place," ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi told PTI.
The restoration work of the gurdwara is underway, he added. Commissioned by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the gurdwara was completed in 1834. It is believed that Guru Nanak, who was returning from nearby Tilla Jogian temples, stayed at the place, which was reeling under drought-like situation at that time.
Guru Nanak is said to have struck the earth with his cane and moved a stone, thereby revealing a natural water spring (choa) in the area. Recently Pakistan also opened the centuries-old Shawala Teja Singh temple in the eastern city of Sialkot for "worship". The temple was also reopened after 72 years of Partition on the demand of the local Hindu community.