After 1708, whilst the Khalsa were trying to survive holocausts and genocidal campaigns by escaping to the jungles and deserts, udasi sadhus (holy men), who were sympathizers of the Sikhs, took charge of the management of the Sikh Gurdwaras.
In the late 18th century, the Khalsa gained political strength and made Gurdwaras at historic locations linked to the Gurus. The caretakers of the Gurdwaras, who were non-Sikhs, were known as Mahants (caretakers). Then soon came the Sikh Raj of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Although the Khalsa had returned to the cities and villages, the majority of Gurdwaras remained under the control of non-Sikh mahants.
Sadhus and Mahants, such as these, brought non-Sikh customs such as using jot (continous flame) and jal (water) in containers into Gurdwaras.
During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Raj, the Gurdwaras were given property rights and estates (Jagirs). As a consequence, the non-Sikh mahants become more powerful and began to treat and accept the Gurdwaras as their personal property.
Later, the udasi sadhus and mahants began to distort Sikh practices and traditions of the Gurdwaras and commit acts of sacrilege and disrespect.
In 1849, the British come into the power and employed their own Sarbrahs (managers) at major Sikh Gurdwaras like Tarn Taran and Amritsar.
The British knew that if Sikhs came to control their Gurdwaras, they would be able to control the large amounts of money that the Gurdwara lands and donations generated.
Furthermore, the Gurdwaras would allow Sikhs to empower the masses with knowledge and spirit which could cause a revolution and threaten the Imperial invaders. Sikhs managed to regain control over many Historic Gurdwaras between 1920-1947.
Many hindu rituals, like the installation of stone idols, were eliminated from Gurdwaras (although some bad practices, like using jot and joss/ incense sticks, still remain).
After 1947, many great Historic Gurdwaras located in the newly created Pakistan were lost to Sikhs. Even now, Sikhs are unable to gain access or receive 'permission' to visit the holy sites.
The Pakistan government and Pakistani muslims unjustifiably confiscated and occupied Gurdwaras and their extensive lands. According to the ancient revenue records Rai Bular and Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave a total of 757 murabas (approx. 18,750 acres) to Gurdwaras at Nankana Sahib. From a 1994 Pakistani newspaper editorial: 'The entire Nankana Sahib estate consists of 16,962 acres'.
Unfortunately, the SGPC, current Sikh leaders in India and abroad have shown little effort in making progress with Sikh issues on behalf of all Sikhs.
The partition of India had a debilitating and damaging effect on the Sikhs, particularly on those who had established for themselves flourishing farms and businesses. Leaving everything behind, and fleeing to East Punjab was a very painful, traumatic and disheartening experience. Perforce, the sacred Gurdwaras had to be abandoned, and there was nothing that Sikhs could do when Pakistani muslims started a Sikh genocide.
Millions of Sikhs remember what happened to the 'Lost Gurdwaras' from 1947 by way of the Sikh Ardas.
The Ardas is a Sikh prayer that is carried out before performing or after undertaking any significant task; after reciting the daily Banis (prayers); or completion of a service like the Paath (scripture reading/ recitation) or kirtan.
Every day, with every prayer, millions of Sikhs recite the following sentences as part of the Ardas;
Hei Akal Purakh apane panth de sada sahai darar jio,
Sri Nankana Sahib áte hor gurduara gurdhama de,
Jinha ton panth nu vichhoria gia hai,
Khullhe darshan didar áte seva sambhal da dan Khalsa ji nu bakhsho.
Almighty benevolent Lord, protector and eternal helper of the community,
Restore Sri Nankana Sahib, and other Gurdwaras,
Which the community has been forcibily evicted from,
To the Khalsa so they may have unhindered access and management in order to freely provide charity, and help, to others.
The Partition of Punjab in 1947 didn't just result in the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs from their ancestral homes; it also resulted in the separation of the Sikh community from hundreds of historic Gurdwaras and landmarks.
Nearly 200 Gurdwaras were separated from Sikhs after Pakistan came into existence on 14th August 1947. Ironically, several historic Gurdwaras, such as those in Ghavindi, Hudiara, Jahman and Kartarpur Sahib are as close as 5 km from the international border. Some of these Gurdwaras like Kartarpur Sahib can even be seen in the distance when standing at the border - so close yet so very far. Places like Nankana Sahib (where Guru Nanak was born) and Panja Sahib which are integral to the Sikh heritage were left behind.
The following article, first published on 25th May 1999, is just as relevant today as it has been in the past.
All previous protestations of friendship of the Sikh community ring hollow and it is becoming increasingly clear that Islamic fundamentalist elements, who control the Government in Pakistan, have decided to appropriate unto themselves Sikh Gurdwaras in Pakistan and the properties attached to them.
The Archaeological Department of Pakistan had conducted a survey of the Sikh historical Gurdwaras soon after the 1947 Partition. It had listed as many as 130 important historical Gurdwaras. Detailed information about these Gurdwaras was later incorporated in the book "Sikh Shrines in West Pakistan" by Khan Mohammed Waliullah Khan and published by the Department of Archaeology, Govt. of Pakistan in 1962.
These Gurdwaras include 28 built in the sacred memory of Guru Nanak Sahib Ji - Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib; Gurdwara Sachcha Sauda; Gurdwara Parija Sahib, Hassan Abdal; Gurdwara Chaki Sahib, Eminabad; Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur; Gurdwara Bairi Sahib; Sialkot, etc. One gurdwara, Janam Asthan Guru Ram Das, Lahore, marks the memory of the fourth Guru, Sri Ram Das. Eight Gurdwaras, including Gurdwara Budhu Ka Awa, Lahore; Samadh of Guru Arjan Sahib; and Gurdwara Haft Madar, Sheikhupura are in the sacred memory of the fifth Guru, Sri Arjan Sahib Ji. There are twelve Gurdwaras in the memory of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji.
Each of these Gurdwaras has its own property in the form of agricultural land and buildings. Such land had been donated by the Sikhs from time to time for the maintenance and upkeep of these historical qurdwaras. Some of these Gurdwaras thus have thousands of acres of land. The property of these Gurdwaras is worth hundreds of crores of Rupees. This property went under the control of the Waqf Board after Partition and has since then been systematically misused and misappropriated. Except very few Gurdwaras, where Sikh pilgrims from India are allowed to visit in the form of Jathas on religious/historical occasions, not a Rupee has been spent on the maintenance and upkeep of other Gurdwaras by the Waqf Board.
Access to Gurdwara Sri Nankana Sahib is strictly controlled by Pakistani authorities and often refused.
At 2016 Punjab land prices, the entire Gurdwara Sri Nankana Sahib estate of 18,750 acres is
worth $700 Million US Dollars or 48.3 Arab Indian Rupees (4830 Crore Indian Rupees).
Sikhs, who have acquired foreign nationalities and could visit some of the Gurdwaras (beyond access to Indian Sikhs), have come back with horrifying accounts These Gurdwaras are not only in a bad state of disrepair but have been systematically desecrated by local residents who use them as shelter for domestic animals and as ground for Sun drying dung cakes, Shops have been set up in gurdwara premises and the essential routine of prayers is not being followed. These grand sites marking significant events in Sikh history are today but lifeless and decrepit buildings.
Knowledge of the sad state of Gurdwaras in Pakistan has been common place among Sikhs worldwide., There has been an intense desire among them to gain access to all the Gurdwaras in Pakistan so that they can they can be surveyed before repair work is undertaken and moves are initiated with the administrntion for eviction of encroachers and for restoration of alienated kind. On its part, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) has been demanding that the Gurdwaras in Pakistan, which were part of its domain between 1929 and 1947 (when Partition took place) should be restored to it. The SGPC has made several appeals to the Pakistan Government in this regard. The intensity of the desire of Sikhs to accomplish this is amply reflected in the fact that, in prayers said twice a day, every Sikh beseeches God to bless him with free access to the Gurdwaras in Pakistan so that they can be maintained as well as the Gurdwaras in India.
It is worth recalling that the Sikhs had to wage a prolonged struggle to recover control of Gurdwaras from corrupt Mahants, who were using the resources Of Gurdwaras for personal aggrandisement. The Mahants, had taken care to keep the British on their right side. The patience and persistence of Sikhs involved in the struggle to liberate the Gurdwaras was rewarded as the SGPC was formed as an elected body to run the Gurdwaras. In the wake of the Partition, the Waqf Board took over charge of the Gurdwaras in Pakistan and the results are for all to see. The Waqf Board has been no better than the Mahants. The resultant pain in the hearts of Sikhs is so intense that it cannot be imagined.
Three centuries have passed since the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, ordained the Khalsa. In commemorating this event recently, the entire Sikh community paid tribute to the vision of the great Guru, resolved to abide by his ministerations and undertook not to spare any effort for the preservation and advancement of Sikhism. Many world leaders, including heads of State and the governments of India, UK and Canada, have felicitated the Sikhs and made complimentary references to the honesty and integrity exhibited consistently by members of the Sikh community.
Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib can be viewed 5 km's from the Indian border with Pakistan.
At this great juncture, as all Sikhs celebrate and re-dedicate themselves to the ideals cherished by their Gurus, Pakistan has delivered a body blow to the entire Sikh Community. The Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC) was formed through a recent notification. Its autocratic chief, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Javed Nasir was quick to unveil his real colours as he prevented the SGPC from maintaining its traditional right to collection of offerings made by pilgrims on important religious occasions, when Jathas from India visit three Gurdwaras in Pakistan.
If the Pakistan Government was sincere in its protestations of concern for the Sikh community and if it wanted to make a symbolic gesture on the occasion of the tercentenary of Khalsa, it need not have wasted its time to set up the PGPC. Without even giving up the stranglehold that it has maintained over the Gurdwaras in Pakistan, it could have announced a phased programme for their restoration and repair, and for the restoration of alienated lands.
Instead, it proceeded to appoint puppets from amongst Pakistani Sikhs to the PGPC, so that it could project that the Sikh Community was being allowed to run its own affairs in Pakistan. It does not need any effort to understand that neither Gyan Singh of Baluchistan, nor Ram Singh of Peshawar, nor Satnam Singh of Sindh and their three other Sikh colleagues have religious credentials and that they are but instruments in the hands of Gen. Javed Nasir. One fails to understand as to why another three Muslims have been appointed on to the PGPC. Is there an intention to Islamise the Sikhs in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which is inexorably sliding towards obscurantism? Clearly, no discerning Sikh would regard the creation of the PGPC as a step in the right direction.
Gen. Nasir has already given away his real intentions. In an interview (April 23, 1999) to "Jung", the largest circulated Urdu daily in Pakistan, Gen. Nasir did not so much as outline any plan for the restoration of Gurdwaras in Pakistan to their original glory but proceeded to suggest that the creation of the PGPC would provide a fillip to the "separatist movement" in Punjab, which, in due course, would threaten the very integrity of the Indian nation. One wonders why an experienced General should believe the myth that there is a separatist movement in Punjab and why he should lay store by a non-existent phenomenon to achieve what might be regarded as a military objective. Clearly, he is not equipped in any way to handle the affairs of Gurdwaras, as he remains burdened primarily by military prooccupations.
Gurdwara Sri Kair Sahib, an important site visited by Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, has been left in a neglected state.
All previous protestations of friendship of the Sikh community ring hollow and it is becoming increasingly clear that Islamic fundamentalist elements, who control the Government in Pakistan, have decided to appropriate unto themselves Sikh Gurdwaras in Pakistan and the properties attached to them, so that all traces of the Sikh faith are removed from the firmament in Pakistan. Sikhs have combated such challenges in the past and will do so now. Let the Government of Pakistan and its operatives not forget that the raisom d'etre of the Sikh religion was its ability to protect the meek from oppression by muslim rulers.
The Sikh Gurus made several sacrifices in the course of their such campaign. Two of them, the 5th Guru and the 9th Guru, were martyred in the process and the four sons of the 10th Guru were brutally killed. Many other loyal adherents of the Gurus gave up their lives in the Struggle to liberate this land from the clutches of ruthless and avaricious muslim rulers. The Sikhs maintain the spirit even today and will not hesitate to shed blood, if that should be necessary, to protect their religion and all elements of their heritage, no matter what the locale.
Inherently there never has been any rivalry between Sikhi and Islam. The rural population of Punjab, had no causa belli with their neighbours before the advent of Islam in 1001 AD. Over the centuries, most of the low caste, opportunistic and cowardly hindus converted to Islam and these converts largely make up the Pakistani muslim community. These muslims sought revenge on their former hindu kin and tried to use terrorism against Sikhs. With Sikhism arose, muslims (and more recently hindus) began Genocides using misguided religous mentalities.
Credit: jammu-kashmir.com (25th May 1999)
a. China : The advent of Communism drove all religions out of the country. The flourishing Sikh Gurdwaras, for example, in Shanghai were abandoned, there was no Sangat for these.
b. Fiji : The racial prejudice against non-Fijians inhibited and cramped the growth and practice of Sikhism.
c. East Africa : The professional and business opportunities for Asians were severely curtailed and, for political reasons, large numbers of people emigrated to UK or India. The reduced Sikh population made many Gurdwaras redundant.
The effect on Sikh Gurdwaras of the division of post-1947 Punjab: Unlike the partition of India, the dismemberment of the Punjab into the States of Haryana and Himachal Pardesh, did not involve a movement of populations. It however, put a brake on the expansion of the Sikh religion in these areas.
When the SGPC was created in 1925, it was charged with the functioning and upkeep of the Historic Gurdwaras of the Punjab (as it was then). Thus, the Gurdwaras of Punjab, in what later became "Pakistan", Haryana" and "Himachal Pardesh" were subject to the jurisdiction of SGPC. As Pakistan was born as a sovereign Islamic republic, the jurisdiction of the SGPC over the Historic Sikh Gurdwaras in the West Punjab ceased. The Sikhs could have access to these sacred places only in the manner - and to the extent - that the Pakistan government permitted.
The position of the Gurdwaras in Haryana and Himachal Pardesh is, however, different. These two states being an integral part of India, the jurisdiction of SGPC over the Sikh Historic Gurdwaras there has continued. Of the three Takhts in the Punjab, namely, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Kesgarh Sahib, and Sri Dam-Dama Sahib, the first two were included in the 1925 Act, but the Central Government left the inclusion of Dam Dama Sahib in abeyance. On the Baisakhi tercentenary celebrations this year, it has at last been included. Now the legal status of these three Takhts is equal.
The Gurdwaras of Delhi are within the jurisdiction of DSGPC created by a parochial Act for the purpose.
The Takhts, Sri Patna Sahib and Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib are made subject to the laws of Bihar and Maharashtra, respectively. The satellite Gurdwaras of these Takhts are included in the jurisdiction of the Committees appointed thereunder.
As Pakistan is a sovereign country, and the Laws of India cannot apply to it extra-territorially, by establishing its own PGPC, the Pakistan government is mirroring the jurisdictional legislations of India. No exception can, therefore, be taken by anyone for this creation that is applicable to the Sikh Gurdwaras within its realm and for giving their control to its Sikh citizens.
Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, has satellite Gurdwaras like Bal Lila, Gurdwara Patti Sahib, Gurdwara Mal Ji Sahib, Gurdwara Kiara Sahib, Gurdwara Tamboo Sahib, as well as the Gurdwaras of Guru Arjan and Guru Hargobind Sahib, and Gurdwara Nihang Singhan, etc. In Choohar Kanna, the Gurdwara Sacha Sauda. In Lahore, Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj, Dehra Sahib, as well as Gurdwara Guru Nanak Garh, Guru Ramdas Dharamsala, Gurdwara Diwan Khana, and Baoli Sahib. Gurdwara Shikar Garh of Guru Hargobind Sahib, Gurdwara Bhai Budhu da Ava, Gurdwara Lall Khooh, Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj of Bhai Mani Singh and Shaheed Ganj of Bhai Taroo Singh. Apart from the Dera Sahib Gurdwara in Lahore, and the Nankana Sahib and its satellite Gurdwaras, the others are neglected and are deteriorating daily. There is very little local Sangat, but Punjabi and overseas Sikhs visit these on their travels to Pakistan.
Many Gurdwaras like this one at Katas are being neglected by the Pakistan authorities and Sikh's are denied access.
Kartarpur Sahib (the place of demise of Guru Nanak): This Gurdwara, by virtue of its eminence, should be the focus of every visiting Sikh, but it is a sad fact that it is the least visited shrine. Over the years the Gurdwara building is now in ruins. S.G.P.C. has totally neglected it.
Panja Sahib: This Gurdwara has space and scenery. It is well visited by overseas Sikhs, and by the Jathas led by S.G.P.C. It is well guarded by the Pakistan security and it is in a healthy state of preservation. There is no local Sangat, but there are Resident Granthis.
Other Gurdwaras like Bhai Lallo's in Eminabad, and those in and around West Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sind. Except for Bhai Lallo's, the others are boarded up. There are no local Sangats, except in Peshawar.
The ability of SGPC to oversee the West Punjab Gurdwaras: The role of the S.G.P.C. has been limited to Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib, and that too towards collecting the "Charhava" and other receivables from the Sikhs accompanying the Jathas. The financial and practical assistance of S.G.P.C. to the Gurdwaras visited has been minimal.
a. Gurdwaras in Shangai were abandoned in haste, and there is no prospect of there being any Sikh Sangat in Shanghai in the foreseeable future.
b. The prohibition on the establishment of Gurdwaras in Muslim countries (like, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait) is well known. There is no likelihood of the policy being ever relaxed. The Sikh community has learnt to live with the situation, unsatisfactory though it.
a. Situation of the Sikh Gurdwaras in Pakistan in 1999. These fall under the category of "Evacuee Property" and are, under the control of the Waqf Board. Only certain Gurdwaras, as are regularly visited by foreign Sikhs and SGPC Jathas are looked after. The others are almost neglected. Waqf Board is not a suitable body for the care and reverence of these Gurdwaras.
b. The present change in the policy of Pakistan will result in transferring the control of the Gurdwaras to the local Sikh community. The Gurdwaras and the properties attached to these will no longer be of an "Evacuee" status.
It will be recalled that the Home Ministers of India and Pakistan signed an agreement in 1953 which facilitated the setting up of two boards in the two countries, concerning this evacuee aspect. That action was patently wrong, especially when the Independence Act did not visualize its adoption. The Sikhs have struggled for long, and, in our prayers, we seek : "Gurdhama de khule darshan didar atey sewa sambhal". That has now been granted, and the Sikhs all over the world should thank Waheguru for His Grace.
As a direct result of the transfer of control to PGPC, the Sikhs now have a responsible role to play. First, the Gurdwaras would not be controlled by the Pakistan Waqf Board. There are some 700 Sikh families in Pakistan, who were until now not free to visit the Gurdwaras, much less to manage these. They would now form a committee. This committee would have representatives from other countries, like the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even India. The criteria would be a friendly and co-operative attitude towards Pakistan and its people; the genuine desire to encourage the fulfillment of the object of the progress and welfare of the Gurdwaras, and preservation of the Sikh religion and its traditions. The Jathedars of the five Takhts in India would have one representative each on the Committee. It would, therefore, have a wider acceptance than that of the SGPC. While the overseas Sikhs would be able to visit the Pakistan Gurdwaras at any time, any Sikh from India could also come to the Wagah border, and get a visa to visit the Gurdwaras for a fortnight throughout the year. Under the present arrangement, a fixed number of Sikhs can visit the Gurdwaras only during the Gurpurabs. Now that Sikhs all over the world would have free year-long access to our holy Gurdwaras, it can only be deemed to be an important achievement.
Gurdwara Bhai Bannu has been heavily damaged by fire and vandalism. Sikh's are denied access to Gurdwaras such as these.
Pakistani's are directly responsible for the neglect and damage caused to Gurdwaras.
General Nasir is the chairman of the Pakistan Waqf Board and, by virtue of that position, he is heading the PGPC. But this is just a temporary arrangement. When a new committee is formed by the Pakistani Sikhs and others, no one but a Sikh shall be its head. It would be a democratic institution, and its functions would fully conform to Sikh traditions, to operate on the same pattern as the SGPC. It should be remembered that under the 1925 Act, Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar presides over every first meeting of the general house of the SGPC; and he may be a Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or a Christian. General Nasir's position on the PGPC is similar.
c. How effective have been the Jathas of SGPC in post 1947 period ; During the Congress government period, being a secular institution, it was unsympathetic towards the visits of the Sikhs to their Gurdwaras in Pakistan. Their governments ruled India for decades. They kept the number of Sikh visitors down to a few hundred per Jatha, and included security and spy personnel. Much misery, disappointment was suffered by genuine devotees. During the BJP government period, as the Akalis were partners in the government at the Centre and in the Punjab, the BJP government allowed Jathas by the thousand. The role of SGPC has clearly been limited to a few visits, and congregations in a year, mainly Nankana Sahib, Dera Sahib and Panja Sahib. It has not been able to improve its relationship with Pakistan or its people. SGPC's role has been circumscribed by the politics of India rather than by the necessity to propagate the religion of Guru Nanak, as its top priority. The maintenance of the remaining Gurdwaras in Pakistan has been totally neglected. SGPC does not spend any funds of its own on repair and maintenance of the Gurdwaras, nor can it suggest ways and means for the recovery of maximum possible revenue from Gurdwara lands and properties.
Pakistan, being a sovereign country, based on Sharia law, has hitherto deemed the Sikh Gurdwaras as "Evacuee" property. As such, the Sikh Gurdwaras came under the control of the Waqf Board. Many Gurdwaras have landed property attached to them, but the revenue to be drawn from such properties were totally under the discretionary control of the Waqf Board. The result has been that the income has been meagre. There were no SGPC guidelines for its betterment.
It is a fact, for example, that in 1979 to 1981, there was a fulltime gardener who looked after the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara and tended the garden and the well in its immediate vicinity. When in 1982, the incumbent gardener died, the Waqf Board took no steps to replace him. The SGPC never took any notice of the deteriorating state of that shrine. It is a fact well known to SGPC that, in the course of its pre-1947 history, the building had been refurbished at the cost of the Maharaja of Patiala. Similar fate of neglect and inaction, resulting in destruction, fell on other smaller Gurdwaras in West Punjab. In solitary instances, individual Sikhs took the initiative (for personal reasons) to improve the condition of some of the buildings for which they have had particular empathy, for example, Bhai Lallo's well in Eminabad was repaired and the Gurdwara refurbished by a Sikh family from overseas.
The heart of any Sikh, who has to utter these sentiments, fills with grief, but it has to be recorded that, bearing in mind the pitiable and self destructive activities of the Sikh leadership in India, it is foolish to expect any credible initiative from them. Sikh leaders need to lead or step aside and let the youth come forward. Proxy hindu stooges wearing Sikh clothes and dastars can no longer be tolerated.
Gurdwara Sri Guru Dongmar Sahib commands this amazing view and is the highest Gurdwara in the world. The Gurdwara, located in Sikkim (India),
built by Sikhs in the Indian army, has been occupied by buddhists supported by the hindu government.
The SGPC must understand that one of its functions is to ensure the sustained propagation of the Sikh religion. Up to now, SGPC and the Sikh leadership in India have proved themselves to be totally powerless to exert any influence on the Pakistan Government. They could have done so by spending time, money and effort, in the structural maintenance of the Gurdwaras, and by maintaining a liaison with Pakistani Sikhs.
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
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