Islamabad: Thousands of Sikh devotees from across the world on Saturday participated in the three-day Baisakhi festival at Gurdawara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal, the third most sacred city of the Sikh religion.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousuf was the chief guest on the last day of festival.
The concluding ceremony was attended by over 10,000 Sikh and Hindu devotees, including over 2,000 from India, over 300 from Europe and over 10,000 from across Pakistan, including Fata and rural Sindh.
Addressing the devotees, the minister said Pakistan’s government was committed to providing complete religious freedom to people of all faiths, living in the country.
He said that the government was also making efforts to keep their worship places in good condition.
“Pakistan is committed to providing security to the minorities and you have witnessed this for themselves,” he added.
Referring to the devotees from neighbouring India, Sardar Yousuf said Pakistan issued most visas to Sikhs, coming from across the border.
“Despite India is not issuing enough visas to our nationals to participate in two major Urs festivals, we are wholeheartedly welcoming guests from the neighbouring country under full security and hospitality”.
The minister congratulated the Sikh devotees on the annual Baisakhi festival and Khalsa birthday celebrations.
He said that Pakistan government is willing to issue more visas to Sikh devotees from across the world.
He said Pakistan is one of the peaceful countries and people of every religion freely perform their religious obligations.
He said that Pakistan officially celebrate religious festivals of all the minorities.
Secretary Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), District Nazim Attock and other senior government officials were also present on the occasion.
‘Baisakhi’ or ‘Vaisakhi’ - an annual feature - has its origin more than 300 years back when the Khalsa Panth was created by Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj, tenth in the series of Sikh Gurus.
Followers of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikh religion, celebrate this festival with religious zeal and fervor and renew the commitment of upholding the teaching of their spiritual and religious leaders.
Hailing from different parts of the world, they pour into Pakistan to take part in celebrations at Gurdawara Panja Sahib, Hasan Abdal, around 50 kilometers from Islamabad.
This festival also marks conversion of Adi Granth into Guru Granth Sahib and finalizing many other elements of Sikh religion. This 1430 pages thick scripture is considered as a living Guru in book form after Gobind Singh Maharaj had proclaimed himself the last human Guru.
Guru Gobind Singh also established the Sikh baptism ceremony, the partaking of ‘amrit’ or ‘Amrit Sanskar.’ Creation of Khalsa, an egalitarian community that gave Sikhism its political and religious definition and galvanized its martial energies, was a great achievement of Gobind Singh Maharaj.
Baisakhi and Khalsa Panth (Community of the Pure) have deep relation as it was created at the Baisakhi gathering in 1699, at Keshgarh Sahib near Anandpur.