By Jaideep Sarin
As the summer heat sweeps the plains of Punjab in scorching June, the Sikh religious town of Anandpur Sahib is all set to mark its 350th birthday with an all-white spread.
The Punjab government has unveiled grandiose plans for the occasion. From painting the main part of the town in white to inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be part of the celebrations, the Punjab government and its agencies will hold a big show from June 17 to 19.
“Most government buildings and others have been painted in white. This is giving the town a unique and fresh look,” Nirmal Singh, a resident of nearby Nangal town who regularly visits Anandpur Sahib, told IANS.
The process of painting the buildings will be completed by June 15, officials entrusted with the work said.
Anandpur Sahib, 85 km from Chandigarh, is home to the second most important Sikh shrine, Takht Keshgarh Sahib, after the ‘Harmandar Sahib’ (popularly known as Golden Temple) in Amritsar.
The Anandpur Sahib shrine attracts hundreds of devotees daily. The rush is much bigger on weekends and on days of religious importance.
The shrine and the town are famous as it was here in 1699 that the 10th master, Guru Gobind Singh, baptized five men (Panj Piaras) and founded the Khalsa Panth, which is the modern day Sikh religion.
The foundation of the town was laid by the ninth Sikh guru, Tegh Bahadur, on June 19, 1665.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is taking a personal interest for the event, has set up a high-level committee comprising the chief secretary and other officers to make arrangements for the event.
Prime Minister Modi has confirmed his visit to the town on June 19.
“Dignitaries and eminent religious personalities are being invited for the event. I have directed officers to ensure the commemoration of the 350th year of Sri Anandpur Sahib in a befitting manner. It will showcase the glorious legacy of Sikh Panth,” Badal said.
The state government is making arrangements, including for stay, for hundreds of thousands of people who will come for the three-day event.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages Sikh shrines in Punjab, is also trying to ensure that the 350th anniversary is marked with full enthusiasm.
“We will do everything to make it a big occasion. The SGPC and the Punjab government will not let (lack of) funds come in the way of organising the event,” SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said.
Local residents and those from nearby areas say the event will be held in a festival spirit.
“Prayers to mark the event will begin on June 17 and culminate on June 19. Nearly 200 langars (community kitchens) are being organised in and around Anandpur Sahib for people,” Gurmukh Singh, a preacher, told IANS.
Anandpur Sahib saw the commemoration of 300 years of the foundation of the Khalsa Panth in April 1999. (IANS)