Islamabad - Thousands of Sikh devotees arrive in Pakistan every year to celebrate the centuries’ old festival of Besakhi.

The festival is historically rooted in the land of Punjab region which is celebrated when the wheat crop is harvested just before the beginning of the summer season.

But now it is being recognised in Pakistan with the arrival of Sikh devotees who reach Gurdwara Panja Sahib for performing their religious rituals.

On this occasion Several Sikh devotees shared their memories of the past, and experience at the festival this year.

SARDAR SURINDER SINGH

Sardra Surinder Singh is a 63-year-old devotee who runs Azad Book Publication business in Amritsar, India. His father established a bookshop under the similar name in Lahore before partition.

He said they had published Islamic and Sufi books and his father used to pay homage at Daata Darbar before opening his shop in Lahore. However, he said when the Lakshami Market was burnt during the riots, his grandmother crossed the border with only Rs2,500 only. “They freed their 200 cattle aimed to save them from starvation during the riots,” he said, adding one of his uncles reached India after two years.

He said that he visited his father’s property at Ram Mohallah Street No.09 Lahore and felt the pain which was always in her grandmother’s eyes. “I visited Pakistan more than 20 times and every time I carried a few copies of Daily Nawa-i-Waqt with me to India as my father used to read it,” he said.

SARDAR HARVINDAR SINGH

Sardar Harvindar Singh is from Amritsar and his parents Suchait Singh and Basant Kaur were from Rawalpindi before they migrated to India after riots erupted in the city.  “My mother had five sisters and one of them jumped into a well when the riots reached my house,” said Harvindar. This is my second visit to Pakistan and I want to see Aman Pura Mohallah where my father had a grocery shop. He said in his previous trip he was though taken to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, yet seeing Aman Pura remained a distant dream.

“I am very happy on my second visit, people of Pakistan welcomed us with mighty hearts and mixed with us like our own brothers,” he said.

Governments of both countries should also adopt the behaviour which their public carry. “I wish I could meet renowned compare of Pakistan Tariq Aziz in this trip,” he said.

TAJINDAR SINGH

Tjindar Singh is from Patiyala, India and met his nephew Narayen Singh for the first time in fifty years. His nephew Narayen Singh is settled in Buner district and they were in contact with each other but decided to meet this year on the occasion of Besakhi festival.

“My heart is in India but heartbeat is in Pakistan,” said old Tajindar.

He said that his sister was born in Pakistan and it is the biggest happiness of his life that he is meeting her son today above fifty years.

“I never saw my sister when riots erupted and we moved to India, one day she died and I was unable to see her for the last time,” Tajindar said.

My views about Pakistan are changed now, people here gave us love and facilitate us as much as they could, he added.

He added that Indian and Pakistani governments must work to search the lost families on humanitarian grounds. “I am leaving on the train schedule at 08:00pm and my heart is heavy because trains have the horrific history,” said Tajindar.

AVINASH and HINA KAUR

Avinash and Hina Kaur tied their knot last week and reached from Peshawar to celebrate Besakhi festival. All spotlights are on the couple dressed in the wedding attire.

“We made an oath that after wedding we will attend this festival for the blessings of Guru Nanak,” said Avinash.

He said though he visited here a number of times, this year happiness is doubled as he got married.  “Very few such festivals are left for the people where they gather and celebrate their culture as well as perform their religious rituals,” he said.

Hina Kaur believed that all prayers are responded at this holy place and she wish peace and prosperity in Pakistan along with her personal good future.