SULTANPUR LODHI (PUNJAB): A sea of devotees arrived at the historic Gurdwara Ber Sahib to pay their obeisance at the holy shrine. After taking a dip in the holy Kali Bein, over three lakh people also paid tributes at the 'beri' which is believed to have planted by Guru Nanak himself. Saturday, which marked the second day of the 13-day long celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, saw devotees turning up in huge numbers and also the conclusion of bhog of 15,000 Sehaj Paath.
The visitors are welcomed with paintings and frescos depicting tales of Sikh history and their valour on the walls of the town. Sources say, at least 1.5 lakh litres of paint colours were used to paint the town (roughly one crore square feet area) and cover almost 3700 homes, religious places, educational institutions and government offices.
The jathas (armed body of Sikhs) recite the 'mool mantra' as lakhs of devotees started arriving well before the celebrations which are scheduled to begin on November 5. A 'heritage walk' was organised on Saturday to make people, especially the youngsters, aware of the life and philosophy of Sri Guru Nanak Dev.
With total waste segregation expected to increase from 2.5 tonnes to 70 tonnes per day in the two weeks of festivities, 4550 sanitation workers of local body departments are working round-the-clock. Additionally, 200 new composting pits have been built besides bigger landfills and machines to segregate waste.
The Gurudwara has also adopted a unique method to facilitate the devotees through 'Charan Sewa'. This requires devotees to pick another pair of shoes after depositing their footwear before the darshan at the parking lot. From here, they can take the other pair to the shoe centre (joda ghar) in the Gurudwara where they drop it in the designated collection point. After completing their prayers, they can again pick a pair of footwear from the collection point to walk till the parking lot and get back their own shoes.
In a bid to gain one-upmanship, both the Congress government and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) failed to reach an agreement to hold a joint event to mark the celebrations. The state government has erected a 60,000 square feet pandal known as 'Darbar Hall’ which is a replica of Nankana Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. It is waterproof and has three stages one of the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book of Sikh), other for Sant Samaj (Religious leaders) and third for dignitaries. This apart, separate enclosures for Prime Minister, President, Chief Minister besides ministers and MPs.
The arrangements are also made to accommodate close to 60,000 people with eight big screens and seating. The work has been completed.
Local Congress MLA, Navtej Singh Cheema while speaking to Express said, "Daily 20,000 people are coming and we have never seen such a crowd before. Keeping this in mind, we asked the SGPC to jointly hold the event but they did not agree.’’
On the other hand, the stage by SGPC controlled by the Akali Dal is going to be erected in the Guru Nanak stadium with an 80,000 square feet big fully air-conditioned pandal. "The work to erect the pandal is going on at war-footing we will finish it very soon,’’ said an official of an event management company.
Light and sound shows besides Nagar Kirtans have also been organised at multiple venues in the city.
The state government has established the first-of-its-kind underground cable fed 66 KV substation for uninterrupted electricity supply apart from three other sources of electricity supply system from 220KV substations to avoid any interruption in electricity supply.
Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala DPS Kharbanda said, "The biggest challenge was to create the basic infrastructure as the holy city has not witnessed such kind of religious occasions where we are expecting a footfall of more than 60 lakh pilgrims to visit the holy city.’’
While the state government has spent Rs 200 crore for infrastructure development, SGPC reportedly had to shell out around Rs 20 crore for the makeover of gurdwaras. The SAD has also spent Rs 5 crore for painting the buildings.
Some of the salient features of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak at Sultanpur Lodhi are:
Digital Museum: The experience of one God, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and beyond all form and name has been brought alive in the Digital Museum. More than 7,600 people visited it on the first two days as it has been receiving an overwhelming response.
Drone show: SGPC is doing a drone show every evening in which 150 drones go up in the sky for about fifteen minutes and play 'Ek Onkar, Khanda' and other religious signs in the air.
Theatre and multimedia show: A multimedia show and plays based on travels and sakhis of Guru Nanak will start from November 4 which will be presented every evening for about an hour. Nearly 125 renowned artistes will participate in these cultural performances.
Facilities for pilgrims: Three tent cities have been set up on the three approach roads to Sultanpur Lodhi which can accommodate 35,000 pilgrims. Each tent city is offering four options; two-bed cubicles, four-bed family rooms and 15-bed and 60-bed dormitories.
Nineteen parking lots have been set up over 800 acres.
A total of 300 buses and 350 e-rickshaws free of cost to facilitate the pilgrims' movement.
More than 100 bicycles have been stationed at four points for public use.
A total of 50 ambulances, 150 doctors and 470 paramedics on duty.
370 LED streetlights and 16 high-mast LED lights and 32 traffic blinkers installed.
Five drones, 500 cameras in various control rooms and 7000 men police personnel have been deployed.
Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewa Jatha of UK is setting up three-storey building-- Ek Onkar Mool Mantra Asthan-- at Gurdwara Sant Ghat Sahib which will have 13 galleries. These galleries will depict the delivery of the Mool Mantra by the Guru.