Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is a prominent Sikh pilgrimage site located in Kartarpur
Overview - Sikh Community in Pakistan
The Sikh community has a long and rich history in what is now Pakistan. It was once the heartland of the Sikh Empire, which was established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century. The Sikh Empire encompassed much of the present-day Punjab region, including Lahore, Amritsar, and other major cities. Sikhs have a strong historical connection to the city of Nankana Sahib which is the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and it is home to several important gurdwaras.
In 1947, when India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule, the country was partitioned into two nations. This led to massive population movements, with many Sikhs leaving newly-established Pakistan and settling in India, and many Muslims leaving India and starting afresh in Pakistan.
Despite the partition and the subsequent conflicts between India and Pakistan, the Sikh community has maintained a strong presence in Pakistan. There are several important gurdwaras in the country, including the Gurdwara Janam Asthan, which marks the spot where Guru Nanak was born. The Pakistani government has taken steps to preserve and promote Sikh heritage sites, including the restoration of several historic gurdwaras. Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur was reopened in 2019 as part of the Kartarpur Corridor.
The Sikh community continues to play an important role in Pakistan’s cultural and religious landscape, and many Sikhs continue to make pilgrimages to the country to visit their holy sites.
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The Kartarpur Corridor features modern architecture and infrastructure, with two entry and exit points on either side of the border. The Indian side has a state-of-the-art passenger terminal that can accommodate up to 5,000 pilgrims a day, while the Pakistani side has a similar facility with a capacity of up to 10,000 pilgrims a day.
The corridor itself is a four-lane highway with a central median, flanked by green belts and security fencing. It also includes pedestrian sidewalks, a cycle track, and ample parking space. The design of the corridor aims to provide a comfortable and safe travel experience for pilgrims, while also ensuring efficient management of the high volume of visitors expected to use the corridor.
The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, which is the final destination of the corridor, features classic Sikh architecture with a grand entrance gate, a large open courtyard, and a central sanctum. The gurdwara has been fully restored and renovated, with facilities such as langar halls, accommodation, and a museum to showcase the rich history and cultural heritage of the site. The gurdwara’s architecture blends traditional and modern elements, reflecting its historical and spiritual significance to the Sikh community.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is a prominent Sikh pilgrimage site located in Kartarpur, a town in the Punjab province of Pakistan. The gurdwara is closely associated with the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who settled in Kartarpur in 1522 and lived there until his death in 1539 close to the banks of the River Ravi.
The history of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur dates back to the 16th century, when Guru Nanak Dev Ji founded the town of Kartarpur and established a community of followers there. It is said that the gurdwara itself was built on the site of the house where Guru Nanak Dev Ji lived, and it was here that he spread spiritual guidance to his followers and the community and wrote many of his notable hymns.
After Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s death, the gurdwara remained an important pilgrimage site for Sikhs. However, it fell into disrepair over the years due to floodings of the nearby riverbanks, and eventual abandonment. In the 1920s, the gurdwara was partially restored by the Sikh community, but it was still in poor condition. In 2000, the governments of Pakistan and India agreed to open a corridor between the two countries, allowing Sikhs to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur without needing a visa. This decision was seen as a significant step towards improving relations between India and Pakistan.
In 2019, the gurdwara was fully renovated and the 4.2km long corridor opened to the public just in time for Guru Ji’s 550th birth anniversary. It now attracts thousands of pilgrims from India and other countries every year, who come to pay their respects to Guru Nanak Dev Ji and to experience the spiritual atmosphere of the gurdwara. The gurdwara is also an important symbol of the shared cultural heritage of India and Pakistan. It represents a significant step forward in the relationship between the two countries, and is a source of hope and optimism for people on both sides of the border.
Crossing the Corridor
From Lahore, the journey to Kartarpur Sahib 130km long and takes 2.5 hours.
The Pakistani Terminal
The terminal located on the Pakistani side of the border is about 4 kilometres from the gurdwara. It is a large, air-conditioned complex that can accommodate up to 10,000 pilgrims a day. The complex includes several amenities and facilities to ensure a comfortable and safe travel experience for pilgrims.
The terminal has several features, including immigration counters, a security check area, a currency exchange facility, and baggage handling services. There are also medical facilities, including a first-aid station and an ambulance service. The terminal has ample parking space and is connected to the gurdwara by a shuttle service. It is also wheelchair accessible and has several ramps and elevators to ensure that all pilgrims can access the complex. The terminal also features a large, open-air courtyard where pilgrims can rest, relax, and socialize before or after their visit to the gurdwara. The courtyard has landscaped gardens, a prayer area, and several stalls selling souvenirs and refreshments.
The Pakistan terminal at Kartarpur Corridor is an important symbol of the shared cultural heritage of India and Pakistan, and a testament to the power of cooperation and diplomacy breaking through long-standing political conflict.
Pakistanis visiting the corridor only need to bring their ID. Foreigners in Pakistan must carry their passport with a valid Pakistani visa. Both locals and foreigners entering from the Pakistani side need only pay a nominal fee of PKR 200. Strict security checks must be cleared to gain entry to the corridor or the gurdwara complex. Visitors can continue to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur by shuttle bus or on foot.
The Indian Terminal
The Indian terminal is located in the town of Dera Baba Nanak in the Indian state of Punjab, and is about 3 kilometres from the actual border with Pakistan. The terminal is a modern facility that can accommodate up to 5,000 pilgrims a day. The terminal’s design is inspired by the architecture of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is a sacred site for Sikhs.
To enter the Kartarpur Corridor, Indian nationals are required to carry a valid passport and a permit, which can be obtained online a month in advance (registration link). The permit, called an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) is free of charge for Indian Citizens, and must be presented at the Passenger Terminal Building along with passport or proof of OCI. Visitors are also required to undergo a security check before entering the corridor. People of any faith may visit the gurdwara and access is not limited to Sikh yatris alone. It must be noted, that permission to visit the corridor does not extend beyond the limits of the Gurdwara complex.
Requirements for online permit:
- Indian Passport or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card
- Blood type
- Name of your local police station (if Indian)
- Scan of your passport in PDF
- Passport photo in JPG format
From the Indian side, the corridor starts at Dera Baba Nanak and ends at the international border, where visitors must cross over to enter Pakistan. The journey from Dera Baba Nanak to the gurdwara takes approximately 15 minutes by bus.
Entry Timings: 9am to 3pm
It is important to note that the Kartarpur Corridor is open only from dawn to dusk and may be closed on certain days for maintenance or security reasons. Visitors are advised to check the latest updates and guidelines before planning their trip.
- Every yatri entering through the corridor must pay USD 20 at the entry point. Children and elderly cannot be unaccompanied. The fee is inclusive of transportation and other costs. These visitors are not allowed to stay at the gurdwara overnight.
- Visitors entering through Wagha Border can enter for free and stay overnight at the gurdwara.
At the Kartarpur Corridor, visitors can visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, a shrine dedicated to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Pilgrims can participate in religious ceremonies, listen to hymns and prayers, and pay their respects to Guru Nanak. They can also explore the complex, which includes the main prayer hall, kitchens, and living quarters for the Sikh community. Visitors can also take a stroll in the surrounding gardens and admire the picturesque scenery. There are also Gurudwara offerings of langar and prasad served in the afternoon consisting of foods like mixed vegetable curry, bean or lentil curry, pulao, zarda (a sweetened rice dish), tea and water. It is important to note that security in the Gurdwara is very strict and pilgrims and tourists must clear multiple security checkpoints to enter the complex. Cameras and drones are not allowed, and special permits may be required for professional photography.
Written by: Hira Sami