Hundreds of Sikhs have arrived in Pakistan to mark Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s 183rd death anniversary at Dera Sahib, Lahore on June 29.
Known as Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab), Singh was founder and first king (Maharaja) of Sikh Empire. He established the empire after the capture of Lahore in 1799. The empire lost its existence in 1849 following the defeat of the Sikh army at the hands of the British East India Company in the second Anglo-Sikh War.
At its peak, the empire extended from Khyber Pass in the west to Tibet in the east and from Mithankot Sindh in the south to Kashmir in the north. The empire had four provinces: Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Kashmir with a diverse population of more than four million in the early 1930s, according to historians.
Born in 1780 to Maha Singh and Raj Kaur in Gujranwala, Singh died in his sleep at Lahore Fort on June 27, 1839 after spending an eventful life of over about 60 years.
The ceremony to mark his death anniversary will be held at Gurdwara Dera Sahib – a spot in Lahore where the fifth guru of Sikh religion Guru Arjan Dev was martyred in Mughal King Jahangir’s custody in 1606 – on Wednesday, June 29, as per the Sikh calendar.
Hundreds of Sikhs from different cities of Pakistan and other countries are expected to participate in the death anniversary of the great Sikh ruler who generally enjoyed reverence and respect of millions of Punjabi-speaking people of different religions across the globe.
The Punjab government had erected his statue at Lahore Fort to pay homage to the services of the Punjabi ruler a couple of year ago.
Along with the Sikh community, Punjabi Sangat and other organizations have also planned events to commemorate his death anniversary.
Over 450 Sikhs from India are also attending the events and they reached Lahore through Wagah Border on Tuesday.
Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Ameer Singh and officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a statutory body that manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs who had migrated to India following partition of 1947, welcomed the delegation.
ETPB Spokesperson Amir Hashmi said the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi had issued the visas to 500 pilgrims but only 450 arrived to participate in the events. He said that tight security arrangements were made for the Indian Sikh groups who would visit Gurdwara Janamasthan Nankana Sahib – the birth place of founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak Deviji – and Kartarpur Sahib – the death place of Guru Nanak near Narowal – during their stay in Pakistan.
The delegation will visit Gurdwara Panja Gurdwara – famous for having the handprint of Guru Nanak on a marble piece – in Hasan Abdal and Gurdwara Rori Sahib in Emanabad near Gujranwala. Rori, a Punjabi word, means pebbles and it is believed Guru Nank set a bed of pebbles at the site to sit and lie.
Ameer Sigh said Maharaja Ranjit Singh had built the empire on the principles Sikh Gurus where people of all religions were treated equally. The literacy rate was 100 percent in Punjab during Ranjit Singh era, Hashmi added.
Mahinder Pall Singh, a member of Punjab Assembly, said Ranjit Singh would always be remembered for his just rule over Punjab.