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The Future Of Gurdwaras In Pakistan


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Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of my Guru, is always on my mind. So are the other historical gurdwaras that are crumbling in Pakistan. What is the future of these Gurdwaras?

I have always despised facebook, but have since joined because i saw this guy, Syed Sarmad Sajjad, working for the restoration of these Gurdwaras.

What are the obstacles facing restoration?

What obstacles face the Sikhs after restoration, if we were to acheive it?

What will the Sikhs in 100 years time, feel about us Sikhs today, and our handling of this situation, if the Gurdwaras and their identities were to vanish from the face of this earth?

Get your thinkingTurbans on peeps.

What are your thoughts?

I am going to start with mine. The restoration is definitely possible from a financial point. The main obstacle would be getting the work done. Would it be done as per tradition as Kaar Sewa, or do we get contractors in. IF Kaar Sewa, is the Pakistan Govt going to allow thousands of Sikhs to cross the border to enter West Panjab?

Lets move on a step. Once/if they are restored, who is going to look after them?

Is Parkash going to happen?

What if we western Sikhs. paid Pakistani Sikh families to re-locate to these gurdwaras and maintain them.

But then the question begs, what about the sangat?

What would be the viability of running a gurdwara where the same 4 or 5 people of one family came twice or thrice a day?

Some gurdwaras have been turned into schools, and colleges, some police stations, what are the chances of getting those back? Maybe we would have to purchase them back?

For each gurdwara you would also need a granthi.

What about langar?

To run a gurdwara is not very easy. But what is the alternative for these Gurdwaras?


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No thoughts people?

What about restoring Gurdwaras as places of historical interest only then? The buildings were restored but not functioning as Gurdwaras?

LIke in UK how castles and stately homes are restored but belong to the Heritage Trust. They are not in use much, castles especially but essential to maintain from a historical point.

Would you be happy, or even happier if this were to happen, than the present situation of the Pakistani Gurdwaras?

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We ought to preserve the Gurdwaras of historical importance. May sound harsh but the normal local Gurdwaras shouldn't be our priority.

We should help by making people from NWFP (10,000 Sikhs) move to Punjab, like Gen Zia Ul Haq when he reopened Panja Sahib etc.

Besides that, we should focus on the Sehajdhari Sindhis who can adopt full Sikhi and also move to Punjab, because that is potential too. Because as you said, Gurdwaras without Sikhs is not ... right. We hardly have 20,000 sikhs in Pakistan and half of them live scattered around NWFP (which doesnt have that many Gurdwaras compared to Punjab). So we should help them and FATA sikhs (who have to pay monthly Jizya to taliban) to move to Pak Punjab different parts and take part in upkeeping the Gurdwaras.

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OK, lets look at that as a starting point. The existing Sikh community in Pakistan. If us western sikhs were to match or exceed the pakistani sikhs' present income, they would be in more of a position to move. But lets say if there are about 200 gurdwaras that need a caretaker family to look after it, would you be able to find so many families willing to re-locate to another part of the country? and bearing in mind that some NWFP sikhs are pashtu speakers only, how would they cope in panjab? maybe if they knew urdu possibly.

The sehajdhari sindhis are taking amrit in very very small numbers. their active participation would probably be a semi-long-term solution. But could they take of the gurdwaras as Sehajdhari Sikhs as well?

You are absolutely right in that normal gurdwaras should nbot be our priority, especailly in the west, and even in panjab for that matter.

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I think there must be about 200 historical Gurdwaras in current Pakistan - only few are cared for by the govt.

Well it might sound crazy, but the situation in FATA and NWFP is detoriating for the Sikhs. While they always remained 'safe' under the security of the tribals, the Taliban now is less tolerant and there have been many cases of conversion. Reports of children and girls being converted have not been highlighted by Sikhs in the west, but they do exist. And who would not want to move from FATA and escape paying 1100 Rupees Jizya tax monthly?

If Afghani (2,000 in number) and North Pakistani Sikhs did have the means, they would prefer to move out. I had talked to some and from what I heard business is their main occupation and Punjab is fairly expensive but some Sikhs were coming southwards, slowly settling in Hasan Abdal, Rawalpindi (near NWFP) and Nankana. So I think yes, it is possible.
Language is not a problem, many of them speak or understand Punjabi Urdu fairly well and even if they don't it shouldn't be a factor holding us back.

Then there are many poor Sindhi Sikhs who converted but are neglected, I think they would be willing to move to anywhere provided they are taken care of.

Besides we do need converts because our community in Pak is small and I feel that we need some strongholds.

Well the thing is that some of these Sahejdharis are on the verge of Hinduism and Sikhi, and it would be commendable if parchar is done and then they are deployed in Punjab. I heard of a Sindhi doctor if I am not mistaked who converted to Sikhi and shifted to Nankana Sahib few years back.

Have you ever thought of asking Vatican type status for Nankana if we had more inhabitants there? Don't really know what the benefits would be though but still.

Edited by SikhKhoj
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the number of Sikhs in the NWFP increased as the they exited afghanistan, but most moved onto the west or india, only a few thousand were left behind in pakistan.

We, the Sikhs cannot expect the sindhi sikhs just to convert/take amrit to save our shrines. we have to be open about this and level with them. I suppose one way of supporting Sindhi Sikhs, is also to help them financially wherever or whenever we can.

Its a difficult situation. I dont know what vatican status would bring, and the trouble is that even in Nankana Sahib, the Sikhs are like not even 1%, so would the Muslims agree to this? Vatican status i think would give Nankana Sahib a form of independence from Pakistan? How would their govt react to sucha proposal given the other independence movements that are currently existing there?

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NWFP always had a huge population of sikhs as most of them did not leave in 1947 and there was no bloodshed. Their numbers temporarily increased due to Afghan migration but they later migrated to India or Europe.

But now I am seeingthat more and more people from NWFP are going southwards, Rawalpindi Panja Sahib etc.

We don't expect them to take amrit / convert just for our shrines but for our well being as a community, as we DO NEED numbers too - and it would come in handy for cases like the Gurdwara ones right, and wouldn't we be setting up their business etc as you proposed?

Yes the Vatican status is not something that can solve problems, it just crossed my mind once, long ago. And I don't think it would be independant, but more autonomous but your right about not enough Sikhs being there.

But I really feel we should work towards preaching our faith to the Pak Hindus, Dalits and Christians. It is not reported but there have been many cases of conversions (Christians in Punjab and Hindus in Sindh, the biggest minorities in the respective provinces) - and on the long term it has good benefits for our Qaum.

Edited by SikhKhoj
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Firstly, it is so worth checking out the pictures. They are amazing. It puts East Punjabis and NRIs who build houses in East Punjab to shame. Why build houses like Florida mansions or English manors when you have such a rich architectural heritage to draw from?

I think the idea of converting people just to use them to look after our own history is not going to go down well in the long run. Sindhis especially would want to stay Sindhi, and their children/grandchildren might not like the idea of having been converted to just make up the numbers. Taking Sikhs from Afghanistan and NWFP is a good idea, even if it is just a case of 'out of the fire, into the frying pan'. But that leaves their own heritage behind. I posted a thread about an Afghan Sikh who is facing these difficulties in Afghanistan, it's worth checking out. We dont even know the relative importance of certain Gurudwaras, in East Punjab there are some Pindh Gurudwaras that were important historically but arent broadcast to avoid randoms turning up in the village. With so many abandoned Gurudwaras we dont even know which ones are more important than others. Do we even have a database of all Gurudwaras/shrines/places of importance abandoned?

Then there are other things to consider. The first is research. Where are these places? As I began to improve my Punjabi I began to notice how a lot of UK SIkhs speak with heavy local accents. I wanted to hear more authentic accents. It then dawned on me that with my grandparents now dead and no other relatives who grew up in pre-Partition West Punjab, that their way of speaking/dialect would be lost to me forever. As well as that, what they knew of where they grew up was gone forever. Getting Sikhs from West Punjabi backgrounds to record their elders whilst they are still alive to describe their lives, Gurudwaras, places of importance where they grew up would be a good idea. Any pictures that survive would be a God send too.

We have to consider security. We didnt exactly leave on the best of terms. Plenty of photographs show islamic graffiti, green flags, smashed faces etc all the things you would expect fanatics to do to a Gurudwara. They arent going to be too happy with some Sikhs just turning up again to look after the building and land. The Badal government need to put excessive pressure on the Pakistan government to expel all squatters and guarantee the rights of all Sikhs who go to these places. They could offer similar terms for mosques in East Punjab. We cant just give money to random people over the border, we have no idea who they are. Another thing is that the Nihangs are traditional custodians of the Gurudwaras. The SGPC could create a taskforce/jatha to plan out where these Gurudwaras are and alocate Sikhs and Nihangs to go to them and restore normal day to day things like Langar, picture the state of the Gurudwaras and find out what happened to SGGS ji and other texts.

Then there is maintenance. If we want to restore them we need to do it properly. None of this 'lets plaster everything' or 'marble everything it till your eyes hurt'. We lost so many people who knew how to look after them due to Anglo-Sikh wars/partition/emigration to the west, it's no surprise no one knows how to look after them anymore. Having said that there is scientific/archaelogical equipment we could use. Paint seeps into whatever it is painted into. using certain equipment it is possible to tell what colours certain things were or to make out images that were painted on walls. There are also ground radars/xray machines which reveal foundations or room structures for collapsed parts of buildings. All this stuff will cost a lot of money and there is no guarantee it wont be stolen or allowed into Pakistan - hence why we would need Nihangs and volunteers on site. The equipment could be sourced by universities/companies in East Punjab using their own funds and donations for this project. Then you would need to people to use the equipment and analyze what they find to create a plan to rebuild. Things like sourcing bricks similar to ones used in the original construction will have to be asked. That's what I can think of off the top of my head, but there are so many other things that need to be considered if we want to avoid doing a slapdash job.

Then there is other things to consider. Foreigners love antiques and relics. If we do a project like this, we have to prevent some idiots thinking they can make a quick buck by cutting bits off the walls and selling them to collectors/Sikhs in the west. I'm not joking, this happens regularly in other parts of the world. People who sell their heritage are the worst traitors. How would we prevent this?

EDIT: Sorry for the photo avalanche, but I know some of you dont have Facebook and would probably want to still see the pics so I put them all below. Mods can move them to another thread if they feel it is inappropriate.

Edited by HSD1
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