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Pilgrims begin arriving for Besakhi festival.

TAXILA -- Pilgrims have begun arriving in Hassanabdal ahead of the Besakhi Festival, which will begin today (Friday) at Gurdwara Punja Sahib.

Some 2,200 Indian Sikhs are scheduled to reach aboard three special trains, along with pilgrims from Canada, the United States and across Pakistan.

As part of the religious festival they will renew the pledge to exercise brotherhood and harmony enshrined in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, the last Sikh Guru.

A total of 3,000 people from India, around 2,000 from Europe and the Gulf states and around 8,000 from within Pakistan will be in Hassanabdal for the religious event.

Besakhi, the Sikh baptism ceremony, is also known as the harvest festival in India and Pakistan. The three day festival will mark the beginning of the Sikh New Year and the founding of Khalsa Panth in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj.

Water that continues to flow from under the stone, affixed in the premises of the gurdwara, is also considered a miracle.

The three-day Besakhi festival begins on the first day of Besakh (April 11), the fifth month of the Bikrami calendar, with the recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib. The 1,430-page scripture is recited during the three days without pause.

The celebrations culminate on the third way with the end of the recitation and the Bhog the ending rite takes place.

Besakhi is celebrated throughout the world, but its celebrations in Pakistan bear special significance for being the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, in Nankana Sahib, and the area where the last human Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj settled in Hassanabdal.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal has said the ETPB collaborated with police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure foolproof security for Sikh pilgrims.

He said security will be monitored in a control room at district police headquarters, while 500 police personnel including members of the Anti-Terrorism Squad and the Elite Force Unit will be deployed around the clock at the gurdwara.

Plainclothes officials will also be present around the gurdwara, and walk-through gates have been installed at points of entry. Surveillance at local markets, the

bus stand, the railway station and around the gurdwara will be intensified during the pilgrims' movement, he said.

More than 540 police personnel, including 24 Elite Force commandoes, have been sent to assist the Attock police to strengthen security for the pilgrims.

Regional Police Officer (RPO) Ahmed Ishaq Jhangeer directed the Rawalpindi, Jhelum and Chakwal city police officers to send 255 police officials and 12 Elite Force commandoes two sections of the Elite Force with two vehicles from Rawalpindi, as well was 137 personnel and 12 commandoes from Jhelum and Chakwal each to maintain the peace during Besakhi.

The RPO directed the concerned police chiefs to send their additional force to Attock by noon on Friday with their official weapons, cards and other items.

The Attock District Police Officer will devise a security plan upon their arrival in line with directives.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Apr 12, 2019
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