Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was born in 1469 at Talwandi of Rai Bhoe, now known as Nankana Sahib, a town in Sheikhpura district of Pakistan. Guru Nanak had spent the first 15 years of his life at Talwandi Sahib.
Rai Buler, the chief of Talwandi, was a contemporary of Guru Nanak and in fact, one of the first people to recognise the light of the divine in Guru Nanak. Once while he was tending a herd of cattle, the Guru lay down to rest under a tree and fell asleep. Rai Buler was surprised to see that the shadows of other trees had moved with the movement of the sun but not of the tree under which Nanak slept. Similarly, on another occasion, Rai Buler received a complaint that the cattle Guru Nanak was in charge of had entered and damaged the crop of a farmer. Guru Nanak’s father was asked to pay for the damage but when they went there to calculate the losses, they found everything intact and there was no damage. Rai Buler became a devotee of Guru Nanak and declared that the Guru was a saint and the honour of the village. The village was renamed as Nankana Sahib and the gurdwara built at the site where Guru Nanak was born is known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan or Gurdwara Nankana Sahib.
The place is dotted with sacred shrines associated with Guru Nanak. In addition to the main shrine, Gurdwara Janam Asthan, there is Gurdwara Patti Sahib, marking the place of Guru Nanak’s school. Gurdwara Bal Lila is the place where the Guru as a child used to play. Gurdwara Kiara Sahib marks the field which was reported as damaged by a farmer and no damage was discovered. The place where the tree with the shade was found by Rai Buler is called Gurdwara Mal Ji Sahib. There is another important site where Guru Nanak had spent all the money given by his father to feed hungry sadhus, terming it as a sachha sauda, and to escape his father’s wrath, he had hidden himself under the tent (tambu) like tree, hence the name of the site as Gurdwara Tambu Sahib.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib has a special place in Sikh history and on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has organised an international nagarkirtan called “Kaal Taran Guru Nanak Aiya”. A jatha (group) of 550 sangats was especially sent to Pakistan for this purpose. The nagarkirtan started from Gurdwara Nankana Sahib on July 25 and not only Sikh and Hindu followers participated in the procession, but even Muslim devotees followed it till the Wagah border.
The flower-decked palanquin of the Guru Granth Sahib was led by panj-piarias and it passed through the areas used to be populated by the Sikhs in pre-Partition India. To mark this historic moment, the foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak University (BGNU) at Nankana Sahib was laid by Sardar Usman Buzdar, Pakistani Punjab’s chief minister, who also planted saplings dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev. Gurdwara Chowa Sahib in Jhelum town, where Guru Nanak had found water in 1521, will also remain open.
The nagarkirtan, starting from Nankana Sahib, would pass through around 65 cities of India, covering almost 17 states and conclude after about 100 days at Gurdwara Ber Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee will also organise an international seminar at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.