Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims from India started arriving by train in Pakistan this week.
They disembarked, amid heavy security, in the city of Nankana Sahib where Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion was born over 500 years ago, to celebrate the anniversary of his birth.
India and Pakistan share a disputed boundary and have fought three wars since independence from the British when Pakistan was formed in 1947.
Sikhs the world over will celebrate “Guru Nayak Jayanti” or “Gurpurab” on Wednesday. The day is considered one of the most sacred in Sikhism, which is practiced by around 8% of Indians, according to the 2011 census figures, the latest available.
In the lead up to the guru’s birthday, devotees mark the occasion with street processions where they sing, dance and demonstrate Gatka, the Sikh martial art. Sikh temples also offer free food from their community kitchens, as they do throughout the year.
The day is a public holiday in India.
A special Lahore-bound train ferried pilgrims between the two rival nations as devotees traveled to pay their respects at their founding guru’s birthplace.
The birth of Guru Nanak, the first of 10 Sikh Gurus, is celebrated with much fervor by Sikhs across India.
As part of the display, devotees showed off a number of martial art skills including using a wooden ring on which balls of cloth are strung together by metal. Known as Chakari the instrument is believed to have been used in battle against marauding elephants.
On Saturday, young men in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad dressed as ‘Panj Pyare’ the Beloved Five who are believed to have been the first Sikhs to have sacrificed themselves for Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of Sikhism.
In the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Sikhs demonstrated their martial art skills in a ring of fire.
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