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Gurudwaras in Pakistan

Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh, Peshawar

Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh, Peshawar

Taranjit tells us about how this gurudwara came to be. “It was founded by Hari Singh Nalwah,” he says, “the general of Ranjit Singh’s army. [The Sikh empire once extended to Peshawar.] Hari Singh Nalwah was said to weigh 250 kgs. He was the strongest man in the universe. Once, he slapped a man and his head got dislocated from his shoulder. His chest was equal to that of seven people.”

I am tempted to ask if he could fly when Taranjit continues: “No horse could carry his weight. Then one day a horse was found from Baluchistan that could carry his weight.”

“Would you happen to know the name of that horse?” I ask.

Taranjit looks at me oddly. “Horses don’t have names,” he says.

“Anyway,” he continues, “Hari Singh Nalwah built around 2500 gurudwaras in Punjab, under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.”

“How many of these exist today?”

“Maybe about 800,” he says. I find later that this figure is hearsay, that it could be less, it could be more. Across the country, in fact, there are ex-gurudwaras that have been converted into schools, jails, homes and suchlike. The religion was almost wiped out when the partition of India took place.

“All the Sikhs either shifted to India or went into the mountains,” says Taranjit. “Only recently have they started coming down from the mountains.” Peshawar has more Sikhs than any other city in Pakistan. Pushto is the mother tongue of most of them.

Taranjit introduces us to Sardar Shona Singh, the pramukh of the gurudwara. “This gurudwara was shut down in 1947,” Sardar Shona Singh says. “Then, in 1980, the Pakistan government gave us permission to start it again. It took us three days just to clean this place up.”


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