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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sat Sri Akaal Karachi - Sabeen Jamil

Kirpan wielding men and chunni clad women chant, dance, and pray as the celebrations marking Guru Nanak's 359th birth anniversary draw to an end. Karachi's resident Sikhs hold on to their faith and traditions, as they gel and flow with the rest of the city.

By Sabeen Jamil

When the gurdwara (Sikh temple) reverberates with sounds of "Sut siri akaal," and "Vahiguru ji ka khalsa," it is hard to believe that one is not in Indian Punjab but Ranchore Lines in Karachi.

With approximately 3500 members of sikh community residing in Karachi, the Narain Pura Compound in Ranchore Lines houses almost 300 followers of Guru Nanak. The rest of the devotees can be found in the areas surrounding Kohinoor Centre, Jubilee Cinema, Garden Road and Manora.

With six gurdwaras in different parts of the city, Karachi has its fair share of temples of the world's fifth largest religion. Nevertheless, the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat in Ranchore Lines is the only centre of all religious activity since the gurdwaras at Preedy Street, Saddar and Arambagh have been sealed due to disputes. The temples at Manora, Bandar Road and Lee Market are not large enough to cater to the entire community.

The small-roomed Sikh Sangat Gurdwara is thus the place where devotees from all over the city convene during festivals. Around 80 worshippers can be accommodated in the room while the rest are hosted in the adjacent veranda and the langar khana (free-kitchen).

Built in 1910, the blue-walled gurdwara located off the congested and dilapidated roads of the compound exemplifies the basic principals of Sikhism - simplicity and modesty.

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