A historic “peace corridor” has opened to help Indian Sikhs visit a holy temple in Pakistan without a visa.
The corridor’s official opening on November 9 will mark history for Indian Sikh pilgrims, who have been unable to visit the site without a (hard-to-obtain) visa since 1947, the year of Indian partition.
The 2.9-mile passage connects the Sikh temples of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in India and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan. The Pakistani temple is particularly revered by Sikhs as it is believed to be where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, lived and died at the start of the 16th century.
"For the last 70 years, we have been praying for this," Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, told CNN. "There cannot be a more joyous moment."
The corridor’s opening is particularly notable as tensions have been rising between the two countries. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the 1947 Indian Partition, which caused millions of Sikhs to flee Pakistan, considered the largest mass migration in human history. There are only about 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan, according to Al Jazeera.
It’s predicted that up to 5,000 pilgrims from India will be able to use the corridor every day. They will not need a visa to do so, however they will need to apply for a permit at least 10 days before departing.
Before this milestone entry way, Indian Sikhs could visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, but many chose not to, due to fear of violence at the border. The visa process was often complicated and difficult to obtain.
The corridor’s opening coincides with the celebration of Guru Nanak’s birthday on November 12. On that day, thousands of Sikhs are expected to journey to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib to sing, pray and share a meal.
"People of all religions are welcome at Sikh temples, in line with Sikh beliefs of inclusiveness and equality, and they're not known to be segregated by gender, apart from the sarovars," CNN reported.
For unfamiliar visitors, everyone must wash their hands and feet in holy water called amrit or take a dip in a "sarovar" or cleansing pool before entering one of the temple. Both men and women are required to have their heads, arms, and legs covered but remove their shoes.
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