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Pilgrims’ progress

Jennifer Kishan | Updated on April 20, 2018

Bangladesh becomes the destination for a group of Sikh worshippers every Baisakh, the month of harvest

The idea of pilgrimage underlines a journey to seek the spiritual and find the divine in oneself. Every year, during the harvest month of Baisakh, a number of Jathas (an armed body of Sikhs) travel to Bangladesh to honour their gurus. They start from Punjab, venture into the Bengal terrain and cross over the Indo-Bangladesh Border — the physical journey being an intrinsic part of the journey within.

The history of Sikhs in Bangladesh goes back 500 years and the five gurdwaras here have witnessed much of the country’s history — from being a part of British India and East Pakistan, and the subsequent birth of Bangladesh. Over the course of these centuries, three of the 10 Sikh gurus — Guru Nanak, Guru Teg Bahadur, and Guru Gobind Singh — made their way to present-day Bangladesh, in order to preach the religion.

There are over 200 Sikhs (Indian nationals) in Bangladesh, most of them in Chittagong and Dhaka, who facilitate the annual pilgrimage. This photo essay documents the Jathas’ pilgrimage to Dhaka, Mymensingh, and Chittagong. The journey to Bangladesh by road starts from Kolkata. It takes about a week to cover the gurdwaras in the three cities. At the start of the pilgrimage in Dhaka, the government of Bangladesh provides security cover for the buses. The pilgrims are also allowed to participate in Nagar Kirtan — processional singing of hymns.

Jennifer Kishan is a freelance photojournalist based in Kolkata

Published on April 20, 2018

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