Sikh jatha readies for 'Jora Ghar Sewa' in Pak gurdwaras
AMRITSAR: Carrying with them boxes of shoe polish and brushes, members of Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha are all ready to visit gurdwaras in Pakistan. This is one of its kind jatha that takes positions in Pakistan gurdwaras on various Sikh religious occasions, and had been doing the free shoe keeping and shining service for nearly 11 years.
The members motivate Pakistani Sikhs to join the service and have also formed the Sewak Jatha Jora Ghar for it, and its headquarters are at Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
President of Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha Swaran Singh told TOI on Tuesday that when he went to Pakistan on pilgrimage for the first time in 1990, he saw heaps of shoes and slippers lying unevenly outside gurdwaras and devotees arguing over their missing shoes.
"I and others decided to start the Jora Ghar service. We earmarked some area for the purpose, collected shoes and slippers from devotees visiting the gurdwaras, and gave them tokens made out of cardboard In return. We looked after the footwear till people came back to collect them."
Swaran Singh's grandfather Thakur Singh had been performing the selfless shoe service at Nanakan Sahib before India-Pak partition and his father Hardyal Singh continued the tradition in India by starting the shoe service at Gandawalai Dharmsala in Tarn Taran district.
Appreciating their unique service, Pakistan Evacuee Trust Property Board recommended Pak government to grant a quota of 500 devotees who could visit Pakistan on religious occasions under the aegis of Nankana Sahib Sikh Yatree Jatha. He said that earlier they used to carry along tokens made of aluminum to Pakistan every year but now got 50,000 cardboard tokens prepared.
"Aluminum token costs us Rs 4.50 and thousands often go missing, so we decided to replace them with cardboard tokens as we spend from our own pockets," he said. He said they take with them around 50kg shoe polish and around 150 brushes for the purpose.
"During our next visit on Baisakhi in April, we have decided to purchase Chinese shoe polish and brushes as they cost less in Pakistan," he said.
Box: Significance of shoe service in Sikhism
Shoe service (Jora Ghar Sewa) has its significance in Sikhism. Before entering a gurdwara, the worshippers remove their shoes which are collected, neatly placed and cleaned by those doing the shoe service, which is considered to be an act of humility.