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India asks Iraq to restore Sikh temple dedicated to Guru Nanak

March 29, 2023 at 2:07 pm

Shrine of Guru Nanak Dev Ji In Baghdad , Iraq [Twitter/@IndiaHistorypic]

India has formally requested Iraq renovate a historic Sikh temple, or gurdwara, which was built in the memory of the faith’s founder Guru Nanak who once visited Baghdad as part of his travels in the Muslim world.

According to Zee News, the matter was raised during a visit by Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasem Al-Araji, to Delhi last week where he met his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. It was the first cabinet minister level visit of an Iraqi official in seven years and included talks aimed at strengthening defence ties and cooperation on counter-terrorism.

The Baba Nanak Gurdwara located in Baghdad’s Karkh District in Sheikh Maaruf was built at the time of Guru Nanak’s visit around 1511 CE, on his way back from Makkah and Madinah. He is said to have had dialogues with prominent Sufi saints including Sheikh Bahlool Dana. The gurdwara was reportedly discovered by Sikh soldiers in the British Indian Army during the First World War. However during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the shrine was looted and destroyed.

In 2007 the Iraqi government expressed intentions to rebuild the gurdwara, and in 2018 a gate was erected to protect the vicinity of where the former shrine once stood. The site has been under the care of a Muslim family for generations up until it was operational.

Mukhtiar Singh Assal, chairman of the Indian Sikh Council, was quoted by Zee News as saying: “This gesture will promote the India-Iraq relations,” noting that he has been in touch with the Iraq Embassy, and had a series of meetings concerning restoring the gurdwara.

The two countries share important trade ties, with Iraq serving as India’s largest oil supplier. There are also historical religious links with many Muslim Indian pilgrims visiting Najaf and Karbala annually, as well as the shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani in Baghdad.

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