Dera Baba Nanak

Journey to Dera Kartarpur | Living On the Indo-Pak Border

“Dera Nanak is quite far, 30 KM, and it’s not even 4 A.M. The first bus will start at 7 A.M. What will you do now?” asked the tea vendor, “but don’t you worry Baba Ji will take care, you enjoy the tea”, he added before I could answer.

I had made up my mind to walk 30 Kilometers but then I was told that there are high chances that you will get robbed. And then there were dogs. Anything but not dogs.

Just when I finished my tea a young guy approached me asking for petrol. I was clueless but I did inquire around and helped him. Fortunately, he too was going to Dera Nanak and he willingly gave me a lift. I don’t look user-friendly with my beard and bald head but even then he decided to give me a lift. At 4 in the morning.

Probably, Baba Ji at work.

At the time of partition there were three Gurdwaras close to the border region which were historically and religiously important. India got two and Pakistan got one. Pakistani Gurdwara is the one where Nanak Sahab lived last days of his life. Dera Baba Nanak and Dera Chola Sahab are the two Gurdwaras in India. Dera Kartarpur is in Pakistan but is visible from the border.

Dera Baba Nanak
Dera Baba Nanak


The Beginning

I reached Batala early in the morning, very early in-fact. The whole Punjab bathes in fog throughout the winters and the sun rarely comes out before 12 in the afternoon. It was one of those days and soon I was headed towards the Indo-Pak border.

Surprisingly these border villages have good roads but not many or probably no buses run on these roads. Had it been the Wagha Border, I would have asked for a lift from a truck but such was not a case here. This border is closed unlike the Wagha-Attari Border. I had to walk all those 30 Kilometers and I was just mentally preparing myself for the long walk ahead. But then my mysterious friend appeared out of nowhere and offered me a lift.

My ‘mysterious’ friend dropped me near the border. Now, I had to walk 2 kilometers in the dark but I decided not to because of the dogs.  I slept on the floor for an hour or so at one of the ‘langar tents’, which they call ‘Sangat’ in Punjabi. It’s just like those ‘Langar Camps’ en-route Manimahesh or Vaishno Devi. Free lodging and food, what more do you want.

Batala to Dera Nanak
Batala to Dera Nanak, Foggy Morning

Waiting for the fog to clear meant waiting until the afternoon. I decided to walk after six. I was hoping to get a lift but nobody offered me anything. Dogs scare the shit out of me and in that foggy weather, dogs looked like monsters. Because I was desperate to get away from the dogs, I decided to stand in the middle of the road for a lift. I succeeded after half an hour or so. The driver was pleased to know that I came all the way from Himachal to Dera Baba Nanak. And I was happy beyond measure for obvious reasons. I got down at Dera Nanak bus terminal and visited the revered Dera Chola Sahib Gurdwara.

People queue in huge numbers just to catch a glimpse of the land where Guru Nanak spent the last days of his life. It was proposed to build a road from Indian border to the Pakistani Gurdwara which couldn’t be completed for obvious reasons.

A binocular is installed at the vantage point so that people get a closer view of the Gurdwara. Chola Sahib showcases the clothes that Nanak Sahab wore during his last days. Because my prime motive was to see the Ravi, I embarked on a ‘paidal’ journey because not many buses run in that part of Punjab despite having good broad roads.

Dera Baba Nanak Bus Terminal
Dera Baba Nanak Bus Terminal
Dera Chola Sahib
Dera Chola Sahib, Baba Nanak’s Clothes
Dera Baba Kartarpur
Dera Baba Kartarpur
Across the Border, Dera Baba Kartarpur
Across the Border, Dera Baba Kartarpur
Green Fields Near Pak Border
Green Fields Near Pak Border


Ravi: From Chamba to Pakistan

Another reason I wanted to visit Kartarpur-Dera Nanak was Ravi. Ravi originates from Chamba, somewhere close to the Bada Banghal region. Recently, I had gone to Lahore and there I got to see Ravi in its new Avatar. Since then I had this desire to see the point where from Ravi enters into Pakistan.

Interestingly, Ravi enters into Pakistan from District Gurdaspur and in the same district lies the Great Gurdwara of Chola Sahib and Dera Nanak.

Most of the people in that region own motorcycles or cycles and one can often see 5-6 people sitting on a scooter or a motorbike. As I walked past those greener pastures  towards Ravi Basin, many Army vehicles passed by. I asked them for a lift and all of them looked at me flabbergasted which I later got to know why.

Surprisingly, at that part the Indian Army is deployed which usually happens at the Front Border posts or LOC. So going by the presence of the Army in that region, that area must be a sensitive one. The Gurkha Regiment guards did not allow me to go past the river and didn’t even allow me to click photographs citing security reasons. I obliged and just dipped my hands in the ‘holy waters’ of the Ravi.

That area resembles Nagrota Surian wetland of the Pong Dam in Kangra District. Migratory birds visit this area too but not so frequently. In local dialect, the migratory birds are called ‘Murgabiyan’ (Mostly bar headed geese)

Ravi - From Chamba to Pakistan
Ravi – From Chamba to Pakistan

As I was coming back, halfheartedly, another Army vehicle passed by. The vehicle stopped and a voice followed, Excuse Me!

I knew this would happen. I was asked to prove my identity. As I showed my Identity Card(s) to him, I also told him that once he is done I would like him to do me a favor, a small one. He looked at me bemused and kept looking for flaws in my Passport. And as he was about to return my passport, he saw the first page of my passport, stamped with ‘Immigration Attari – Islamabad Only!

Within a moment his posture, gesture, and I am sure mind too, changed. The questions were now asked while he looked straight into my eyes. Then he started noting all those details on a piece of paper. From my educational background to my photography skills. I showed him my camera, and explained to him the historical importance of the region. Perhaps I knew more than him or at least he pretended to know nothing.

Anyways, he didn’t offer me any lift or any food. He did say that he was just doing his duty and India was still my country and I was free to go anywhere I wanted to because you don’t need any permission to roam around in your own house.

How I wish he actually meant all that.

Mission Ravi is still not complete and I am hopeful that one day I will surely get a chance to be at the place where Ravi leaves India and moves into Pakistan.

How To?

Reaching Batala: By Bus or By Train. 

Batala to Dera Nanak – 30 KM. Smooth road, night driving not advised. First public transport bus starts at 0700 Hours in the morning. 

Dera Nanak to Border Post (Dera Kartarpur) – 2 KM by Road.



P.S. There is a ‘Tanot Temple‘ near Kartarpur Border. There are only two Tanot Temples in India, one at the Jaisalmer Border and the other one here. During the Indo-Pak war in 1965 dropped several bombs targeting the temple but none of the bombs could fall on the temple and large number of the bombs in the vicinity of the temple did not explode. (Wiki)

Tanot Temple Kartarpur
Tanot Mandir, Dera Kartarpur

If you have seen Border movie, then you know which temple I am talking about. Rest you can read here.

You can also read a wonderful piece written by Shiraz Hassan at HillPost.

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