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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 April, 2004, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Sikh holy book flown to Canada
By Asit Jolly
BBC correspondent in Chandigarh

Sikh carrying copy of Guru Granth Sahib
The Guru Granth Sahib must be handled with utmost respect
The Sikh religious authorities in the Indian state of Punjab have sent copies of their holy book - the Guru Granth Sahib - to Canada's Sikh community.

The books were flown on board a chartered airliner which took off from the Punjabi city of Amritsar.

Hundreds of Sikhs came out of their homes to cheer an unusual procession.

Devotees carried silk-covered copies of the book on their heads over a four-kilometre distance (2.5 miles), to Amritsar international airport.

State Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was among those who considered themselves fortunate for the chance to help carry the holy books into the aircraft.

Each copy of the Guru Granth Sahib was reverentially placed on a separate seat.

Printing rights

Religious officials said that on arrival in Toronto the flight would be personally met by Prime Minister Paul Martin and leaders of Canada's Sikh community.

Amritsar
Amritsar is the holy city of the Sikhs
The decision to send the consignment was a response to a request by Canadian Sikhs, they added.

The Sikh religious body based in Amritsar says it is the sole worldwide publisher of the Guru Granth Sahib, since the printing needs to conform to the Sikh code of conduct, or maryada.

This is because Sikhs revere their holy book as a living Guru.

In view of the huge demand for copies of the holy book in Western nations, the committee is now actively considering proposals to establish a suitable printing facility in Canada.

This facility, to be paid for by the Canadian Sikh community, will need to be identical to that operated in Amritsar.

But until that is done, officials say, copies of the Guru Granth Sahib will have to be transported from India.


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