Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Istanbul

Did Guru Nanak Dev visit Istanbul in Turkey? Maybe yes, going by what Sikh scholar Dr Davinder Singh Chahal, who is recently living in Montreal (Canada), has to say.

Until now, there was a Sikh shrine in Baghdad to suggest that the Guru visited as far as Iraq during the fourth udasi (missionary journey). Dr Davinder Singh Chahal had visited Istanbul in 1994 and saw a pillar 15 feet high and 6 feet wide in a park which had script in Arabic and Turkish language containing reference of Guru Nanak in its first line. He could not figure it out that time. This year when he visited Pakistan, he succeeded in decoding the pillar script with the help of two Pakistani scholars Iqbal Kaisar and Syad Afzal Hydar.

To do systematic research of the evidence, Dr Chahal is trying to get help from the archaeology department of Turkey. He has established contact with the Turkish ambassador in Canada for this project which would cost around $ 50,000. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), on its part, is ready to extend a helping hand for the project.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told TOI on Saturday they would soon send a team of experts to Istanbul to collect the proof. If it is proved that Guru Nanak had visited Turkey, then it would authenticate some Janamsakhis which claimed that after Mecca, the Sikh guru visited Egypt and then from Kahira, he went to Palestine, Syria and Turkey from where he returned to Punjab via Baghdad, added Makkar. 

He said SGPC would contact Turkey's ambassador in India with a request to help in this regard.

“The most important achievement is that I was able to decipher the writings on a big stone plaque (10 ft high and 4 feet wide) installed in a park on the sea shore of Istanbul, Turkey. Mr Iqbal Qaiser, the author of the Sikh Shrines in Pakistan and Mr Syed Afzal Haider, Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and the author of a book, Baba Nanak, helped me to decipher the writing which indicated that it is definitely connected with Guru Nanak. It is surprising that a plaque with writings about Guru Nanak is installed in Istanbul. We are visualizing that Guru Nanak's travel could be extended to Turkey after his visit to Mecca and Medina before coming back to India via Baghdad. Our further research for deciphering the whole writing is going on.”Gur Kirpal Singh Ashk

Did Guru Nanak Dev Ji ever visit Rome?

Now, there is an intriguing question. Since Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited the major centers of Hinduism - Varanasi, Rishkesh, Hardwar and Islam - Baghdad, Mecca and Medina it seems quite logical that Guru Nanak Dev Ji would have visited the center of Christianity. Since there is now tantalizing evidence that Guru Sahib Ji traveled as far west as Turkey then Rome is but a step away.

Although there is no evidence of this (research is there to be had for any intrepid Sikh) I did once hear that deep in the vaults of the Vatican there are records from the middle ages of a great spiritual man from the east with his companion coming to Rome and having discourse with church officials.