London, Mar 31 (IANS) — The new gurdwara has come up on the site of one of the oldest at Havelock Road. This has been known as the flagship of gurdwaras in Britain.
The new gurdwara, built at a cost of $25 million, is an imposing structure made in marble and granite, with a gilded dome and stained glass windows.
The new gurdwara has place for about 3,000 worshippers, and is built over an area of 6,000 square metres. It is also built to serve as a community centre with a library and langar hall that can serve up to 20,000 meals over a weekend.
A massive procession joined by up to 50,000 people brought the Guru Granth Sahib from another gurdwara down the road to the new one. The ‘Panj Piarey’ – the five priests who symbolise the willingness to sacrifice that formed the basis of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 – led the procession.
Opening just before Baisakhi, the celebrations in Southall were bigger than any Baisakhi celebrations. The gurdwara will now be at the centre of the Baisakhi celebrations. A massive procession through Southall will march to the gurdwara.
The gurdwara is politically significant. The elections to its management committee usually point to the dominant mood among Sikhs in Britain.
Over the last few years the moderates have won the elections convincingly. The opposition Khalistani group managed to create a split in the moderate camp last year, but the dominant moderate group still won.
Attendance at this gurdwara is mostly of Jat Sikhs. Gurdwara leaders emphasise, however, that the gurdwara is open to all, and also to non-Sikhs.
There is a separate Ramgarhisa gurdwara in Southall. But many Sikhs who go to other gurdwaras are also expected now to visit the new one on Havelock Road.
The gurdwara is also expected to become something of a tourist attraction, in the way the Swaminarayan temple at Neasden has become.
Large groups of Sikhs from other countries in Europe, and also beyond attended the ceremony Sunday. It is expected to become something of a pilgrimage centre.
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.