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Historic Sikh Gurdwara

a gift from pioneer forefathers

 

Words by Virginia Gillespie     Photos by Myungsook Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford, B.C. was declared a Canadian National Historic Site in 2002 and is the oldest surviving Sikh Temple in North America. Constructed in 1911 from wood donated by the Abbotsford Lumber Company, most of the materials were carried by hand more than a kilometre from the mill. Initial Punjabi settlers in the late 1800¡¯s worked in the sawmills in Mission and Mill Lake in Abbotsford.

It is the oldest surviving example of the Gurdwaras or Temples, which formed the religious, social and political centres of pioneer Canadian Sikh communities. The design is an adaptation of Sikh traditions that uses a common storefront frontier style, partly through a desire to integrate with the community. It contains elements like the prayer hall on the upper level and a communal kitchen and dining hall at ground level. Sikh temple kitchens feed all people no matter what caste or background. Doors on four sides represent arms open to all of the community. Outside are the ¡®Nishan Sahib¡¯ (flag pole) and the remnants of the original base. Still in use for special occasions, it resides across the street from the newer Sikh Temple on a knoll on Fraser Way.

Nachhattar (Norm) Sangha, head of the reconstruction committee volunteers and Khalsa Diwan Society president in 2002 was instrumental in advocating the national historic site designation.The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, an Indian organization responsible for the upkeep Sikh places of worship, sent a plaque to Canadian Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps to acknowledge the historic site ceremony, which she later gifted to the Society.

Sangha says,¡°The historic Sikh Temple is a gift from our pioneer forefathers. We owe it to them and to future generations to maintain, refurbish and protect this Gurdwara. We can know our roots. It came from families who never forgot their culture and religion. It shows that Canadians have diverse backgrounds and together we make up mainstream Canada.¡±

On the grounds outside of the historic Sikh Temple are two statues of members of the Punjab Indian Army on horseback who, during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, travelled through the area and upon return to the Punjab told friends and family about the potential of the area. Made in India by Tara Singh and originally situated at the Vancouver Sikh Temple, they were moved to Abbotsford and restored by Tara¡¯s son, Parvinder.

As the centre of the Abbotsford Sikh community, the Gur Sikh Temple became a reception centre for new immigrants and also served social and religious needs. In the late 1960¡¯s wives and children were allowed to immigrate and the second addition reflected the growth in the Sikh community. A much larger temple was constructed across the road in 1983, but this original Temple was retained as a symbol of the vitality and perseverance that make up the struggles and achievements of the early Sikh pioneers.

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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits

 

ART

2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 

CULTURE

24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world

 

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32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art

OPINIONS

10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences

 

NEWS & INFORMATIONS

35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks

 

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