A world away from the Golden Temple, Sikhs in Yorkshire celebrate an extraordinary anniversary

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As pilgrims bathed in the glow of the illuminated Golden Temple yesterday, the eyes of the world were drawn to Amritsar, in north-western India.

But the extraordinary sight of worshippers flocking to celebrate an occasion they would not see again in their lifetime, could also be witnessed closer to home.

Worshipers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh Temple, Huddersfield, celebrating the 550th anniversary of their founding guru.  Picture by Tony Johnson

Worshipers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh Temple, Huddersfield, celebrating the 550th anniversary of their founding guru. Picture by Tony Johnson

On a wet, working Tuesday morning, a side street in Huddersfield, with a Lidl at one end and a temple at the other, was alive with emotion. It was a world away from the Punjab but the climate had dampened none of the warmth.

There had been three days solid of readings from the scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, when, shortly before lunch, the priest and congregation broke out in song.

The hymns were in praise of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, whose 550th anniversary this was.

“It’s a big crowd for a working day, but 550 is a big number,” said Inderpal Singh Randhawa, of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara temple on Prospect Street. “There will be nothing like this until the 600th anniversary. Every Sikh temple in the world is celebrating like this today. In India it’s a national holiday.”

Worshipers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh Temple, Huddersfield, celebrating the 550th anniversary of their founding guru.  Picture by Tony Johnson

Worshipers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh Temple, Huddersfield, celebrating the 550th anniversary of their founding guru. Picture by Tony Johnson

After the hymns, the serving of “langar” – the free meals given by the young Guru Nanak to feed the poor – further enhanced the glow of goodwill.

It was a scene repeated countless times across the country. In Wolverhampton, where the Sikh community constitutes nearly 10 per cent of the population, there was an official fireworks display in the city centre, and langar came as 8,000 samosas and 45lbs of pakoras, handed out to the public from a stall on Queen Square.

Huddersfield will also reach out to the wider community, with an inter-faith service on Saturday morning, attended by senior figures from local politics, the police and Huddersfield University.

But it fell to the Prince of Wales, on the eve of his visit to a temple in the Indian capital of New Delhi, to sum up Guru Nanak’s legacy.

The principles of hard work, fairness and respect on which he had founded the Sikh religion retained the capacity to inspire, Charles said.

“In embodying these values, Sikhs have made the most profound contribution to the life of this country.”

The Prince’s comments are likely to be interpreted as further evidence of his desire to reflect multi-cultural Britain by taking the title defender of faith, rather than “the faith” when he becomes king.

Charles went on to say: “My wife and I wanted you to know just how much your community is valued and admired by us all, and that our thoughts are with you at this very special time.”

The Prince has visited the places of worship of many faiths and religions, and will today sit down today for bilateral talks with India’s President Ram Nath Kovind. It will be his 10th official visit to the country.