RELIGION: New Sikh temple unofficially launches with public open days

Aberdeen gurudwara, which is under construction, serves a geographical area stretching from Dundee to the Western Isles. The top picture is of the Holy Golden Temple of Amritsar.

By Hamish Mackay

Scotland’s newest Sikh temple was unofficially opened in Aberdeen at the weekend with public open days on Saturday and Sunday. It is Scotland’s sixth gurudwara (temple) with already three temples in Glasgow, and one each in Edinburgh and Dundee.

The new gurudwara in Aberdeen formerly housed a large community nursery which had gone into administration, in the Seaton area of the city, and is immediately surrounded by four residential multi-storey buildings – Balgownie Court, Inverdon Court, Lord Hay’s Court and St Ninian Court. All of the residents in the four multi-storeys have already received a detailed introductory letter on the Aberdeen gurudwara and its congregation’s aim of becoming a very community-focused place of worship.

The former nursery was bought last year by the Aberdeen and North-east of Scotland Sikh community from Aberdeen City Council for £138,000 and recently refurbished at a cost of £75,000. It has a self-contained flat for the resident volunteer priest and his wife.

The Aberdeen gurudwara serves a geographical area stretching from Dundee to the Western Isles and Shetlands Isles and has a congregation (sangat) drawn from 40 families whom mostly live in and around Aberdeen.

The gurudwara is due to be officially opened next month (January) when a sacred living holy book (Guru Granth Sahib) will be brought north and installed in the main prayer room during five days of ceremony and special services. The opening ceremony would normally be attended by representatives from sangats from across the UK but this has been ruled out because of the current Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

The Aberdeen gurudwara already has a volunteer priest in place – Raj Bubbal Singh, 38, a graduate engineer who belongs to Sri Ganganagar in the Rajasthan State in India. He worked as a construction engineer in the oil and gas refineries industry in India before entering the priesthood. His wife, Balvinder, is currently a student at Aberdeen University.

The Sikh religion, which has as among its basic tenets of faith equality for all and kindness, was founded in northern India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak at a time when there was a degree of division amounting to armed conflict between the Muslim and Hindu faiths, including marked oppression of the poor.

Nanak spread a philosophy of “Oneness”, “Equality”, “Human Rights” and “Peace and Love” for all. His avowed message was that there should be freedom for everyone to practise their own faith and never, ever to have any faith forced upon them.

Around the globe Sikh gurudwaras supply millions of free meals (langar) to the public, with some, in big cities such as Birmingham, providing this service on a round-the-clock basis for anyone in need of sustenance.

The senior trustee of the Aberdeen gurudwara, Suki Singh Pooni, who works in the energy industry in Aberdeen as a process engineer, explains: “Our gurudwara is an open and welcoming place for persons of all faiths (and perhaps no faith) to attend. We are very anxious to have a warm, meaningful relationship and a mutual, beneficial rapport with our new-found neighbours. We are here to help and serve the Seaton community whenever the need arises.

“Should there be any projects or groups in Seaton which could benefit from our support and assistance, including access to a small financial ‘pot’, they will find us more than willing to help in any way we can.”

The gurudwara has already made its first charitable initiative with a substantial donation of Christmas gifts to be distributed by Aberdeen’s Instant Neighbour scheme.

Aberdeen-based freelance journalist, Hamish Mackay, has been appointed the gurudwara’s media and community affairs director.

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