Gravesend Gurdwara

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Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara Gravesend, UK

On 19 November 2010, the Gravesend's Sikh community in south UK moved into the magnificent new Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) with over a thousand people taking part in a procession and religious ceremonies on the day. This was followed by celebrations of the birth of Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhism, over the weekend with over three thousand people attending.

A formal prayer service was held to say Goodbye to the old building, which has been the focus of the community for 41 years. A religious procession in the form of a Nagar Kirtan took place from the old building to the new one. An Akhand Path (continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib over 48 hours) took place from Friday to Sunday, with the Gurdwara becoming a hive of activity throughout the weekend. People from all over Kent, London and the South East England in UK and further away visited this new temple during the weekend, and all gave glowing praise and felt admiration for the design, beauty and functionality of the new complex.


Celebrations

The celebrations attracted thousands throughout the day. The Gurdwara Committee President Jaspal Singh Dhesi addressed the Sangat (congregation) and thanked the whole community for their support and generosity over the years in order to fund the building of the new Gurdwara.

Kent Police's Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge, Gravesham Council Leader Mike Snelling, and Leader of the Labour Group John Burden also addressed the congregation, all congratulating the Sikh community for their tremendous efforts at realising this huge ambition and creating a landmark for the area and the whole community. Mr Dhesi summarised how the community had donated about £1 million each year over the last eight years, and appealed for this to continue in order to complete the outstanding work and pay off the outstanding loan.

Over the weekend, the community responded generously and £125,000 was donated. Mr Dhesi says: "This weekend marks a time to be proud of this achievement for the whole community, and we must now move on to manage the new resources and make the best use of the facility, as well as complete the work that is still left to be completed. The aim is to complete all of the work and hold an official opening ceremony in Spring 2011. I am extremely grateful to all those who have worked hard throughout this period, and also those who have organised this weekend, including everyone involved in cooking and serving food (langar), cleaning, and looking after the many visitors."

The weekend's celebrations were covered by various media organisation including, ITV Meridian, ITV London and BBC South East, as well as various Asian media organisations. The BBC also covered the opening of this new Gurdwara in worldwide broadcasts this week through BBC World.

Open Day for Public Services and Providers

The Gurdwara welcomed about 20 organisations to take advantage of the weekend and have information stands in the on the premises on Sunday. Jobcentreplus/DWP, Gravesend Connexions, Kent Police, British Police Sikh Federation, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, the Royal Air Force, Kent Council for Addiction, The Grand, Gravesham Leisure, The Volunteer Centre, Gravesend Adult Education, Dementia Service, Rethink Sahayak, Bluewater Recruitment, Kent Youth Service, NHS West Kent, Paula Carr - Diabetes Screening Van, Kent County Council Hop On Bus, Macmillan Cancer Support, Gravesham Borough Council with the Office for National Statistics information on the forthcoming Population Census were among the organisations represented.

This event was organised in collaboration with the Kent Kirtan Society. Representatives of all these organisations reported interest from the hundreds of visitors and congregation.

The new Gurdwara

This new Sikh place of worship has taken eight years to build and about £12 million has been spent on the building so far. However, there still remains some work which is planned to be completed by April 2011. The three Worship Halls, one Langar (dining) Hall, one Kitchen and the magnificent Main Lobby are ready. The second Langar Hall and Kitchen, Lecture Theatre, Creche/Nursery, Library and office spaces are partially complete and will be ready for April 2011, after which there will be a formal Official opening of the Gurdwara.

The new Gurdwara complex is one of the largest outside India, and gives Gravesend an international landmark that will be here to serve many generations.

The Gurdwara Sangat (Congregation) has funded the entire cost so far, and is asked to continue to be generous at this time to enable the completion of all of the remaining work, which requires about another £1.5 million.

The old building

The existing Gurdwara in Clarence Place opened in 1969 and will now be demolished and replaced with 19 flats after controversial plans were agreed by Gravesham Council in November last year.

The council agreed to the demolition despite pressure from campaign group SAVE, who asked English Heritage to give the building Grade II listed status.

The Gurdwara management committee sold the old building to Thamesview Living for £3 million to raise money for the new Gurdwara after failing to find a use for the existing building. The new Gurdwara has been financed entirely through fund-raising and donations from its congregation.

Guru Nanak Language, Cultural and Religious Academy

Guru Nanak Language, Cultural and Religious academy has around 250 students on its roll. We often find that in Year One the classes are oversubscribed. Due to the limited number of space available to us we are only able to register about 62 children who must be in Year Three of their primary school. We start admissions in June of every year (see bottom for contact information).

The teaching provided to the children is of the highest quality with a curriculum based around language learning and teaching. A key role for the academy is to promote an understanding of the Sikh faith, Punjabi language and Cultural heritage. A strong belief within the academy and the community is that the children need to be able to make use of their language in keeping in contact with the land of their forefathers and also to be able to understand the Sikh faith and its scriptures.

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