Dubai's Grand GurdwaraMALAVIKA VETTATH
Ornate 24-carat gold canopies for the Guru Granth Sahib, Italian marble on the walls and floor, stunning chandeliers and a five-star kitchen - Dubai's first gurdwara is a grand realisation of the aspirations of 50,000 Sikhs in the United Arab Emirates ("UAE").
Guru Nanak Darbar is a heady mix of spirituality, tradition, modernity, opulence and the determination of a man.
On entering the building, one is in awe of its sheer grandeur and the attention to detail. A sense of calm descends as strains of "Too prabh daata," a shabad, fill the air.
As the ambience sinks in, businessman Surender Singh Kandhari, the man behind the new gurdwara, walks in, urging the sangat to use the lift instead of taking the stairs to the main divan hall.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, who donated a piece of land in the Jebel Ali area for the gurdwara about six years ago, wanted it to be iconic. The opulent building is worth every bit of the 65 million Dirhams spent on it - a large part of it contributed by Surender Singh himself.
"We didn't want to compromise on anything. It has the latest Italian marble and best lights. I told the contractor I want a 100-year guarantee for the building so that our future generations are able to utilise it," said Surender Singh, Chairman of the Al Dobowi Group that manufactures and distributes automotive batteries and tyres..
"I told the ruler, 'Well, one can't surpass the Golden Temple.' But what we have is the most modern gurdwara in the world," he adds.
The idea of the building was born 11 years ago with the growing need of a proper place of worship for the Sikhs, who until January this year shared space in the cramped gurdwara premises in Bur Dubai.
The permission came through six years ago when the ruler of Dubai gave 25,400 sq feet of land to build the new gurdwara.
On the grand opening of the gurdwara on January 17 this year, Surender Singh compared Sheikh Mohammed, also the vice president of the UAE, to the Muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir, who had laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest shrine for Sikhs.
Six months on, as many as 10,000 people visit the gurdwara with three floors of parking space, each Friday.
"On Vaisakhi, we served food to around 40,000 people visiting the gurdwara," Surender Singh said proudly, adding that several Sikh-Pakistanis also come to offer prayers besides many Sindhis and Hindu Punjabis.
The state-of-the-art kitchen, which churns out food for devotees through the day every day, is worth a peek. It is complete with a dough-kneader, a chappati-maker and large dishwashers. And along with the rest of the building, the kitchen too is spotless.
Apart from a large carpeted prayer hall, there are three smaller rooms for private functions, a meditation room, a library and the spacious 'langar' or common kitchen hall.
Guru Nanak Darbar is modelled on both the Golden Temple and the gurdwara in Southall, London. Interior designer Paul Bishop was sent to both these shrines "to get the feel" of gurdwaras.
To develop religious values among the next generation of Sikhs in the diaspora, special three-hour sessions are held for children on Saturdays at the gurdwara where they are taught Punjabi, kirtan and gurdara protocol.
"There are already 55 children attending these classes. All four of my grandchildren, one of them just two years old, go there," he said.
"The women are keen on sending their children to learn kirtan. When you are out of Punjab and the subcontinent, your desire to connect to your roots becomes stronger," he said.
Having grown up in Andhra Pradesh and later studying in Chennai's Loyola College, Surender Singh admitted that he learned about his language and religion when he came to Dubai in 1976.
Thus, he understands the need for children to know about their culture in a foreign land.
"They can't learn without getting proper lessons. In Vijayawada, I had no one to teach me Punjabi. While in Loyola College in Madras, I used to go to church every Sunday. I started learning about Sikhism and Punjabi after coming to Dubai."
Although the Sikh businessman had to borrow from friends to complete the gurdwara, he calls the income generated by it as "unbelievable".
He already has plans to use the money. "I want to build a hospital for the poor. Healthcare is so expensive in Dubai... Labourers living in camps nearby can't afford the high medical costs."
He says the gurdwara now attracts visitors from across the world.
"We have visitors from the UK, the US, France and Canada... They get surprised that in an Islamic country, we have the most modern gurdwara."
[Courtesy: Yahoo. Edited for sikhchic.com]
July 26, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), July 26, 2012, 12:47 PM.
I feel the Guru resides in the Guru Granth Sahib and is all pervading. The Grand building, the Italian marbles on the walls and floor, the ornate gold carat canopies, stunning chandeliers, and a five star kitchen - these only pump us up and make us feel good about our celebration of all the blessings we receive from Waheguru.
2: Harcharan Singh (Singapore), July 26, 2012, 8:55 PM.
The Dubai gurduara sure looks majestic and kingly, which is a great achievement due to the efforts of both men. But I was just wondering, in our Guru's times, they hardly if ever got favours from the Mughal emperors. Even Guru Ram Das paid for the land that was to become Amritsar. What if in the future another leader from the government or from the benefactor's lineage decides to take back the land donated as of now? What will happen to all this opulence? From my reading of Sikh history, gurdwaras, etc. are built with sangat's money. At the present moment this has become less prevalent as the bills for such endeavours have sky rocketed. Sikhs should build trusts in the sangat's name in which rich millionaires can still put their money in. But when the money donated by the rich are in big amounts, then this might be a challenge as the money belongs to individuals. I am not condemning the building of the gurdwara by both benefactors, but we should be careful about such big endeavours. Also a simple gurdwara with a hospital and other charitable endeavours are a priority. Still, kudos to the builders and benefactors for such a noble and awe inspiring building. Gurdwara building sprees should come to an end and instead we must build investment and money growing entrepreneurial projects that will make a gurdwara like this self sufficient and Sikhs could even through that be able to pay the benefactor money for the land donated.
3: Harman Singh (California, USA), July 26, 2012, 9:39 PM.
Wow ... very impressive. Can't wait to see it in person. Congratulations to S. Surender Singh for a job well done.
4: Suneet (Mumbai , India), July 27, 2012, 2:34 AM.
My heartfelt thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for giving his permission and support to S. Surender Singh ji for building such a great monument. I can't wait to visit this place.
5: Kul Atwal (United Kingdom), July 27, 2012, 3:18 AM.
It sounds amazing! Going to Dubai in 2 weeks. Can't wait to visit and see this fabulous gurdwara.
6: Raminder (Coventry, England ), July 27, 2012, 2:58 PM.
Looks amazing ... can't wait to see this fabulous building.
7: Manjit (Brisbane, Australia), October 11, 2012, 12:01 PM.
It is simply beautiful ... no words can describe it adequately. Can't wait to visit it. Is there accommodation within the gurdwara?