The Making of the Squamish Sikh Temple

 SikhMAIN
By GAGANDEEP GHUMAN
Published: July 10, 2016
 
FOR local Squamish Sikhs, the Gurdwara or Squamish Sikh Temple is a cultural centre and a spiritual retreat, a place to gather and meet friends or a sanctuary to find quiet refuge in the divine. It’s common for new families to look for the Sikh temple when they first come to town and its comforting presence is often taken for granted. 
But it took three years of single-minded effort by Sikh community leaders and some divine help to find funds, land and resources to build a Sikh temple in Squamish. The Sikh temple grew out of spiritual and practical needs: In the 1980s, as more Sikh families started moving to Squamish, the desire for a sacred place of their own grew. For weddings, family gathering or just for prayers, Sikh community members had to go the Sikh temple in Vancouver and the trip turned out to be more of a hassle than a pilgrimage. Highway 99 was nothing like it’s now and you had to cook, pack and transport food to temples where you had a wedding or other social functions planned. 
For his sister’s wedding, Makhan Sanghera recalls many trips to Vancouver Sikh temples to transport people and homemade food. On important Sikh spiritual festivals, local Sikhs often rented out the legion hall to congregate. It was in the early 80s that a few Sikhs floated the idea of building a Sikh temple in Squamish. The founding member of the Squamish Sikh Society, Avtar Giri said there were discussions about building a community hall which morphed into a plan to build a Sikh temple.  Sikander Singh Gill, Harminder Singh Gill, Avtar Giri, Gurmail Singh Grewal, Shamsher Singh Kang, Jarnail Singh Dhaliwal, and Kulwant Singh Bains were some of the early Sikh society members who first thought of giving concrete shape to the plans of building a Sikh temple.  
“There had been plans before the 80s as well by a few people to build a Sikh temple and those never materialized but this time all of us were involved in the community and we saw that there was a need in the community to have their own Sikh temple,” Giri says.
The men get around to doing the work and the first order of business was to find land, and they quickly found a suitable location on Fifth Ave. It was six lots, with one decrepit home on it, and the owners, also a Sikh family, had recently moved to Kamloops. It was central location in downtown Squamish and it was a big enough parcel to accommodate a Sikh temple, says Shamsher Singh Kang. Kang was also a relative of the man who owned it in. Kang, along with other few men, drove to Kamloops and inked a deal with the land owner Naseeb Singh Mahal for a discounted price of $50,000 as Mahal wanted to contribute as well. Once the deal was signed, the community members got around to raise funds for the temple. While the local community members readily opened their wallets, members of the Sikh community went to the Interiors, Vancouver Island and northern BC communities to collect funds for the Sikh temple.
“A group of 4-5 people would get together and drive on the weekends to families and Sikh temples as far 100 Mile House, and small communities in Vancouver Island, Kamloops, Kelowna and of course Vancouver and Surrey to raise funds for the temple,” says Giri.
While some focused on collecting funds, others helped with the construction of the temple. The lumber mill gave free lumber for the temple, and others like Tarsem Jian, Kulwant Sing Bains gave their time to do exterior, windows, furniture and tables.
“A group of us got together and build the entire roof in a few days there was such an enthusiasm among us and other community members who never held back in giving for the temple,” he said.
After three years of first purchasing the land, the Sikh temple was finally opened for the community in March 1983. Makhan Sanghera, Avtar Gidda, Paramjit Gill, Harvey Grewal, Ajaib Singh Bir, Ram Singh Sangha, Lashkar Aujla, Avtar Haer, Nimarjit Thandi, Jaswant Singh Chahal, and Sikander Gill are some of the present members of the Squamish Sikh Society.

Comments

  1. Reckoning Day says:

    Which god helped ?