MORPETH ROTARY AT NEWCASTLE SIKH TEMPLE
Thirty members and friends of Morpeth Rotary travelled to Newcastle to the Sikh Temple Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha. It was easy to find the spectacular golden dome, not far from Big Lamp off Westgate Road. It has a large car park free to visitors. There are cloakrooms where shoes are removed. In contrast to western churches, where hats are taken off, it is a mark of respect to have a head covering. Visitors are given something to wear.
Jaswinder, a spiritual leader, and a male and female assistant, offered a welcome tea, coffee and biscuits in the communal kitchen called the Langar hall. Volunteers serve free vegetarian food from 5 am to around 8 pm to anyone who comes, not just Sikhs, and it is an important part of their dedication to community service. The temple was purpose built in 2014.
The first Sikh temple was built in Punjab in 1521 by the founder Guru Nanak. In the late 1400s he walked vast distances for 27 years in many countries, including India, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman. He did not try to convert anyone but encouraged them to adopt a lifestyle based on truth and the three pillars of Sikhism. They are: to earn an honest living; to meditate or remember the one creator God; and to share what they have with anyone in need. In Sikh history there were ten human gurus. The scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, are the eleventh, current andeternal guru. During services the holy book is laid on a decorated central table in the worship rooms. The Sikh religion is the fifth largest in the world.
Upstairs is a corridor with information boards about the religion and access to a worship room,meeting rooms and classrooms. The large worship and meditation room is centred on a golden table and canopy and has an area where a small number of musicians sit cross legged on the floor. Sikh hymns from the scriptures are sung accompanied by musicians with stringed instruments and beautiful harmoniums, led by a lady singer. Statues and idols are not used.
The principal worship room, the Darbar Sahib, is on the ground floor. It was also centred on an elaborate and colourful table with canopy and has an area for musicians to sit. When not in use, the scriptures are kept on an elaborate white cushion in a place of honour and reverence in a wonderfully decorated side room.
Each individual Sikh, male and female, carries five marks of their religion. They are all described by a Punjabi word beginning with K. They are: not cutting the hair as a symbol of holiness, in men it is covered by a turban; wearing a comb to be used twice a day in meditation; wearing an iron bangle as a reminder of God; wearing a special roomy undergarment symbolising self control; and carrying a small dagger. Originally a sword, the dagger came in during a time of persecution, and is a symbol of the saintly soldier, who is prepared to protect the weak and the beliefs of the Sikh.
The visit ended with a light meal of several courses, both savoury and sweet.
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