Like A Prayer: England... Wolverhampton’s Ramgarhia Sabha Sikh Gurdwara!

Not wanting to waste another Sunday, I wanted to do something that would be remembered. I wanted to expand my knowledge outside of Christian faiths, sending those emails had to be done to find a willing Gurdwara Temple. After a few failed leads I found the Sikh Temple meant for me to discover, Wolverhampton's Ramgarhia Sabha Sikh Gurdwara answered my email swiftly. 

Talk is cheap, I wanted the Gurdwara to speak for itself so it could tell me its own story! After corresponding with one of the Trustees, I had been advised that November 21st 2021 would be a better day for me to have a look around the Sikh Temple because it would be the celebration of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's birthday. Located along Newhampton Road East, I was able to get the bus from my Bilston location to that Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton end point. Arriving around 11 a.m. worked for me, I already knew the name of the Trustee that I was supposed to be meeting. Harbinder welcomed me to the Gurdwara not long after my arrival with much to know he directed me up to the first floor to see more of the building. Wearing a face mask as required wasn't a problem for me, I adhered to the rules because it was a busy place of worship and more importantly I understood the logic. Like the Mosque, I also had to take my shoes off. Of course, the aroma from the burning incense reminded me of India in that moment. I wanted to learn! 

Taking a left at the top of the stairs allowed me to see the former prayer room, after some reading I have found out that this room would usually be called the 'Divan Hall' or the 'Darbar Sahib'. I didn't ask that question. Presented with a wide and open room, I went on to learn that the former prayer hall had once been part of one house. Over time, the Temples board slowly bought up several houses, those former abodes were then converted into one space as the Gurdwara. Part of the community since 1974, over the last 47 years the Ramgarhia Sabha Sikh Temple has become a community hub and place of worship for that Sikh congregation. Due to the pandemic certain work had to be halted with the intent to use the ground floor space as a wedding reception hall with the 'Giani' (Priest) being able to conduct the traditional Sikh service upstairs. The former prayer space on the first floor had attracted a media story because Carpet Right had fitted that Gurdwara carpet wrong! Honestly, Harbinder gave me that truth! Thanks! 

As the Sunday service took place, Harbinder led me into the main hall where we bowed and offered our donation at the foot of the 'Palki'. The 'Palki' acted like an 'altar' does in a church, the 'Giani' was busy with the reading of the scriptures from the 'Guru Granth Sahib' otherwise known as the Sikh 'holy book'. To the right of the Palki, two men were sitting on a raised platform. One of those important figures could be seen performing 'Kirtan', the man who has sitting next to him played a 'Baja' otherwise known as a Harmonium. Harbinder told me that the person who performed the 'Kirtan' would need to have a good memory, his task wouldn't be for the faint hearted. A lady sat in the corner at the front of the prayer hall, she was giving sweet treats otherwise known as ‘Parshad’. The worshipping Sikh people were able to make a donation to one of the members, their contribution would be in-exchange for a prayer. The prayer would be read at the end of the sermon. For me to sit at the back of the hall as a guest, I sat quietly learning. Yes! 

Towards the end of the service, the 'Giani' suddenly switched from speaking in Punjabi to English. If truth be told, I wasn't expecting that switch in languages because the service had purely been in Punjabi as the 'Guru Granth Sahib' had been read in that way. The 'Giani' explained that it was so good for him to see many young people from the Sikh faith present in the room. He stressed to the elders that it wasn't their mission to teach their grandchildren or parents their children about the Sikh religion. The 'Giani' went on to say that this generation of young Sikhs would have the best knowledge of the religion due to the accessibility of the internet, his calmness carried a certain message. His words carried meaning but he didn't sound patronising whatsoever. He trusted that the young Sikhs should consider embracing the practices of the religion, to attend the Gurdwara more regularly not just on special occasions. The 'Giani' believed the young Sikhs could teach their family members more about the faith. Oh! 

Experiencing such welcomeness at the Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara in Wolverhampton was lovely, I was offered two trays of delicious food in the 'Langar'. Before heading upstairs I was directed to the kitchen to enjoy a sweet treat, pakoras and a cup of masala chai. That first meal in the 'Langar' wasn't expected but it was very much appreciated. After spending time on the first floor, I was directed back down to the 'Langar' to have some more food before the Gurdwara finished its Sunday service. During that second offering I was amazed to see such a large amount of people eating the food together because it was all complimentary. Part of the Sikh nature is to be charitable, I found out that a number of ladies from the Gurdwaras team would financially contribute to the cost of the food and help cooking it for all of the people. That act of selflessness was refreshing to see, it restored my faith in a lot of things if I was honest. Before the pandemic, the 'Langar' had been used as a classroom to teach the children how to speak Punjabi. Oh, C-19! 

Ah, back to my food! After the service finished, I headed back downstairs to the 'Langar' because more food would be served to us. I took my stainless steel tray 'Thali' once again, accepting portions of paneer, chick pea curry, rice, a pakora, a chapati and sweet yoghurt side. I couldn't tell a lie because that food tasted amazing, the flavours came through better than any Indian takeaway that I had ever been to! The food rivalled the likes that I had enjoyed during my trip to India in December 2018. Meeting back up with Harbinder in the 'Langar', he went on to tell me that during the lockdowns the kitchen at the Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara had fed many people who were homeless, that was inspiring to hear. Harbinder also went on to inform me that as long as a person isn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can eat at the 'Langar' regardless of their religious conviction or lack of. Feeling full and truly clued up about the workings of a Sikh Gurdwara, I thanked Harbinder before making my way out of RSG Temple. 

Happy Birthday... Guru Nanak Dev Ji! 

Joseph Harrison 

Comments

  1. This was really informative and interesting to read! Thank you for using the Punjabi terminology and also explaining it🤗

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much!

      I asked a lot of questions, so wanted to make sure I was correct.

      Joseph

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