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Khalsa Diwan Society New Westminster’s Centennial Celebration A Pride For The Community

By Balwant Sanghera

Since our ancestors set foot on Canadian soil our community has gone through a very turbulent period. Thanks to the hard work, resilience and struggles of our pioneers, to-day, our community has become one of the most generous, prosperous and successful communities in Canada. In this regard, societies like Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouverand New Westminster have played a pivotal role.

Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS), Vancouverformed on July 22, 1902 and formally established in 1906 has alwaysbeen in the forefront in serving our community. For a number of years, KDS was the only organization fighting for the rights of the Indo-Canadian community. It established the first Sikh Gurdwara in Canada (most likely in North America) at 1866 West Second Avenue in Vancouver on January 19, 1908. It has played a major role in the social and economic development of the South Asian community in Canada. KDS has been acting as a strong advocate for our community on every major issue affecting the community. Whether supporting the Ghadar movement, helping the victims of Komagata Maru, fighting against racism or getting back the right to vote, KDS has always been there in the front row.

In addition to Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver, Khalsa Diwan Society, New Westminster has also played a very important role in the growth and development of our community especially in the New Westminster area. This past weekend (March 1-3, 2019), the management committee of this Society celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Society in a very impressive manner. Along with other publications and souvenirs prepared for this occasion, the organizers have prepared a brief history of the Society and the Gurdwaratitled Glimpses of SukhSagar.

Here is an opening statementof the Glimpses of Sukh Sagar: “Khalsa Diwan Society New Westminster, also known as Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar or simply New West Gurdwara has become an institution synonymous with progress and community building. Over the last decade especially, the dedicated and humble servants of this Gurdwara Sahib have attempted to ensure that it serves the spiritual and political needs of its local Sikh community;that it plays an active role in affairs concerning the Sikh community globally; and that it participates in the activities of the wider communities of  Queensborough and New Westminster.”

The Sangat turnedup in large numbers on all three days of the celebration. The festivities started with a Kavi Darbar on Thursday, February 28.Next day, Friday March 1, Sri Akhand Path Sahib was commenced. In the evening the children enjoyed their participation in the Bal Darbar followed by Youth Darbar and Rainsbai Kirtan by Akhand Kirtani Jatha. On Saturday, the Sangat enjoyed listening to the melodious Kirtan. Sunday, March 3, was the big day which started with Akhand Path Sahib’s Bhog followed by Kirtan Darbar and speeches by dignitaries and a plaque ceremony. The Diwan Hall was full of devotees from all over. It included politicians of all stripes, representatives ofa number of Sikh Societies, prominent members of the community and a very dedicated Sangat.

All of the elected representatives ,including  Harjit Singh Sajjan, National Defence Minister, Peter Julian, M.P., MLAs and Minister of Labour Harry Bains, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, MLAs Rachna Singh, Jas Johal  and many others paid very fitting tributes to the Sukh Sagar Gurdwara Management Committee for their hard work and dedication. They also touched upon briefly the challenges our ancestors have faced in order to reach this point. The work that this Society has been doing especially in getting our youth involved is commendable. As a matter of fact, Khalsa Diwan Society, New Westminster has been doing an outstanding job in many areas including youth involvement and promoting Punjabi language. Glimpses of Sukh Sagar sums up this Society’s role beautifully as follows:

“Since as early as 1911, the Sikh community has been organizing and congregating in New Westminster. Beginning from the early days when it was known simply as Bhai Bishan Singh’s Gurdwara or Gurdwara Westminster, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar has played an integral part in the community fabric of Queensborough, as well as in the Sikh and South Asian community of the Lower Mainland.”

The Management Committee of Gurdwara Sukh Sagar led by its well respected and selfless leader Harbhajan Singh Athwal must be commended for their dedication and hard work.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.

 

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