By Ken Herar
The Centennial celebrations (Aug 26-28) at the Gur Sikh Temple were celebrated by thousands from far and wide. The weather was beautiful and the hospitality by the Sikh community was first-class, making it an unforgettable moment in our nation’s history. I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the programs both on the Friday and Saturday evenings. This event touched citizens from all backgrounds, who came out to enjoy the colourful entertainment, socializing, local history and the endless amount of delicious food. The event was well organized and people were extremely friendly and polite. The spirits were high and love was clearly in the air. The Gur Sikh temple is the oldest standing temple in North America. The federal government declared it a National Historical Site in 2002, which thousands attended, including former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
The weekend celebrations began Friday morning along with a 48-hour continuous reading of the scriptures.
On the Friday evening, I met many friends who I haven’t seen in years coming together as part of a larger family. The lower parking lot of the Heritage site was completely full with guests and community partners, who showcased their unconditional support marking a special moment in our history. Throughout the night, I visited several booths and had endless amount of memorable conversations under the setting sun.
The main stage seen performances from: Dasmesh Punjabi School, Mamba Marital Art Academy and a turban-tying contest. Many, who dedicated their lifetime services to the temple, were also presented and honored with plaques. There were fun activities from hand painting, Abbotsford Heat hockey or taking a special tour of the historic building. Guests were also given a glossy 304-page souvenir booklet featuring many articles on the service and achievements from the past century. I encourage all of you to have a look at this book of history.
After the first day of celebrations, I walked away with such a proud inner feeling. This kind of love and friendship is something I will never forget.
The Saturday night celebrations were as equally well attended honoring pioneer families throughout most of the evening.
Unfortunately, on the last day (Sunday) of celebrations, I was a bit busy and couldn’t attend the parade and gathering at Rotary Stadium. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Christy Clark spoke earlier in the day offering their congratulations. According to organizers, this day by far seen the largest crowds swell up to 25,000 under the baking sun.
Kris Foulds, Collections Manager, The Reach Gallery Museum said: “As I participated in the Gur Sikh Temple Centennial that honored the contributions of community pioneers, both Sikh and non-Sikh, I couldn’t help but think that this is what our pioneers strove to achieve; a community that values and celebrates the cultural heritage of its citizens and recognizes that Abbotsford’s cultural diversity is one of its greatest strengths.”
“ It has a huge significance to us,” said Bains, director of the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. “ It is the cornerstone of our social life. It has more significance that just being a religious place.”
We’ll be talking about this for a long time, until the next big celebration in 2111.
Ken “Kulwinder” Herar is a Mission-based writer and a winner of the champions of diversity award for his columns in the LINK newspaper and other Fraser Valley newspapers. Herar can be reached at [email protected] or view his blog at http://www.kenherar.blogspot.com