I’ve been intrigued by a story in last weekend’s newspaper about a religious group in Washington, D.C., that has spent four decades working to open their own temple in the city. They’re the Sikhs, a religion estimated to have 14 million followers in India and a half-million in the United States, and they’ve just dedicated their National Gurdwara and Sikh Cultural Center on Embassy Row (a gurdwara is a Sikh temple and means “doorway to God” in Punjabi).
The Sikhs have an interesting history, developing as a monotheistic religion in India. They believe in God and follow the teachings of 10 gurus who were in Northern India in the 1500s and 1600s.
What’s interesting about the National Gurdwara is that it was based on one man’s idea, took a long time to come about and survived many obstacles in the process, including some of the ugly cultural misunderstandings that came about after 9/11. I’m not Sikh, but I feel drawn to the story because the effort to open the gurdwara ultimately stretched across many generations and no doubt took much sacrifice to become a reality.
I imagine there are Sikhs young and old –in Washington, D.C., and around the America – who will now see this gurdwara as their gurdwara, just as many Episcopalians view the National Cathedral as their own, or Catholics with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a feel-good story all-around, and possibly an inspiration to other religious groups in the minority who may look to the day when their own house of worship can take its place in the nation’s capital.
(Photo By Lois Raimondo of The Washington Post)