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Members of the Sikh community (back left to right, then front) Balbir Singh, temple secretary Narinderjit Singh, Daler Singh, Baldev Singh, Ajit Singh Khaisa, Jagdev Singh Virdee and engineer Rajan Kharel
by MICHAEL ADKINS, Assistant Editor (content)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
One of the biggest Sikh Temples outside of India is to officially open next week, after a multi-million pound project taking almost a decade to complete.
Members of the current Siri Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Clarence Place, Gravesend, will vacate the site on Thursday as a massive procession is expected to herald the completion of the new temple, off Khalsa Avenue.
Temple secretary Narinderjit Singh, 58, said the date had been chosen as it coincides with the birthday of the founder of Sikhism, Siri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
This week, as he oversaw the finishing touches to the interior of the building, he said: “This will be one of the, if not the, biggest Sikh temple outside of India. It is a fantastic time in Gravesham’s history and something for the whole community to treasure.
“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved with the help of the entire community. There are more than 12,000 Sikhs in Gravesend, a large part of the population. It has been a long time from start to finish but you must agree it is magnificent.”
Although partially opened in April last year in time for the Sikh New Year Vaisakhi festival, this will be the first time it will become there permanent base as the other premises is closed,
Costing more than £13 million it has been funded entirely by the Sikh community in north Kent, and partially built by volunteers.
Stonemasons from India have been working for two years on the temple which has been clad inside and out with granite and marble and Kota stone from India.
The roof boasts five elaborate domes, and an intricate heating and ventilation system has been installed inside.
When opened it will be able to house 1,200 worshippers in three large prayer rooms, with educational facilities, a 140-seat lecture theatre, computer suite and library. It also incorporates meeting halls, two kitchens. Outside there is a large car park and water fountains surrounding the temple.
Gravesend’s Sikh community began settling in the town at the turn of the 20th Century. Before the community bought their current gurdwara in 1968, they used to gather in each other’s homes.
The vacant temple was sold to Thamesview Living for £3.1 million which went towards the cost of the new building. They hope to demolish the existing building and replace it with 19 flats and two houses.