Sikh Heritage Thrives on Serpentine Avenue

sk2I went to Serpentine Avenue in Ballsbridge to visit the Dublin Gurdwara (gateway to the Guru) which is the central religious and cultural institution for the people of Sikh heritage living in Ireland.

Every Sunday afternoon, up to 300 people come to participate in the religious service and communal meal offered at the Gurdwara. It is an important meeting place for recent Sikh immigrants in Ireland.

Before entering, you must take off your shoes and socks and keep your head covered at all times. If you don’t have a head cover you can borrow a scarf from the Gurdwara when you are there. Sikhs welcome everyone to their Gurdwara.

In December 1986, when Sikhs first bought the abandoned Oscar Theatre building to house the Gurdwara, less than one hundred Sikhs lived in Ireland. Since there were only a few families up until 2000, the work of renovating the building took many years to complete. The number of Sikhs in Ireland grew past 2,000, which resulted in a marked increase in the number of people who regularly attend the Gurdwara. Sikh men use Singh (lion) as their middle or last name, while females use the name Kaur (princess or lioness).

Besides the positive experience of Sikhs living in Ireland, they have suffered instances of racial abuse especially after 9/11 and 7/7 London bombings. Many people confused turban wearing Sikhs as followers of Osama Bin Laden.

Sikhism is the world’s youngest and the fifth largest religion. Sikhism traces its origins to its founder, Guru Nanak Dev, the first of ten Sikh gurus, who was born in 1469 in a part of the Punjab in India.

The word ‘Sikh’ has its origin from the Sanskrit word ‘sisya’ meaning ‘disciple’ or ‘learner’. Guru Nanak Dev laid down the basic precepts of the Sikh way of life: a fusion of Kirat Karo (doing honest work), Naam Japo (remembering the Lord’s name in meditation), Vand chhako (sharing what you have with others).

The Guru Granth Sahib contains the writings of Sikh Gurus and of holy saints from other faith traditions and serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. When Sikhs enter the Diwan Hall of the Gurdwara they walk up to the Guru Granth Sahib and bow in front of it as a mark of respect.

Its 1,430 pages contain poetry and prose revolving around the aspects and concepts of divinity, equality, worship and love for his entire creation. It is believed to contain the eternal truth.

Sikhism encourages its followers to remember God, work and live an honest, truthful living while helping and sharing with the needy. Sikhism espouses equality between men and women, among different races.

By Jason McDonnell