Racist attack suspected as temple burns
Ten fire engines and around 50 firefighters raced to the Sikh Temple in Harley Grove, Bow, East London, on Monday afternoon after a women’s prayer group alerted the emergency services to a fire apparently started by an intruder.
But the fire took hold so quickly that it was four hours before the firefighters announced they had got it under control.
The Gurdwara Sikh Sangat, built in 1997, was severely damaged on the first floor and above, with most of the roof collapsing and a number of revered religious books destroyed.
Women in the prayer group told investigators they had spotted a man they thought was a robber and then, as he ran from the temple, discovered the fire. They tried to douse it with buckets of water but were forced back by the fierce heat.
They saved one of the temple’s holy books but seven others were beyond reach…(continued below)
East London Gurdwara Video Clip
London’s Metropolitan Police Force are treating the incident as suspicious. Graffiti daubed on one of the temple’s outer walls a few weeks ago has aroused fears among the sangat, the temple community, of unwelcome attention from racists.
Sikhs living in the East End made their way to the temple – a former church and synagogue and a Grade 2 listed building – and watched in sorrow as the fire teams battled the blaze.
One distraught worshipper told a local newspaper reporter that the destruction of holy books was of particular significance to the Sikh community. He said: “We worship our holy books as steps to God.”
On its website the temple announced that all events and programmes were cancelled until further notice.
A weekend of prayers that included religious rites for the holy books (saroops) that could not be saved began in London on Friday. The United Sikhs organisation said it would comprise continuous recitation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The programme was:
- Friday 20th March 10am – Mata Sahib Kaur Sikh Academy – Aramb Sri Akhand path Sahib (Continuous recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji begins
- Sunday 22nd March 10.30am – Mata sahib Kaur Sikh Academy – Bhog Sri Akhand path Sahib (Conclusion of the continuous recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib
- Sunday 22nd March 12pm – Saskar Sri Guru Granth Sahib JI – (Religious rites) Khalsa college, Chigwel
The Mata Sahib Kaur Sikh Academy said the saskar on the 22nd was held on the instruction of Akal Thakt Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh.
United Sikhs director Harsharen Kaur, who attended the East London gurdwara on Tuesday, said every gurdwara should designate panj pyarae (five beloved initiated Sikhs) to lead the sangat for the seva of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji after a man-made or natural disaster hit a temple.
The following message was issued:
“There has been an overwhelming concern from the Sikh sangat nationally and internationally. Coaches are being arranged from around the country to allow the sangat to attend the programme. If one of our family members leaves this physical world we all make time to pay our respects. Our living Guru has given shaheedi of eight pavitar saroops. It is wholly appropriate that all of the sangat attends.”
The organisers said they expected sangat to attend in unprecedented numbers.
Harsharen Kaur described as “beautiful” a gathering at the scene of the fire on Tuesday night. Guruji’s pyaari sangat of about 70 people, young and old, gracefully sat on the green in front of the Gurdwara Sahib to recite Guruji’s bani (prayers), braving the cold night.
“Beautiful was the ardaas and dohiraa and jakarai – keeping the spirit alive as the nishaan sahib (Sikh flag) stood mighty and intact, and beautiful was the kirtan in the chapel at Queen Mary’s College, nearby – Dhan Guru Granth, Dhan Guru Panth! Even those who were there in thought and spirit, if not physically – we were truly humbled by you.
“Chaupai sahib paaths (prayers) were recited instead of kirtan sohila (as advised by a Gurmukh Gyanji). After the ardaas, we learnt from the gurdwara’s sangat that the remains of the eight maharaj’s saroops (Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji) were recovered from the building and are now in sachkhand at Mata Sahib Kaur academy in Newbury Park.
“Great are the firefighters who put out the fire, and risked their lives to recover our guruji’s saroops. May everyone’s prayers, presence and seva be parvaan (accepted), and may we continue to come together in ekta, with nimrata and pyaar, (unity, humility and love) hopefully in less tragic circumstances.”
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