Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The only one

When did the first Sikhs come to Madras? There is obviously no definitive answer to this question, but the community itself believes there has been steady movement in both directions for the most part. The partition of India, however, was an event that sent many Sikh families as far away as they could travel to, to escape the horrors of the event. Madras was one of the farthest points, and quite a number of displaced Sikh families landed up here. On hand to welcome them was Lt Col Gurdial Singh Gill, who was the IG of Prisons in Madras. As a prominent member of the Punjab Association, Lt Col Gill helped in getting the families rehabilitated quickly. 

Madras however had no place of worship for the Sikhs. The Guru Nanak Sat Sangh Sabha was established in 1949, as a place for the Sikhs to gather as a community. In 1951, Maharani Vidyawati Devi, the Rani of Vizianagaram, arranged for some of her land to be given to the Sabha to build a gurudwara on. Enter the Colonel, again. G.S. Gill stepped in to personally supervise the work of constructing an consecrating the gurudwara, even designing the Gurudwara Sahib himself. On April 13, 1953, the first Guru Granth Sahib was installed at this building, making it a revered shrine.

Almost 60 years later, it continues to be only gurudwara in Chennai. The community gathers here on all the holy days. They come from all over the city, for there is really no one enclave that can be thought of as an exclusive Sikh enclave in Chennai. The Sat Sangh Sabha continues to manage this temple - and another one in distant Rameshwaram, as well!

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