Posts Tagged ‘Gurdwara’

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi – 2007

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi – for me Sunday 22nd April 2007 was very much a day of two halves, with a morning spent at the Shakespeare’s Birthday celebrations around the Globe Theatre in Southwark and the afternoon with Sikhs celebrating in East Ham.


Shakespeare’s Birthday – Globe Theatre, Southwark

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi

Shakespeare was born in April 1564, but the exact date is not known, though he was baptised on April 26th. Conventionally his birthday is celebrated on St George’s Day, April 23, so although this event was a day earlier it was just as likely to be his actual birthday.

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi

Unusually I didn’t write anything on the April 2007 page of My London Diary about either of the two events I photographed on this Sunday, other than the links to to pages of pictures, but there are some captions with the pictures that give the story of the day.

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi

People met on Montague Close at the north entrance to Southwark Cathedral for the start of the carnival procession. Among them were the Pearly King of Bow Bells & Blackfriars and the Pearly Queen of the Old Kent Road, as well as a very splendid large dragon, who was accompanied by a man in a harlequin costume and mask of diamonds of blues, greens, yellows and reds.

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi

Fortunately for the dragon I think St George was saving his appearance for the following day, although later there was a man carrying his flag, and perhaps the man himself arrived after I had to rush away at noon.

Shakespeare and East Ham Vaisakhi

There were musicians with large drums and small whistles and others in some kind of medieval dress as well as a large posse of masked children as we made our way west past Pickfords Wharf and along Clink Street to the riverside and Bankside in front of the replica Globe theatre were we were welcomed by Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole, who invited us all – including the dragon – into the theatre.

Given the Globe is a wooden structure which would burn rather well this was perhaps foolhardy, but the dragon did seem rather short of fiery breath and on his or her best behaviour and posed for photographs rather tamely and demurely on the stage with the children and others. No children were eaten or maidens ravaged at least while I was there.

I was sorry to leave, but there’s a time for all things, and my time on Bankside ran out fast, and the journey to the Gurdwara in East Ham from London Bridge to West Ham and then East Ham and the walk to Rosebery Avenue took me around an hour.

More pictures on My London Diary.


Vaisakhi – East Ham – Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar

The street was densely crowded as I got close to the Gurdwara, but people were very welcoming and let me through, though I stopped to take a few pictures of them.

As I arrived the organisers were giving people at the front of the crowd handfuls of flower petals which were thrown as the Guru Granth Sahib – the sacred Sikh scriptures and eternal Guru – was carried on cushions on its bearers head, sheltered by a saffron and blue umbrella, to be placed on a float.

The came the Khalsa, carrying Sikh standards and with the five in saffron robes holding their swords.

There were prayers and the five had flower garlands placed around their necks and loud blasts from a splendid curved metal horn, a Narsinga announced the start of the procession, with the congregation joining behind the float carrying the Guru Granth Sahib.

The Khalsa walk barefoot with holding their swords upright and looking ahead rather than at the ground and a team of sweepers, also barefoot, sweep the roadway in front of them.

The procession moved onto the main road, High Street North, which was soon packed as far as I could see in both directions. I waited for the end of the procession to pass but did not follow it on the long procession around the area which takes several hours.

There are many more pictures on My London Diary


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Vaisakhi in Gravesend – 2012

Sunday, April 14th, 2024

Vaisakhi in Gravesend – Saturday14 April 2012: Gravesend is in Kent around 20 miles east of London on the River Thames and home to around 15,000 Sikhs in a population of just over 100,000. The first Gurdwara opened here in 1956 but in November 2010 a splendid new Gurdwara was opened, the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara. This is said to be the largest Gurdwara in Europe and one of the largest outside India and cost £12 million, financed by donations.

Vaisakhi in Gravesend

The temple is on a large site around half a mile east of the railway station and I arrived too late to make a tour of the place as the Nagar Kirtan procession was getting ready to start.

Vaisakhi in Gravesend

I took a short look inside then went back outside to photograph the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Scriptures) being carried out ceremonially to be put inside a model of the Golden Temple of Amritsar on one of the floats at the head of the procession.

Vaisakhi in Gravesend

Vaisakhi in Gravesend

There were lengthy prayers outside the Gurdwara before five Khalsa, baptised Sikh men in saffron robes carrying Sikh standards and five more with raised swords representing the Panj Pyare baptised at Ananpundur in 1699 by the last living human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the founding of the ‘Khalsa’ took their place in the procession behind an open lorry carrying a large Nagara drum and its beaters.

Behind them was the Guru Granth Sahib and then the walking congregation (Sangat) led by Punjabi School children, then the women and after them men, along with several vehicles carrying the elderly.

The Gurdwara also has various cultural, social and sports groups, including Bhangra music and dance groups, the Guru Nanak Football Club and children from local primary schools and lorries carrying some of these made up the end of the procession.

I hadn’t arrived early enough to visit the Langer, but as the procession made its way around the centre of Gravesend there were a number of stalls handing out free vegetarian food and drink. I enjoyed some delicious vegetable curry with a strong mint flavour as well as some very sweet chai and a couple of vegetable samosas, but there were also plenty of treats for the children, lollipops, soft drinks and sweets.

Shri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara in Brandon Street

Close to the very much smaller Shri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara in Brandon Street there was a large crowd waiting to see the procession and more people handing out free food. I paid a very brief visit to see the interior of this temple.

The procession was going back towards the Gurdwara when I waited to see the end of it go past before going to catch a train. The celebrations were to continue the following day with a religious service in the Gurdwara.

Many more pictures at Gravesend Vaisakhi.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella – 2011

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella: On Saturday 9th April 2011 After visiting Woolwich to photograph the Vaisakhi celebrations I came back into central London to photograph Ugandans and Kurds protesting for freedom and democracy.


Vaisakhi Celebrations in Woolwich

Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella

For some years I had been documenting religious festivals in and around London and had photographed a number of Sikh Gurdwaras at their Vaisakhi festivals.

Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella

On Saturday 9th April 2011 I went to the Ramgarhia Association Gurdwara in Mason’s Hill Woolwich. The Ramgarhia are a Sikh community who originally came from the close to Amritsar in the Punjab and traditionally they were carpenters, blacksmiths and other artisan workers but were renowned for their military prowess and the victories of the armies.

Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella

When I turned up I was warmly welcomed and taken to the Langar hall where I enjoyed some of the free vegetarian food on offer to all, prepared and served by members of the congregation who volunteer their services as a part of their religious practice and was able to talk with people there and wander around taking photographs.

Vaisakhi, Uganda & Freedom Umbrella

The Gurdwara was established in 1970 in an existing landmark building, the Victorian Freemasons Hall, just over the Woolwich border in Plumstead on a street which was then called Mount Pleasant.

The Freemason’s Hall was where the Royal Arsenal Football Club held its annual meetings and dinners, and on 16th May 1891 that the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Arsenal Football Club (earlier known as Dial Square) the committee announced it had decided two weeks earlier to turn professional and had thus resigned from the amateur Kent and London Associations.

In 1913, the club moved across the river to a new stadium at Highbury, where it continued to play until 2006, when it moved the short distance to its new Emirates stadium. Apparently it is doing quite well at the moment.

The Vaisakhi festival, which takes place on April 14 each year marks the formation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, in 1699. You can read more about this and the Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan procession which is lead by five Khalsa – baptised Sikhs – dressed in saffron robes and turbans and carrying swords in the account I wrote on My London Diary, Vaisakhi Celebrations in Woolwich, as well as in the posts on other Vaisakhi processions on that site.

On My London Diary I wrote in more detail about the origins of Vaisakhi and the 10th Sikh Guru who gave Sikhism its modern form with its symbols and the eternal guru, the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy religious scripture being reverently carried out to the procession in th picture above.

Unfortunately the start of the procession was delayed and although I had photographed the preparations for it I had to run to catch a train before the actual start of the colourful procession, with its joyful singing of Sikh hymns, martial arts demonstrations and Dhol drumming through the town, expected to take several hours.

More at Vaisakhi Celebrations in Woolwich.


Ugandans Demand Democracy – Uganda House, Trafalgar Square

Ugandans had come to protest outside Uganda House in Trafalgar Square, calling for new free and fair elections after the rigged Parliamentary and Presidential elections in February.

The election on 18 Feb had resulted in the re-election of the sitting president Yoweri Museveni, in power for 25 years, apparently getting 68% of the vote.

But the EU Election Observation Mission which had been in Uganda for the vote reported the election, with a turnout of only 59% had been “marred by avoidable administrative and logistical failures which led to an unacceptable number of Ugandan citizens being disenfranchised” and that Museveni had used his presidential power to “compromise severely the level playing filed between the competing candidates and political parties.”

As well as the state owned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation giving much more coverage to the ruling NRM party, there had been extenisve human rights abuses with the police failing to take action against groups attacking opposition political meetings, intimidation and assaults on journalists and the cancellation of broadcasts.

Ugandans Demand Democracy


Freedom Umbrella Kurds March Through London – Old Marylebone Rd – Downing St

Freedom Umbrella (Chatri Azadi), a coalition of British-based Kurdish organisations and supporters, had organised a demonstration in front of the offices of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Old Marylebone Road followed by a march to a rally opposite Downing St.

They called for support of the people’s uprising for freedom and social justice in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan which had begun on 17th February but had hardly been noticed by UK media.

Two Kurdish militia groups dominate Iraqi Kurdistan and remain in power. On 19th April their security forces began a more organised violent crackdown on the protests which brought them to an end.

I met the protesters as the march neared Trafalgar Square and photographed their rally opposite Downing Street.

More pictures Freedom Umbrella Kurds March In London.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Southall – Britain’s Holy City – 2005

Saturday, October 1st, 2022

Southall - Britain's Holy City - 2005

Seventeen years ago I was fortunate to be able to go on a tour of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, opened in 2003 and said to be the largest Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, led by one of the Sikh volunteer guides and the architect, Richard Adams of Architects Co-Partnership.

Southall - Britain's Holy City - 2005

The tour had been organised by art and urban historian Mireille Galinou for the group London Arts Café, and was one of a series of interesting events and exhibitions between 1996 and 2007, which you can still read about on the rather messy London Arts Café web site that I was responsible for, though the front page of this makes very clear that the London Arts Café is no more. The site remains on line as a record of its activities.

Southall - Britain's Holy City - 2005

Architects Co-Partnership had won an open competition to design the building, and Adams had worked fully with the Sikh community to produce a building suited to their needs. It does so impressively: clean simple surfaces, powerful colour in the windows and light streaming into the central stairway and lobby from the large window and glass roof areas.

The Gurdwara has a vast prayer hall officially capable of seating up to 3,000 people, a fine marriage room (and two years later I photographed one of my wife’s colleagues getting married here), and various other facilities including a Langar (dining hall). This free community kitchen can serve over 20,000 vegetarian meals on a festival weekend.

The building had a powerfully religious atmosphere, and on entering we removed our shoes, covered our heads with scarves provided and washed our hands before continuing into the temple.

As we went around both our Sikh guide and the architect explained how the building served the basic Sikh tenets of service, humility and equality. The guide explained the spiritual guidance from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, religious writings which were appointed as spiritual head of the Sikh religion by Guru Gobind Singh around three hundred years ago.

The building was extremely impressive, and there was a great atmosphere to in the community kitchen where volunteers, mainly women, were working together to prepare the free vegetarian meals. Although normally I would have sat to eat on the floor in the traditional way, a rather painful knee made it easier for me to stand and eat at one of the tables along with most of our group.

The food is free, but in return people are expected or welcomed to perform some service to the temple in thanks or give an donation which we gladly did. The meal was delicious and made a good end to a most interesting visit.

I ended my account on My London Diary:

Southall is now Britain’s Holy City, apparently with places of worship for over 50 religions or denominations. Brother Daniel Faivre’s ‘Glimpses Of A Holy City’ published in 2001 after more than 20 years of living in Southall gives a good insight into some of this diversity.

We didn’t on this occasion visit any of these others, but did go for a short walk before catching our bus home, going into the Christian cemetery opposite the Gurdwara and some streets around for some views of the building’s exterior, as well as some local views.

I’d visited Southall before to photograph some of the religious festivals – both Sikh and Hindu – in the town and there are pictures of some of these on My London Diary, as well as pictures from Vaisakhi celebrations here and in Hounslow, Slough, Woolwich, East Ham, Gravesend and Sikh protests in central London. You can find these by searching on My London Diary.

More pictures on My London Diary.


Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara 2005

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Sixteen years ago on Saturday 1st October 2005 I was fortunate to be able to go with friends from the now long defunct London Arts Café on a visit to the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara completed in Southall in 2003 with the building’s architect Richard Adams of Architect Co-Partnership and one of the Sikh volunteer guides. The temple, built with over £17m of local donations was said to be the largest in the western hemisphere, intended to be “a temple second only to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, with a life expectancy of a minimum of 100 years“.

The architects had won the commission in open competition and working with the Sikh community and had produced what I described as “a building suited to their needs, and it does so impressively:clean simple surfaces, powerful colour in the windows and light streaming into the central stairway and lobby from the large window and glass roof areas.” I hope my pictures convey something of this.

Here’s some of the text I wrote about the visit at the time, when I was posting entirely in lower case:

the sri guru singh sabha gurdwara serves the community, both for workship and for other needs. as well as a vast prayer hall officially capable of seating up to 3,000 people (and actually holding rather more at major festivals) there is a fine marriage room, and various other facilities including a langar (dining hall); this free community kitchen can serve over 20,000 vegetarian meals over a festival weekend.

the gurdwara had a powerfully religious atmosphere. on entering we followed the customary practice of removing our shoes, covering our heads with the scarves provided and washing our hands before commencing our visit. at various points both our guide and the architect explained how the building served the basic sikh tenets of service, humility and equality, and also the spiritual guidance from the sri guru granth sahib, the religious writings which are were appointed as spiritual head of the sikh religion, the eternal guru, by guru gobind singh around three hundred years ago.

although the architecture and the prayer hall in particular were impressive, what made the strongest impression on me was the kitchen, especially the team of women working together. the food was excellent, a real pleasure to eat, although my still rather painful knee made it easier for me to stand and eat at one of the tables rather than in the traditional manner seated on the floor. although food is free, those eating may perform some service to the temple in thanks for their food, or give an donation of some kind, which we gladly did.

southall is now britain’s holy city, apparently with places of worship for over 50 religions or denominations. brother daniel faivre’s ‘glimpses of a holy city’ published in 2001 after more than 20 years of living in southall gives a good insight into some of this diversity.

More pictures on My London Diary.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.