|A Gudwara in India. (Retrieved from: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=228337)|
After slipping off my shoes at the door, my friend and I entered a spacious room where a man was singing Punjabi prayers into a microphone. We took our seats on the floor of the women’s side, adjusting our headscarves to keep them in place. This former church was now decorated in bright pink and gold material, a contrast to the blue stained-glass windows lining the walls. More men and women dressed in traditional Indian clothing filed in after us, bowing before the altar at the front before taking their seats. The congregation continued singing as the priest closed the heavy book, and after wrapping it in many layers of white material, balanced it on his turban. He arose from his seat on the small platform and came down the steps, crossing from one side of the room to the other, the worshippers bowing their heads as the book passed. After ceremoniously placing the book in its resting place, the priest passed out a sweet mashed-potato-like substance for each person to eat that had been an offering.
This is a scene describing a Sikh prayer service, and although it is a dominant religion in parts of India, gudwaras, or temples, exist all over the world. One of these temples is right here in Springfield.
My knowledge of Sikhism was very limited before I went to the service, so after looking it up, I discovered that there are approximately 20 million Sikhs worldwide, most of whom live in the Punjab province of India (“Sikhism at a Glance”, 2014). They follow the teachings of 10 Indian gurus who lived between 1469 and 1708, with the founding Guru being Guru Nanak of the 16th century. The teachings of these ten gurus, amongst others of different religions, are compiled in the Guru Granth Sahib, which is considered their Holy Book and the living and true Head of the Sikh religion. It is filled with poetry, hymns, and prayers, laying the foundation for their belief in the True Guru (God), as well as the way to salvation and development of the soul. The fifth guru, Guru Arjan, was the one who began the compilation of the Sikh hymns from gurus before him, and it was completed many years later in 1705.
Many Sikhs have the view that which religion one belongs to is less important than living in a constant state of remembrance and reverence of God. The goal of a Sikh life is to live honorably and benevolently, and to break the cycle of life and rebirth, in order to merge with God (Sikhism, 2011). Sikhism says that this is possible by living an honest life, and in the process, drawing closer to God by his grace and by overcoming haumain, or, self-centered pride (“Beliefs”, 2014).
I have lived in Springfield for most of my life and never knew that this temple existed until about a month ago. I knew even less about the people that worship there. Since then, I have learned that they are students and families who have chosen to call Springfield home for many different reasons, bringing to this city restaurants and other businesses, as well as a different culture and perspective that we can learn from. They welcomed me into their community at the temple very graciously and hospitably, and how I hope that the Springfield community has done and will do the same for them. :)
“The Sikh Gurus”, “Philosophy”, “Sri Guru Granth Sahib”, “Other Religions”, “Gudwaras”. 2011. Sikhs.org.
“Sikhism at a Glance”, “Beliefs”. 2014. British Broadcasting Company.