An impressive structure inspires piety

Venkat Raman

The imposing structure of the Sri Kalgidhar Sahib (the Takanini Gurdwara in South Auckland), which has marked its Tenth Anniversary with celebrations on March 7 and 8, 2015, has an impressive story behind its evolution.

Prime Minister John Key, Labour Leader Andrew Little and thousands of people attended the celebrations, as reported elsewhere in this Special Feature.

It is a tale of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, devotion and commitment of the Sikh community at large and in particular, four members of the New Zealand Sikh Society Auckland committee.

They include Daljit Singh, Manpreet Singh, Rajender Singh, Ranvir Lali Singh, who along with many others gave their time, energy and in many cases, their own money.

At $8 million in costs, covering an area of 8.6 acres, it did not come cheap.

But it was completed arguably in a record time of two-and-half years, from the day of the foundation ceremony on August 8 2002 (at which former Prime Minister Helen Clark was present) to the official opening on March 13, 2005.

It all began with those at the helm of the society, which owns the Gurdwara in South Auckland’s Otahuhu, feeling the need for another, more spacious place of worship and Sikh congregation. The increasing number of its users had rendered the Otahuhu facility small and was found inadequate to cater to the growing needs of people.

Sound finance

With $4 million in assets, a good cash balance and an excellent record of accounts, the Otahuhu Gurudwara was a pillar of strength for any project. Based on such a strong foundation, the idea to build another facility evolved.

Said Daljit Singh: “As we brainstormed about a venue, the plot of land in Takanini emerged as a strong possibility. The former Maori Club occupied land was sold to a member of the community and he was happy to sell the plot for the price he had paid.”

The land issue was settled (it cost no more than $710,000 but the current market value is stated to be $4 million) but painting the larger picture remained. Tasks relating to construction loomed large-finding the right contractor, suppliers, moving materials and so on remained to be sorted out.

Let us give you a brief note on the sacrifice made by the four-committee members. One of them gave up his business, others left their full-time jobs and devoted their entire time and energy for the project.

“We still cannot believe what we accomplished. So many members of the community willingly gave their time and money not only to be a part of the project but also to ensure that our dream was realised properly. The Gurudwara is a tribute to their efforts and I cannot thank them enough,” Daljit Singh said.

Largest Kitchen

While construction plans were drawn, those in charge of the project had to visualise the future needs so that the facility remained useful and adequate for a length of time. The main Gurudwara complex accommodates two large halls at two levels. The ground floor accommodates a large kitchen, covering more than 220 Sq m.

“It is perhaps the largest kitchen in the world,” Daljit Singh said and a quick visit confirmed his statement.

As well as accounting for state-of-the-art machinery and equipment, the kitchen comprises freezers, ovens and a wide array of utensils and vessels imported from India.

“The main gates, the Kalsa and the domes that adorn the top of the Temple were all brought from India, using the best material available. We did not want to compromise on quality and no effort or money was spared,” Daljit Singh said.

There is more. The committee estimated that celebrations such as Holi, Vaisakhi, Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Birthday and Diwali would necessitate catering for 25,000 people (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and even before they prepared purchase plans, food items began to pour in.

We were told of a container, which was being filled with rice, wheat, sugar, spices and other items needed for the service being donated by the community.

A landmark

“The 90 feet flag pole on the foreground of the Gurudwara complex is a landmark. Hydraulically operated, it would be useful for ceremonial occasions, carrying the flag of our religion,” Daljit Singh said.

The second floor comprises the main prayer hall with the sacred Guru Granth Sahib and rooms for people to relax. The third level has a museum with a collection of rare photographs and other materials.

Library, meeting rooms and other facilities are located in another building.

Mobilising financial resources from time to time is always a challenge but with a community that opens its heart and purse wide, there never has been a problem.

We learnt of an occasion when the ongoing payments required $70,000. The amount was raised in less than two hours from a few members who offered more, if needed.

“We have never felt lonely since the project began. Our fellow members and others in the community have been with us offering any type of support required,” Daljit Singh said.

The seventh anniversary celebrations held on March 11, 2012 was a project and has had several interesting episodes.

Leaders of the community in various parts of New Zealand encouraged their members to be in Auckland for the occasion. Several visitors had arrived from India and other parts of the world.

With so many hands, hearts and minds at work, it was little surprise that Sri Kalgidhar Sahib has come to be regarded as the most magnificent edifice of the Sikh community in New Zealand.

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