When every home is a gurdwara, when is it a home?

Sikhs are told to vacate this house, in Oxford, that they use for prayer and religious gatherings.Is the question facing Sikhs in Oxford, England, as they try to find a central location to pray as a sangat without having to convert private property into religious property.

A religious community in Oxford is reeling after the city council ordered members of its congregation to stop worshipping at a house in Marston.

The citys Sikh community has been meeting at 69 Cherwell Drive to pray for nearly three years. [link]

The neighbors’ chief complaints have been around parking and noise in the area. The story saddened me on two levels. First, because of the general difficulty Sikhs face in finding community space, and second, because of the underlying challenge to our practice of Sikhi.

At both the sangat and individual family level, a gurdwara is much more than a building with four walls and four doors. Each Sikh carries the responsibility to ensure a space for prayer in one’s own home; in effect, to transform one’s home into a semi-gurdwara. Additionally, sangats throughout the world often gather at one another’s homes or in a single home, jointly purchased, to create a community space. For me, this custom is rooted in the concept of naam jaapo, and also speaks to the broader belief in responsibility to others (i.e., that one’s home is not a closed space that is an exception to the ideas of sadh sangat and sarbat da bhalla).

This case in particular involves a single home or building that has been used as a community space, not really as a “private” space (in the individualized sense). However, it’s common for small sangats to begin at a single home and grow past the capacity of its facility. In some ways this might run up against concepts of planned development and zoning, but on the other hand, it also runs in tension with a customary practice that is not much different, in my opinion, than an individual hosting a 50 person Bible study in there home. It’s difficult for me to read this without wondering if the experience would be the same for other faith communities. For example, I highly doubt neighbors would rescind their objections if individuals arrived on foot or by bus as opposed to adding to vehicle congestion/traffic.

So at what point does the desire to foster a sadh sangat get trammeled by the neighbors? How are ways that communities can work through or around this, either through education or through advocacy efforts? What are ways in which we can situate our physical practice of Sikhi?


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13 Responses to “When every home is a gurdwara, when is it a home?”

  1. It's a serious issue but I don't think we will have ample of difficulty while getting the issue addressed in a court of law. Sikhs have been getting a lot of laws amended in the past and with Sikh lawyers and judges such as Rabinder Singh at high posts I think the sangat will definitely get a solution in their favor. After all, Waheguru is also with us.

  2. It’s a serious issue but I don’t think we will have ample of difficulty while getting the issue addressed in a court of law. Sikhs have been getting a lot of laws amended in the past and with Sikh lawyers and judges such as Rabinder Singh at high posts I think the sangat will definitely get a solution in their favor. After all, Waheguru is also with us.

  3. bdb says:

    depends on how many people and what they are upto. So if a Sikh judge is at a ‘high’ post we should get preferential treatment? Thats crap. The judge’s job is to uphold the law nothing else. This mentality of ‘apna banda in a high up place’ is pure corruption.
    If there are other faith communities(in that area) doing the same kind of thing the Sangat in Oxford is doing, if there is some precedent, then I can see favorable resolution.
    The oxford Sangat should think about rotating the venue to various members houses-if there are that many people that it creates noise then surely 4-8 other members can be hosts-drastically cutting down ‘noise’ at one particular location.
    I was not aware of a requirement to convert a part of one’s home into a semi-gurudwara.

  4. bdb says:

    depends on how many people and what they are upto. So if a Sikh judge is at a ‘high’ post we should get preferential treatment? Thats crap. The judge’s job is to uphold the law nothing else. This mentality of ‘apna banda in a high up place’ is pure corruption.
    If there are other faith communities(in that area) doing the same kind of thing the Sangat in Oxford is doing, if there is some precedent, then I can see favorable resolution.
    The oxford Sangat should think about rotating the venue to various members houses-if there are that many people that it creates noise then surely 4-8 other members can be hosts-drastically cutting down ‘noise’ at one particular location.
    I was not aware of a requirement to convert a part of one’s home into a semi-gurudwara.

  5. Harinder says:

    I believe Wahaeguru is with every one in the city.

    Not SIKHS alone.

  6. Harinder says:

    I believe Wahaeguru is with every one in the city.
    Not SIKHS alone.

  7. Waheguru ji ka khalsa
    Waheguru ji ki fateh

    Respected bdb G

    The statement ‘Sikhs have been getting a lot of laws amended in the past and with Sikh lawyers and judges such as Rabinder Singh at high posts I think the sangat will definitely get a solution……’

    written above is not written with a corruption mentality, the judge at high posts will be able to understand the problem and views of the sangat better than anybody else ( else refers to those who doesn’t belong to Sikhism or are non-religious).

    You put yourself at the place of a judge and try to listen such a problem of non-sikh community ( I suppose you are a Sikh) you won’t be able to do that as good and as easily as you will be able to get the sikh community problem, or you would not be able to give a solution as wise as you could give in a Sikh community case (but this matters only in case of religious issues not individual case).

  8. Waheguru ji ka khalsa
    Waheguru ji ki fateh

    Respected bdb G

    The statement ‘Sikhs have been getting a lot of laws amended in the past and with Sikh lawyers and judges such as Rabinder Singh at high posts I think the sangat will definitely get a solution……’

    written above is not written with a corruption mentality, the judge at high posts will be able to understand the problem and views of the sangat better than anybody else ( else refers to those who doesn’t belong to Sikhism or are non-religious).

    You put yourself at the place of a judge and try to listen such a problem of non-sikh community ( I suppose you are a Sikh) you won’t be able to do that as good and as easily as you will be able to get the sikh community problem, or you would not be able to give a solution as wise as you could give in a Sikh community case (but this matters only in case of religious issues not individual case).

  9. A Sikh community in Oxford very likely to succeed in appeal provided….

    A Sikh community in Oxford (About 30 people attended the makeshift temple once a week) is very likely to succeed in appeal provided they (Sikhs) assure and undertake not to make a noise and find the solution for parking permanently to the satisfaction of the council and the residents who sent seven letters of objection and a petition of 92 signatures against plans to allow the house to continue to be used as a temple.

    Here in my country, if anyone dares to complaint in such cases on the similar grounds of noise and the nuisance due to parking etc, he (Complainant) is troubled more with the help of influential and in connivance with administration and local police concerned. In addition to it, he is also degraded in the eyes of society by levelling him non-relgious and so on till he does not keep quite in the matter.

    Sometime, the worshippers make loud noise even during odd hours by top of their voice through speakers from the religious places in order to annoy and provoke residents for the reasons always known to the worshippers/management in such cases as experienced.

    Such aggreived persons normally here in my country, tolerate all types of noise and nuisance (live in by facing mental agony without any remedy) to save themselves from levelling non-relgious and so on and opt to remain silent but it is not the case in that system.

    But there Sikhs have to be more disciplined as worshippers if they are really nowhere to go.

    My suggestions may help my Sikh community there to succeed in appeal.

  10. A Sikh community in Oxford very likely to succeed in appeal provided.

    A Sikh community in Oxford (About 30 people attended the makeshift temple once a week) is very likely to succeed in appeal provided they (Sikhs) assure and undertake not to make a noise and find the solution for parking permanently to the satisfaction of the council and the residents who sent seven letters of objection and a petition of 92 signatures against plans to allow the house to continue to be used as a temple.

    Here in my country, if anyone dares to complaint in such cases on the similar grounds of noise and the nuisance due to parking etc, he (Complainant) is troubled more with the help of influential and in connivance with administration and local police concerned. In addition to it, he is also degraded in the eyes of society by levelling him non-relgious and so on till he does not keep quite in the matter.

    Sometime, the worshippers make loud noise even during odd hours by top of their voice through speakers from the religious places in order to annoy and provoke residents for the reasons always known to the worshippers/management in such cases as experienced.

    Such aggreived persons normally here in my country, tolerate all types of noise and nuisance (live in by facing mental agony without any remedy) to save themselves from levelling non-relgious and so on and opt to remain silent but it is not the case in that system.

    But there Sikhs have to be more disciplined as worshippers if they are really nowhere to go.

    My suggestions may help my Sikh community there to succeed in appeal.

  11. I was reading the Blog and the comments thereafter but no one has updated the situation, so I am stepping in. The Gurdwara in Oxford has been granted a permanent place on London Road Oxford. There is a website of the Gurdwara as well http://www.gurdwarasgssoxford.org.uk/

    The address of Oxford Gurdwara is 295 – 297 London Road, Oxford OX3 9HL

  12. written above is not written with a corruption mentality, the judge at high posts will be able to understand the problem and views of the sangat better than anybody else ( else refers to those who doesn't belong to Sikhism or are non-religious).

  13. Dannielle says:

    the baby cribs should be as protected as possible and it should have additiona safety features..

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