For the Canterbury Sikh community, Gurudwara Sigh Sabha Christchurch is a true blessing. One of the only two Gurudwaras in the entire South Island, it is not just a place for the devoted Sangat to be at peace with their Gurus, but it is also a place where friends and families can meet and catch up over community Langar.
The Gurudwara, which operates under the umbrella of the New Zealand Sikh Society(South Island) Inc (NZSS) is located at Ferry Road, Christchurch.
NZSS was set up by a group of like-minded residents of Christchurch in 2009 when they bought an old church and converted it into a Gurudwara.
Unfortunately, the building was severely damaged in the Christchurch earthquake 2011. However, the prayers never stopped with the Sangat still gathering every Sunday at the Community Hall in Cashmere.
Over the next years, the community came together, and raised funds to buy a new building where the Gurudwara was moved to in 2018.
The new premise is a beautiful building with spacious prayer hall, sufficient parking, a large langar hall and many rooms to hold other activities and events.
According to the spokesperson of NZSS Jitender Sahi, the Punjabi community in Canterbury has seen massive growth in the last couple of years.
On Sundays, when the Gurudwara hosts the weekly Kirtan programme, there are 250 to 300 people visiting the Gurudwara. On special occasions like Baisakhi, or Guru Purab, the number of attendees could go as high as 1500 visitors from all ethnicities. The visitors come from the Greater Christchurch area and neighbouring regions like Timaru and Ashburton.
There are devotees who started visiting the Gurudwara when they were new immigrants and since then got married, had kids and still visit the Gurudwara regularly with the whole family.
Helmed by the same team which initially started the Society in 2008, the Gurudwara offers classes for Punjabi language and music.
Sahi also told us about various social initiatives and activities that the Society undertakes on a regular basis.
“We are more than just a group of religious devotees. We believe, we are a big extended family and it is our duty to educate our members and address various social concerns faced by the community in general. During Covid lockdown, the Gurudwara provided financial/non-financial help to the needy and even offered shelter to people adversely affected by Covid lockdown. After the Christchurch earthquake, we raised funds to help the victims and recently, a major Covid vaccination drive was undertaken by the society that benefited 4,500 members of not just the Sikh community but also the broader communities. Next on agenda is to conduct a proactive Measles vaccination drive in association with the medical fraternity of Canterbury.”
Other initiatives include workshops and seminars on Immigration and awareness drives on other social issues.
Sahi thanked the volunteers from the community who dedicate their time, energy and contribute to keep the this place of worship as a preferred space for individuals and families seeking solace and peace in this land they now call home.
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