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Race and Culture, Sikhs

Turning over Worship to the Children

As I have been in conversation with others about My 52 Weeks of Worship, there has been interest and inquiries about the worship communities that I have visited along the way. When I posted the list of places that I visited in the first 52 weeks of my journey, I remember a comment in response which exclaimed, “You didn’t visit the Sikhs!”

And that is true, I did not visit the Sikhs in the first 52 weeks of my journey, but I am still travelling and having new worship experiences, so I know at some point I will.

One thing that I did do, and often, was observe the part that children played in the different worship experiences that I had – especially when there was a ritual or tradition that was playing out in front of my eyes.

In my soon to be published book, when I share my experience with the Zoroastrian Center of Metropolitan Chicago, I include the following:

The transfer of culture from one generation to another – especially when that transfer takes place in a country outside of the home country of the parent, is another topic that fascinates me. I thought of this as I watched this Jashan ceremony unfold. Throughout the service, people approached the altar, with bits of sandalwood, incense, and other sticks of different spices in their hands – ostensibly to contribute some sort of offering in thanksgiving. At one point of the ceremony, I watched a child approach the altar guided by his father. In this gesture, I saw the father saying to the child – this is our culture, this is our faith – here’s your chance to participate. Hopefully that child would use this experience and others to become multi-cultural and multi-lingual as he grows up in America, a country far away from the origins of the tradition of this religion, but important to understand as a fact of his cultural background and experience.

So, it was my memory of the question about Sikhs, and my interest in the role of children that contributed to my enjoyment of the following article, which talks about how a London Sikh community turned worship over to the children. Enjoy!

Children in charge of Holland Park Sikh temple

By Catrin NyeBBC Asian Network

A Sikh temple in London is handing control over to children for one day a month. Catrin Nye reports.

A Sikh Gurdwara in west London has put children at the heart of its running for one day a month.The idea came from parents who wanted their children to have a bigger role in their place of worship.

The Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha in Holland Park was established in 1908 making it the oldest Sikh place of worship in the UK.

Navleen Kaur

Navleen Kaur, Event organiser

We learn in a different way now and we don’t sit down and do as we’re told any more”

Organisers of the event told BBC Asian Network they wanted their children to sustain the temple that their elders had worked so hard to create.

Pasta and chips

Navleen Kaur, who organised the event and brought along her own children, said: “There was definitely a need to change the approach because everything was in Punjabi, it was very long.

“We changed it so we could come down to the level of the children, open the space for them and let the children tell us what to do.

“The older generation created the Gurdwaras. They’ve done great work by giving us the space, but we learn in a different way now and we don’t sit down and do as we’re told any more and not ask questions.”

Many aspects of the day are adapted to be more child friendly than an ordinary day of worship.

The devotional songs or kirtan are shorter so that the children don’t get bored.

The Punjabi language is also replaced with English, or at least translated so everyone can understand.

The Gurdwara food – the Lungar – which is always available at temple has been adapted. Pasta and chips are available alongside the usual Indian fare while dads have been brought in to cook.

Parents were encouraged to get involved as well, guiding the children in singing and painting faces.

‘Sense of fun’

Sanjiv Mohan Singh Ahluwalia, who brought his four year old down, “Takeover of the children – I think it’s lovely.

“It’s easy for a formal religious venue of this nature to exude a formal feel about it and to see children coming to give it a sense of life and a sense of fun, I think it’s wonderful.”

One of the children given a more ceremonial role was 12 year old Anahat Kalra who led some devotional singing.

He said: “I did Gobinday Mukunday and I did the hand actions with it to get the younger children to join in as well.

“I think the arts and crafts help today as well – all children want their faces painted so it’s fun for them.”

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