Vol. 4 Num 118 Mon. September 22, 2003  
Star City

Gurdwara Nanak Shahi: A spiritual refuge

Humming of verses like 'Everyone is equal in the kingdom of God' will touch your mind. The message of humanity, universal brotherhood or communal harmony is sure to reach you heart through the Kirtan (hymns) of the Ragi (singers of religious verses).

On entering the Gurdwara Nanak Shahi complex inside the Dhaka University campus, anyone would feel the strong presence of humanity reigning over all religions.

The gurdwara or temple of the Shikh community is the only place in Dhaka city where followers and admirers of Guru Nanak, founder of Shikh religion, can gather to pay their respect and pray. The temple is run under the auspices of a board of management based in India's Kolkata.

"The difference is that the Shikhs pray for the wellbeing of every living soul on earth while most other people pray for their own communities and faith only," said a follower.

The Gurdwara Nanak Shahi was founded in the seventeenth century. The area back then was called Sujatpur and later became known as Ramna. The legend is that Guru Nanak himself had come to Sujatpur in 1504.

The temple has a single domed room surrounded by several smaller quarters. The smaller rooms are linked to the central one with pillared ways. The arrangement enables a large number of followers to sit, pray, and listen to hymns.

The scripture or 'Guru Granthsahib,' is kept on an altar in the middle of the central room. It is a compilation of the best things of all religions and sayings of 37 followers of Guru Nanak. The Granthshahib acts as a guideline for all Shikhs.

The overhead marble dome is called 'Palki Sahib'.

"There are no Shikh citizens in Bangladesh," said Bhai Peyara Singh, 'Head Granthi' (Priest) of the temple. "Mostly the foreigners staying in the city, or visiting the country are the ones who come here. However, a large section of people belonging to other religions are regular visitors too," he added.

"I have come to visit this temple because both Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh came here," said Gurdip Singh who hails from India's Punjab.

'Sangat' or religious meeting are mandatory for a gurdwara. The temple is filed with worshippers and visitors at 11 am every Friday when sangat takes place. It is followed by 'Langar' or community kitchen. "Any God's soul is welcome to have food at the langar," said the head priest.

The priests say that the only mentionable inconvenience they face while running the temple in Dhaka was with the visa duration. As all of them were Indian citizens, they had to renew their visas regularly. The head priest believed that provision for obtaining a long-term visa would have made their work easier.

Worshipers at the gurdwara gather to listen to the priest. Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain