Hindu temple and Sikh gurdwara under same roof in Manila!

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Hindu temple, gurdwara under same roof in Manila
Hindu temple, gurdwara under same roof in Manila.

By Ashok Bhargava

MANILA: Religion is a complex human phenomenon. Everybody has ideas about what religion is before you even ask them. But if you ask them what religion is, they will find it very hard to define. I don’t know much about religions but I believe there is a wholeness in everything which cannot be divided because the “oneness” of God cannot be divided or changed.

The world, as it is, is not perfect. Religion is often used as a divisive force to drive wedges amongst communities. It is easy to get lost in semantics and narrow interpretations of scriptures.

On my recent visit to the Philippines I found a place where religions, tolerance, peace and harmony come together. I found a Sikh Gurudwara and Hindu Temple under a common roof. It was a sight to hold and cherish. This Hindu-Sikh temple is located on Mahatma Gandhi Street, just off United Nations Avenue in Paco, Metro Manila. With glitzy malls, beautiful beaches, sociocultural attractions and upscale dining, visitors to Manila can be forgiven for not thinking about churches, mosques or temples.

I have never seen a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurudwara under one roof in Canada, the US, U.K. or India. In India, you can come across a mandir and a gurudwara not very far from each other, but they never share the same roof. You can see a temple and a mosque facing towards Kaaba in the same neighborhood. It is not uncommon to see people of different religions pray to their gods without paying much attention to the gods of their neighbors.

It is remarkable to see the polytheist philosophy of Sikhism and the monotheist philosophy of Hinduism practiced under one roof. Sikhs worshiping the holy Guru Granth, readings of ancient scriptures from both faiths and Hindu idol-worship, side by side.

When we stepped into the modest two story building of this two-in-one temple complex we were ready yet unprepared for what we saw. What we saw was delightful: A Filipino security guard welcomed us to the premises and asked us to follow him to a room where we could take off our shoes and wash our hands before proceeding further. The hallway was colorfully decorated with Bollywood’s latest movie posters, ads for local Indian restaurants and their home delivery pamphlets. There was also a community news board listing births, marriages and obituary notices on the ground floor hallway that ultimately lead to the sanctum upstairs.

Author Ashok Bhargava seen at the corner of Mahatma Gandhi Street (in Manila) where the temple and the gurdwara exist under one roof.

We were greeted by a life-size statue of the mother-cow at the main entrance to the sanctum sanctorum of the gurudwara-mandir on the second floor delightfully covered with a golden scarf. It has a striking resemblance to the elephant statues commonly found on the entrance gates of Hindu temples in south India.

In the main hall, Shri Guru Granth Sahib is in the centre, surrounded by idols of Krishna and Radha, Vishnu and Laxmi on the left side, Rama and Sita, Shiva and Parvati on the other side. Photographs of the ten Sikh Gurus, Lord Ganesh, Shiv Linga, Guru Nanak with Bala and Mardana, and Hanuman adorned the walls. The size of the carpeted hall indicated that it could accommodate more than 1,000 devotees during weekend prayers. I wondered about the logic of the placement of idols and the Holy Granth, space-sharing and priority order but I am happy to see them all positioned as unifying powers.

We were told that on weekends it is like a carnival when hundreds of devotees gather for prayers. Melodious recitations from Shri Guru Granth Sahib, the devotional kirtan, and religious discourses comprise some of the main activities here.
A free community lunch called Langar or Preeti Bhojan is served as you sit cross-legged on the floor mats. Marriages, births, deaths, astrology, Vastu consultations and numerous other ceremonies are undertaken by the priests from both Sikh and Hindu religions.

On weekends you will find Filipinas selling fresh Indian produce right outside the temple: fresh coriander/cilantro, ginger, Sarson (mustard leaves) and methi (fenugreek). You can also buy samosas, ladoos and jalebi from nearby shops.
For us, it was a peaceful retreat where we surrendered and enjoyed a moment of being in the present, offering prayers with a bowed head, to reaffirm our faith in shared existence and the oneness of God regardless of specific religions.

Next time you are in Manila, I will recommend strongly that you visit this special place because it will widen your horizons and enrich you spiritually. It’s located at 1426 Mahatma Gandhi Street in Paco, Manila.

(Vancouver-based Ashok Bhargava, who is the president of Writers International Network (WIN) Canada, was recently in the Philippines)

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. अपने सभी हिन्दू भाईयों का हार्दिक अभिन्दन एवं प्यार , अमेरिकन पेस्ट कण्ट्रोल दिल्ली इन्डिया , मनीला फिलिफिंस,

  2. You mean monotheist Sikh! Hindus have many ‘gods’ represented by the idols in their temples. What this is appears to me to be a Sindhi (Hindu) house of worship. The (Hindu) Sindhis have an affinity to Sikhism, especially to Guru Nanak.

    Sikh houses of worship are gurdwaras — no idols. So it is not a gurdwara in the normal sense of the word. Sikhs do not bring idols into a Gurudwara.

    But hey! If these worshippers are happy, let it be.

  3. I m on my way there now…… putting aside all differences…….. as long as one respects another n u don’t have to practice the others spiritual or religious practices ….. why not….. as long as one understands n practices their own faith with their heart n soul WHY NOT!!!…. but the fear is always there…. of over generations “assimilation” occurs as it has happened in India….. and from being a Sikh…. Hindu “practices” will creep in
    (with all due n utmost respect) in my Sikhi way of life…… that I cannot support……. The Gurus have said…..if u r a Musselmaan….be a practising Musselmaan n if u r a Hindu…..be a practising Hindu….. n the same goes for Sikhs….. Ultimately u cannot put each of your foot in two separate boats….. u will fall into the water n…..
    In summary……if u do not see God in all ….. u do not see God at all. PEACE TO THE HUMAN WORLD!

  4. I just visited this Hindu temple n true enough …on the outside the building is designed like a Hindu mandir. . As one walks up onto the 1st floor …there is a huge hall with Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj’s Parkash done with respect on a ‘Tania n on both flanks Moortees of the Hindu Deities…. there was a Punjabi man I met whom I had a short conversation with….according to him … the Sikh diwan is only held on Sunday from 11am to 1pm so that there is no clash of programs ….. for Akhand Paths n etc ….the Punjabi go to the other Sikh Gurduara called Khalsa Diwan which is about a 10 min walk away…. I left it as it is…. I decided not to pursue the matter further.. …… putting aside all differences…….. as long as one respects another n u don’t have to practice the other’s spiritual or religious practices ….. why not….. as long as one understands n practices their own faith with their heart n soul WHY NOT!!!…. but the fear is always there…. of over generations “assimilation” occurs as it has happened in India….. and from being a Sikh…. Hindu “practices” will creep in
    (with all due n utmost respect to the Hindu faith) in my Sikhi way of life…… that I cannot support……. The Gurus have said…..if u r a Musselmaan….be a practising Musselmaan n if u r a Hindu…..be a practising Hindu….. n the same goes for Sikhs….. Ultimately u cannot put each of your foot in two separate boats….. u will fall into the water n…..
    In summary……if u do not see God in all ….. u do not see God at all. PEACE TO THE HUMAN WORLD!

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