Designated as a National Historic Site in 2002, Abbotsford’s Gur Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) is over a hundred years old, and is known as oldest existing Sikh temple in North America! Construction on the temple began in 1908. The first Sikhs to arrive in the Fraser Valley came in 1905, and began to work in the farming and forestry industries. While construction on the temple began in 1908, it would not be completed until four years later as materials and manpower were amassed over time, including lumber donated by a nearby sawmill where many of the men worked. While the temple was completed in 1911, it was not officially opened to the public until February of 1912 for Sikhs and non-Sikhs to come and participate in ceremonies.
Beyond being a place of worship, Gur Sikh Temple also creates exhibits that allow visitors a look into different aspects of Sikh history in Canada, and has won an award of merit from the B.C. Museums Association for their exhibit on Canadian Sikh contributions to Canada’s efforts in the First World War. You can view more on the current and past exhibits on the Canadian Sikh Heritage website. If you would like to read more about the temple’s 100-year celebrations, the South Asian Studies Institute of the University of the Fraser Valley has compiled a list of media coverage on the historic event for the temple that can be found here.
Left Image: Donn B.A. Williams, Entrance to the Khalsa Diwan Society, March 1945, photograph, Williams Bros. Photographers Collection, https://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/entrance-to-khalsa-diwan-society-sikh-temple.
Right Image: Donn B.A. Williams, Members of the congregation inside the Khalsa Diwan Society, March 1945, photograph, Williams Bros. Photographers Collection, https://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/members-of-congregation-inside-khalsa-diwan-society-sikh-temple
Note: Photos for this blog post are of the Khalsa Diwan Society, of which the Gur Sikh Temple is a part of. To view photos of the over-100-year-old temple itself, you can take a look at the temple’s entry on the Canadian Historic Places website.
Today, the temple is maintained by the Khalsa Diwan Society, made up of members of the Sikh community who work to preserve the temple for future generations. To today’s Sikh community, the temple is seen as a piece of history that represents all that they have struggled with and their determination and perseverance in creating a place for Sikhs to feel belonging in Canadian society. The temple encourages visitors to come and worship, as well as welcoming all Canadians to come and learn about Sikh history and the history of Gur Sikh Gurdwara itself.
“Abbotsford Museum follows up award-winning exhibit with feminist Sikh display.” CBC News. Last modified December 11, 2016. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/abbotsford-museum-sikh-display-1.3889999?cmp=rss
“Abbotsford Sikh Temple National Historic Site of Canada.” Canada’s Historic Places. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=9358
“Centennial Archive.” South Asian Studies Institute, University of the Fraser Valley. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.ufv.ca/sasi/archive/centennial-archive/
“Festival of Light draws Sikhs to worship.” Quesnel Cariboo Observer [Quesnel, British Columbia], October 31, 2008, 22. Gale In Context: Canada (accessed January 11, 2021). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A188260435/CIC?u=burn46801&sid=CIC&xid=7a73aaeb
“Gur Sikh Temple celebrates 100 years.” South Asian Focus [Brampton, Ontario], August 30, 2011, 1. Gale In Context: Canada (accessed January 11, 2021). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A265645562/CIC?u=burn46801&sid=CIC&xid=0dbbe0d4
“Gur Sikh Temple: History.” Canadian Sikh Heritage. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://canadiansikhheritage.ca/gur-sikh-temple/.
“The Gur Sikh Temple and Sikh Heritage Museum”; Tourism Abbotsford. June 29th, 2019. Access January 22, 2021. https://tourismabbotsford.ca/the-gur-sikh-temple-and-sikh-heritage-museum/
Sandhra, Sharanjit. “Abbotsford’s Gur Sikh Temple and National Historic Site Receives the National Trust for Canada.” South Asian Studies Institute, University of the Fraser Valley. Last modified October 30, 2020. http://blogs.ufv.ca/sasi/2020/10/30/abbotsfords-gur-sikh-temple-and-national-historic-site-receives-the-national-trust-for-canada/?_gl=1*t574jn*_ga*MTA0MDAyMjM1OC4xNjA3NDUzOTIw*_ga_TTGXF08HS7*MTYwOTE4MjAzNy4yLjAuMTYwOTE4MjAzNy4w
Nav Photography. Unrecognizable Woman Sitting Near Pond, September 27, 2020, photograph, https://www.pexels.com/photo/unrecognizable-woman-sitting-near-pond-5459132/