Sikh holiday inspires gifts for the poor

November 17, 2008

EDMONTON - There were big fireworks outside each of Edmonton's four Sikh temples Thursday night, but the generosity of Sikh faithful could make an even bigger bang among the city's poor and destitute.

As part of local celebrations marking the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion, a record $100,000 is expected to be raised by this Sunday for the Edmonton Food Bank.

"People have committed $60,0000 already," said Joginder Singh Pannu, president of Siri Guru Nanak Gurdwara of Alberta, located just off St. Albert Trail. "I think it will be up to $100,000 when we give it to the mayor or somebody on Sunday."

As well, it's expected Edmonton's approximately 30,000 Sikhs will have donated enough food supplies to fill about four trucks.

Each year on Nov. 13, Sikh followers in the Edmonton area celebrate Guru Nanak Day with visits to the temple in the evening, prayers and socializing with family and friends.

There are more than 25 million Sikhs throughout the world. All originated in the Punjab in northern India.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of the Sikh faith and first of the Ten Gurus, was born in 1469. On Guru Nanak Day, prayer and other religious ceremonies are followed by a community feast and massive fireworks displays just outside local temples.

Pannu was among dozens of baptized Sikhs at his temple who took turns reading the Guru Granth Sahib holy scripture. The reading of all 1,430 pages of Sikh sacred text started Tuesday at 6 p.m. and was expected to finish around 6 p.m. Thursday.

At Guru Nanak Day activities at the temple, Bikkar S. (Randy) Randhawa spoke of the many causes local Sikhs have supported. A former university professor, Randhawa moved here in 1965, more than a decade before Edmonton's first Sikh temple took shape in Peter Lougheed Multicultural Park.

"Sikhs are a very generous community," Randhawa said. "For any charitable cause, they never sit back. They always contribute."

For example, Randhawa noted that over the past two years, Sikhs here have raised more than $2 million for a healing garden at the new Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

Located on the fourth floor of the institute and intended as a place for quiet conversation and reflection, the healing garden bears the name of the founder of the Sikh faith.

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