P.E.I.'s Sikh community now has a place of worship.
The province's first Sikh gurdwara opened its doors in a residential subdivision of Stratford last week. The temple is host to The Guru Granth Sahib, the religious holy text that the Sikh consider to be the last in a line of holy gurus.
"We [are] used to doing worship first in different homes of the devotees, but ... for Guru Granth Sahib we need a holy place called a gurdwara," said Savneet Singh, a member of the P.E.I. Sikh Association, which established the temple.
The Sikh community in P.E.I. has grown exponentially in the last decade, with Singh estimating that there could be around 1,500 Sikh living in P.E.I. at the moment, including students and workers.
He said P.E.I. was the only province that didn't have a gurdwara. Having one is very important to keep the community in the province, he said.
"The way I can tell you the importance is that even devotees here on Prince Edward Island, they used to go to other provinces for every event of their life, to pray," he said.
"Many of the people have also moved out of the province.... The reason was there was no place for worship."
Keeping the community connected
Prabhjot Singh Pardesi, who moved to P.E.I. recently, said the lack of gurdwaras in P.E.I. meant he had to travel to other provinces to observe some important religious holidays — something that was "crazy" to do during pandemic times.
"With quarantine issues, it was really hard to go to Moncton or Halifax to just go and get connected to our community and pay homage to Guru Granth Sahib," he said.
Singh Pardesi said a gurdwara is more than just a place for prayer. Sikh temples across the world are equipped with many different amenities, such as a place for shelter, which are available to anyone in their local communities.
Like most gurdwaras, the one in Stratford has a langar, the community kitchen that serves free meals to anyone regardless of religion.
"It's not just something that is connected to our spiritual needs. It's also how we connect with the community," Singh Pardesi said.
"If there's any issue in the community or if somebody needs help, they can come to the gurdwara sahib and then we can discuss the issues and help the person out."
Savneet Singh said he expects about 30 to 45 people to come to the gurdwara regularly, with many more attending for special events such as the annual holiday of Vaisakhi.
During large ceremonies, The Guru Granth Sahib can be taken to larger venues to accommodate a large number of people.
Singh said the gurdwara will benefit not only the Sikh community, but all Islanders regardless of faith or any other qualifier.
"It's not only for the Sikh religion, but for everyone in the community," he said. "Everyone is welcome here. The main motive of Sikh religion is to serve ... humanity."