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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
17m Sikh temple opens
The Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara
The temple took three years to build
The largest Sikh temple outside India has been officially opened in west London on Sunday.

Organisers claimed 40,000 people attended the opening ceremony of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara.

It is the culmination of many years of dedicated effort by the Sikh community based in Havelock Road, Southall.

Building work began in May 2000 and it has been completed on schedule at a cost of just under 17m, all of which was raised by the local community.

The ambition was to create a temple second only to the Golden Temple in Amritsar
Parminder Singh Garcha

The gurdwara is the community's first purpose designed temple and according to the architects, Architect Co-Partnership, it is the largest in the western hemisphere.

It will also be the main centre for the Sikh religion in Britain and Europe.

Golden Temple

Dr Parminder Singh Garcha, spokesman for Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, said: "The ambition was to create a temple second only to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, with a life expectancy of a minimum of 100 years.

"The gurdwara is the most important building for the Sikh Community and is a centre of focus for the wider community."

The building itself covers a total area of 6,000 square metres and provides a first floor prayer hall and a second floor gallery area designed to seat up to 2,000 people, giving a total capacity of 3,000 people.

The building also serves as a community centre, with facilities including a library, teaching seminar room, a multi use space and dining hall capable of serving in excess of 20,000 meals in a festival weekend.

The opening ceremony procession started with the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, being carried above the head of the President, H S Sohi, from the old temple in Park Avenue to the new Gurdwara in Havelock Road.

The head priest then read extracts from the scriptures and thereby blessed the assembled congregation, honouring the many thousand of people who have contributed to the construction of the building.

Two-thousand-and-three balloons were also released to mark the year of its opening.

The opening was attended by the spiritual leader Sant Baba Mann Singh Ji, who was present at the groundbreaking ceremony and has travelled over from India for the event.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's John McIntyre
"Spiritual leaders led the first prayers inside this giant marble building"



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