Gurudwara in Kochi, Kerala
The one and only gurudwara in Kerala is located in Perumanoor, close to Thevara, hardly three ilometres away from the heart of Kochi city.
Gurudwara means `Gateway to Guru'. It refers to the abode of the `Adi-Granth', Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of Sikhism. `Sri Guru Singh Sabha', the gurudwara of the Sikh community in Kochi, has been in existence since 1955.
It is here that the community meets regularly and a mini Punjab is created during these meetings. The Gurudwara was earlier situated somewhere in the locality of the Cochin Shipyard. When the land was acquired for construction of the Shipyard, it was shifted to he present locale in Chakkalakkal Road. Incidentally, it is close to one of the earlier Buddhist settlements of Kochi.
The foundation stone of the first gurudwara was laid on November 29, 1955 and the same stone was re-erected at the entrance of the present gurudwara. The present gurudwara, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, was inaugurated on November 18, 1975.
Guru-ka-Langar. On the floor for meals at the free community kitchen, a part of the gurudwara
Normally, a gurudwara, which is architecturally a Mughal blend of Hindu and Muslim styles, has entrances from four sides. But the Kochi gurudwara has only one entrance and a few domes. "The four sides indicate that people can walk in from any side to a gurudwara, which symbolises the open mind of Sikhism.
``Because of space constraints, we could open it only on one side,'' says businessman Mr. Jasbir Singh Chawla, president of the gurudwara.
Durbar Hall, the prayer hall where the Sri Guru Grant Sahib, the holy text is installed, is on the first floor. The community kitchen Guruka- langar is on the ground floor.
Anybody can walk into a gurudwara, irrespective of their caste, colour and financial status, barefoot and head covered. Many non- Sikhs who believe in Guru Nanak's teachings visit the gurudwara in Kochi and offer prayers. In fact two of the leading persons who helped to build the present gurudwara in Kochi, industrialist the late C. L. Anand of Toshiba Anand group, and businessman D. C. Johar, were non-Sikhs.
There are many local people belonging to other religions who take food from the Guru Ka Langar, the community kitchen, where food is given free.
There is neither an idol nor a priest in a gurudwara. Sikhs worship Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text installed on a platform, which they consider as the visual form of the ten Sikh Gurus.
They bow before the holy text, sing `kirthans' and listen to `Gurbani', sitting on the carpeted floor of the Durbar Hall.
Every Sunday at 11 am and Wednesday at 7 pm, the Sikh families assemble at the Kochi gurudwara. After the rituals and prayers, they take food from the Guru Ka Langar, the community kitchen.
Guru Ka Langar, the hall where food is served, is an integral part of every gurudwara.
People from all walks of life sit together in a row and take food. All those who believe in Guru Nanak's teachings work in the kitchen voluntarily and demonstrate the slogan `Service to fellowmen is equal to service to God'. No one is paid in Guru Ka Langar, where feeding is free.
Many of the Sikhs are in the automobile spare parts industry. There have been inter-community marriages but rarely.
The culture and native colour of the community remains intact even as they merge into cosmopolitan Kochi.