Sikh lifestyle alive in the Nicola Valley
With approximately 125 Sikh families in Merritt, and between five to seven people in each household, the Punjabi community is alive in the Nicola Valley.
The Merritt Sikh Society regularly holds functions at the Merritt Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) on Chapman Street, which includes a reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture, from Friday to Sunday, usually every second week.
“A number of the major functions in the community, such as our Sikh Gurus and leaders’ birthdays and accomplishments in history are in December and January,” said Peter Samra, vice president of the Merritt Sikh Society. “Baisakhi, also, a major event in Sikhism will take place in Sikh Gurudwaras on April 14th this year.”
Baisakhi is a function that invites the entire community to join in the celebration (New Year in Sikhism) at the Merritt Gurudwara. The occasion began in April 1699 by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee (10th Sikh Guru).
The day marks the formation of Khalsa, the pure ones.
Khalsa eliminated the illusion of a higher and lower beings and recognized that everyone is equal. Baisakhi Mela is a community festival to celebrate a successful wheat harvest.
In the past, this event has been celebrated in the Merritt Civic Centre.
While Merritt consists of approximately 10 per cent Sikh people now, the numbers were once higher.
According to Samra, the average age of Sikh families in Merritt is older than what it once was and many families are moving to Metro Vancouver and other urban centres so their children can attend universities and obtain professional jobs.
The Sikhs are community minded and invite members of the area to join in their customs. At the temple, the public is invited to share a vegetarian lunch on Sundays.
People who attend are asked to put on a head scarf, which is available at the front door.
It is respectful that those who participate in the reading cover their head and remove their shoes before proceeding upstairs. Individuals may choose to make a donation in the box, which is located at the front of the Sikh altar.
Worshippers may make the donation and then bow, then they find a place to sit and listen to the reader.
The readers and others at the altar switch approximately every two hours, said Priest Harinder Singh.
“No one talks during the reading, they just listen,” he said. “People come and go. They may stay for a couple minutes or much longer.”
The Sri Guru Granth Sahib consists of 1,430 pages, which are read aloud through the day and night by the Punjabi community members. Sikhs kneel or sit cross-legged before the Sikh Scripture.