Gurdwara of the Sikh Foundation
|Type of Building:
|Gurdwara (Sikh temple)
|Approximately 150 m2 (building) - 731 m2 (land)
|Approximately 15 m
|Approximately CHF 1,700,000
|Laying of the first stone:
|11th January 2001
|23rd September 2006
|Conception through to inauguration:
|Approximately 11 years
Flanked by a plasterer and a gardening firm, a strikingly white, highly ornate building with golden tips is perched in the industrial district of Langenthal. Onion-shaped domes stand on an ornate balustrade, surrounding this architectural speciality of Dennliweg. If one looks closely, one sees that this well-designed and individual base is the work of the neighbouring plasterer. What is going on here?
The white building is a gurdwara («gateway to the Guru»), a Sikh temple, and if one becomes involved with the building, it will not be long before they meet Karan Singh, the ever-ready manager of the building and president of the Sikh Foundation of Switzerland. He also reveals why some onion-shaped elements can also be seen in front of the plasterer: «It was very important for us to involve the neighbouring companies in the work towards our Gurdwara.»
The original desire for a visible gurdwara in Switzerland emerged in about 1995. The property at Dennliweg in Langenthal was purchased as early as 1996, the driving force behind the project being Karan Singh.
Construction of the temple began in 2002, executed by the company Bösinger, and took four years. The gurdwara was consecrated on 23rd September 2006, accompanied by great media interest.
According to Karan Singh, the local authorities and Municipal Councillor Andreas Bandi of the Swiss People’s Party have shown great support for the project. The most important thing to Karan Singh is that «the gates of the gurdwara are open to all.» It is therefore an advantage that the gurdwara is clearly recognisable from the outside. To this, everything which is beautiful inside should also be beautiful ouside.
The president of the Swiss Sikhs also gets involved in the day-to-day running of the gurdwara: «I do whatever is necessary for the maintenance of the gurdwara: cooking, cleaning or serving guests. We are not concerned with the social status of people – everybody does everything.»
For the Sikh community, hospitality is not only a desirable ideal, but a mandatory principle in which no visitor should ever leave a Gurdwara hungry.
Karan Singh describes the neighbourhood relationships as warm, friendly and helpful. It was important to him to involve neighbouring businesses during the construction. Only the traditional Sikh artwork was created by Sikh artists. Otherwise, he notes proudly, the gurdwara was built from «Swiss material.» The local authorities and inhabitants of Langenthal demonstrated their esteem through their support.
However, Karan Singh also reports that during the opening ceremony a stone was thrown at the entrance, causing damage. In early August 2007 a first-floor window was also hit. «We do not take these incidents seriously», says Karan Singh, «because if we respond, the saboteurs will have achieved their goal. Therefore we endure such things. Our relationship with the area is nonetheless very good.»
The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) in the Punjab, in northern India. He saw himself as a reformer of what was, in his opinion, a «meaningless, ritualistic Hindu tradition» and a «congealed Islam», but not as the founder of a new religion. Nanak saw his task as creating a synthesis between Hindu piety and the Muslim belief in one God. Nanak is quotes as saying: «God is neither Hindu nor Muslim, and the path which I follow is God» (1499). He rejected both the caste system and ascetic renunciation of the world, although he maintained belief in rebirth and an image-free monotheism. The religious goal of Sikhs is liberation from the cycle of births and union of the soul with God. The word «Sikh» means «student» (from the Hindi «shishya»).
Male Sikhs are mainly recognisable by their large, often colourful turbans and long beards, usually bound, while the women wear no distinguishing attire. Men and women alike do not cut their hair. Sikhs see themselves as a community following in the footsteps of Guru Nanak and other revered Gurus.
General information on Sikhism (in German)
More information on Sikhism (in German; Inforel)
Text : Edwin Egeter
Photos : Edwin Egeter | Photo Nr. 3 (Inauguration): Martin Baumann, 2006
«Cupola – Temple – Minaret» is a Project by the Center for Research on Religions, Lucerne
Last updated: 23rd May 2016
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