A little couchsurfing birdie told me about a beautiful Sikh gurdwara (aka place of worship) on the northeast side of Edmonton. Even though I wasn’t in the market for a religion I was definitely open to lovely architecture, friendly people and free food. Apparently there are 4 gurdwaras in the Edmonton area and a bursting Sikh community. The religion originated in Punjab, India in the 1400s by Guru Nanak who was followed by 9 other gurus. My daily life is impacted by Sikhism as I often eat lunch in the Guru Nanak healing gardens at work to watch the snow and relax. The Sikh holy book is the Guru Granth Sahib and it is a monotheistic religion with Vahiguru as god. The founding principles are equality (rejection of caste), charity and salvation by spiritual unification with god often via meditation. And that was an extremely simplistic and possibly not entirely correct overview of Sikhism.
Since she’s usually up for an adventure ShanWoww joined me to tour the facilities (but there was no slack to pick up). One could not miss this massive and ornately decorated dome looming over the highway. Even though it has been there for over 20 years they continue to add wings to the building and worshipers are encouraged to volunteer some of their time to help with construction. The gurdwara is open 24/7 to anyone. We were welcoming immediately and offered a tour. The only thing requested of us is that we cover our heads with a white cloth provided by them.
After the requested covering we were led upstairs to a beautiful room where members take 2 hour shifts from Friday to Sunday and read through the scriptures from start to finish. We were offered a handful of sticky, sweet dough of which we did not quite understand the significance. Please please let it be nothing like the Catholic eucharist* because I immediately dropped part of it on the carpet.
We were then led back downstairs where we were offered delicious vegetarian Indian food prepared by volunteers that start at 4am to have food prepared for the day. We had chapati, dal and a few other dishes and all was scrumptious. Better than the food it was sharing it with a Sikh woman and her 5 year old daughter. This woman spends all week at work to provide for her family and then spends the whole weekend volunteering at the gurwara including teaching Punjabi to a bunch of kindergarteners. And I got a little hug on the way out from the bouncy little one.
*Catholics believe in a process of transubstantiation where those little tasteless wafers with the help of some ritual prayers literally become the body of Jesus. Yes, cannibalism. So to drop a wafer on the ground would be frowned upon to say the least.