Opening Ceremony of Arizona Sikh Gurdwara
A special chapter in the history of Arizona was written for the Sikhs on Thursday, January 21, 1999 when Sikhs held the opening ceremony of Arizona Sikh Gurdwara at 1129 E Sheridan in Phoenix. A large number of people participated in the Nishan Sahib raising ceremony and welcomed the arrival of Guru Granth Sahib in the evening. People had tears of joy and happiness as soon as the car carrying Guru Granth Sahib entered the Gurdwara. A special ceremony was then carried to install Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the new Gurdwara that evening.
Next morning on January 22, 1999, Akhand Path was started and Bhog ceremony was carried on Sunday January 24, 1999. Ragi Jatha Bhai Manjit Singh Ji Patna Wale were especially invited for the opening ceremony of the Gurdwara. They performed kirtan on Sunday. This was the biggest Sikh congregation that Phoenix had ever experienced at the time. Langar was continuously served from Thursday through Sunday.
The year was 1995, month of November when Mr. Balbir Bhowra had just come from India. At the house of his son Dr. Onkar S. Bhowra, he expressed his desire to Dr. Jagwinder Sraow that there should be a Sikh Gurdwara in Phoenix that we can call of our own, that belongs to the Sangat. Some people present there were in favor and some showed some resistance to this idea. The following weekend, during the Sunday congregation at Guru Nanak Dwara Ashram, Dr. Sraow contacted some Sangat members and asked if there should be another gurdwara in Phoenix. Every body we approached was so excited with this idea of a new Sikh Gurdwara.
Dr. Sraow organized a general meeting on Saturday, November 17, 1995 at India Palace located at 7th street and Bell at that time. We had more attendees than we ever imagined. Every body agreed with the idea of establishing a new Sikh Gurdwara in Phoenix.We therefore proceeded with the plans and started working hard. It was during this first meeting, Dr. Ranjit Bisla offered his help to Dr. Sraow for this wonderful project. Few planning meetings of general Sangat followed.
During this period some members of the community felt that we should approach the Guru Nanak Dwara Ashram and try to work together and establish a common new Gurdwara. A first combined meeting of the Guru Nanak Dwara Ashram and the New Sikh Religious Society of Arizona was held on December 3rd, 1995.
An Ad-Hoc Committee was created by selecting six members from each community. A meeting was held after every Sunday Gurdwara for the next five weeks. A plan was developed to select a local organizational body with equal representation from both communities. The Sikh Religious Society and Sikh Dharma of Phoenix were to donate their respective properties to the new organizational body which then would be placed into a “ perpetual trust ”. This was again declined by the Sikh Dharma management and a statement was issued to that effect and announced on Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Birthday, January 7th, 1996. The Indian Sikh Community made a sincere effort towards working together and keeping the community together. Time and again, however, the message to the Indian Sikh community had been that there would not be any changes in the legal organizational structure of Sikh Dharma of Phoenix. Many Indian Sikhs therefore decided to proceed with the plans to build another Gurdwara.
A second meeting was then organized by the Indian Sikh community on January 20th, 1996 at 2:00 PM
at India Palace, 7th street and Bell. Another meeting was held again at the India Palace on March 23, 1996. A new organization with name of “Sikh Religious Society of Arizona” was created. A number of suggestions about name of new Gurdwara came from the Sangat and “Arizona Sikh Gurdwara” was the name suggested by Dr. Baljit Singh and approved unanimously for the future Gurdwara and a working committee of ten members was selected. The members of this committee were:
Dr. Ranjit Bisla, Amarjit Sandhu, Parveen Khanuja, Tejinder Singh, Raj Bhalla, Surinder Singh, Iqbal S. Dhaliwal, Dr. Balwinder S. Pawar, Dr. Baljit Singh and Harbhagwan S. Sekhon
The papers were filed by Dr. Sraow with IRS and Arizona Corporation Commission for approval of Sikh Religious Society of Arizona as a nonprofit organization. By August 1996, we had purchased the land for the future “ARIZONA SIKH GURDWARA”. This property is a total of 3.4 acres and is located at Union Hills Road and 39th Avenue. This is a beautiful location with a nice view on the back side and a mountainous view on one side. With Guru’s grace and without much effort we had already raised approximately $96,000 and property was fully paid off.
The working committee continued to hold frequent meetings and discuss different issues
In January, 1997, we contacted an architect Nirbhai Bedi of Vancouver, B.C., Canada who has designed number of Gurdwaras in North America. He decided to volunteer his services to design the Gurdwara building for us. He visited Phoenix in October of 1996 and looked at the property that we had bought for the construction of “ARIZONA SIKH GURDWARA”. He then designed the site plan which we submitted to the city of Phoenix and had a meeting with the city officials. No problems were encountered. Some minor changes were advised by the city officials. These suggestions were then mailed to Nirbhai Bedi who then edited the plan. The new plan was again submitted to the city and approved without any problem.
The organizing committee had a meeting in early March of 1998 and discussed the progress in detail. We selected a five member building committee with Mr. Aishwinder S. Sethi being their project leader. The other members of the committee were: Amarjit Singh, Sarbjit S. Grewal, Jaswant Singh and Amarjit Kaur Sandhu.
A ground breaking ceremony for the "ARIZONA SIKH GURDWARA" was performed on April 13, 1997 at 38th Ave followed by Kirtan.
A large Vaisakhi congregation was held on Sunday, April 19, 1997 at the future site of "ARIZONA SIKH GURDWARA" at 38th Ave and Beardsley. The whole site was beautifully decorated by installing large temporary tents. Kirtan was performed at the site. This was the largest congregation at that time with some Sangat members coming from other states. On Sunday, July 26, 1998, we held our first regular congregation at Verma Hall located at 1777 W. Camelback in Phoenix. This was another success. Atma Singh Baweja acted as our secretary and every thing went very smooth. Even being the first time, the hall was full. The Sangat enjoyed the Kirtan by local members as well as Raagi Gurdial Singh very comfortably in the air-conditioned hall on this hot summer day. The Langar was provided by the Sangat. We continued to hold Sunday Gurdwara at this location from there onwards. We started getting bids for the construction of new Gurdwara at Union Hills Road and 39th Avenue. The bids for the proposed plans were very high and beyond our reach at that time. At the suggestion of general Sangat, we then started looking at other built in properties on sale. Within a period of few weeks we were able to find the current property 1129 E Sheridan for a very reasonable price. This property was being used as a church and was very suitable for us to move in right away with very little modifications. A special chapter in the history of Arizona was written for the Sikhs on Thursday, January 21, 1999 when Sikhs held the opening ceremony of Arizona Sikh Gurdwara at 1129 E Sheridan in Phoenix. A large number of people participated in the Nishan Sahib raising ceremony and welcomed the arrival of Guru Granth Sahib in the evening. People had tears of joy and happiness as soon as the car carrying Guru Granth Sahib entered the Gurdwara. A special ceremony was then carried to install Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the new Gurdwara that evening. Next morning on January 22, 1999, Akhand Path was started and Bhog ceremony was carried on Sunday January 24, 1999. Ragi Jatha Bhai Manjit Singh Ji Patna Wale were especially invited for the opening ceremony of the Gurdwara. They performed Kirtan on Sunday. This was the biggest Sikh congregation that Phoenix had ever experienced. Langar was continuously served from Thursday through Sunday.