Proud day for Sikh community in Norwich

It was a proud day for the Sikh community in Norwich as they finally saw their long-held dream of a religious temple in the city realised yesterday.

About 300 people gathered to see a former furniture store in Old Palace Road transformed into a Sikh temple following a colourful procession through the city.

The opening of the permanent place of worship was the fruits of more than 10 years of hard work by brothers Chanan and Sardar Suwali and a number of Sikh families.

Chanan's daughter Lakhbeer Larh, whose husband Baldev Singh is the priest at the new temple, said: 'It was really proud, really exciting and a very, very happy day.'

She said the new temple was extremely important to the Sikh community in Norwich.

'We used to hire out Eaton Parish Hall but we wanted somewhere permanent. We have been saving for 10 years,' she said.

'Twenty-two families have helped to raise the money for the temple. We could not believe it yesterday - it was like a dream come true. It was quite emotional and a really, really happy occasion.'

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There was a special procession in which the holy book was taken from Eaton Parish Hall, where the group has met monthly up until now, to the new temple in Old Palace Road.

After prayers outside the new venue, the holy book was then taken inside and placed in the temple at about 2pm.

Derek James, the Sheriff of Norwich, said it was an honour for him to represent the city at the temple opening especially as the civic theme this year is racial harmony.

He said: 'For centuries Norwich has embraced people from all over the world from Strangers to Sikhs. They have all helped to enrich our lives.'

He said yesterday was a proud day for the whole Sikh community and a proud day for Norwich.

'I congratulate everybody who has worked so hard to make this day happen, especially Chanan and Sardar Suwali,' he said.

There are thought to be around 200 or so Sikhs in Norwich with a number of students from the University of East Anglia regularly attending services.

Up until now Sikhs living in Norfolk have had to travel to Ipswich to find the nearest temple, but now it is hoped more people will be able to attend services and events.