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In eight months the Gurdwara has already made a big impact on city

AFTER more than 10 years in the planning, it finally opened last year as the new home for the Sikh community in Scotland's biggest city.

HOME: Gurdwara.
HOME: Gurdwara.

But in little more than eight months the Gurdwara in Glasgow's Albert Drive has become much more than a place of worship, attracting close to 30,000 visitors and winning recognition as one of the country's leading community projects.

Now leaders at the Sikh temple are preparing to build on the success of the first year in their purpose-built Gurdwara, with a series of events serving as an opportunity for their work to expand further beyond the four walls of the building.

Sharandeep Singh, policy and public affairs assistant at Glasgow Gurdwara, said: "It's been an overwhelming and exciting year which far exceeded our expectations in terms of the amount of interest we have had from the public."

More than 5000 children have been given a tour of the building and watched a presentation on the Sikh religion and Mr Singh said the response from teachers and pupils had been "immense".

"As a community we are very well aware of the fact we are a minority community wherever in the world," he said. "We are trying to reach out and be active in opening up our doors. We have seen particularly in the last decade because of what goes on in the wider world the Sikh community has been a target. People do think of us as alien.

"What they don't understand is that Sikhs have been in Scotland for over 100 years. Part of our job is to tell that story so that people try to really understand the community."

One of the core aspects of the Gurdwara is the Langar, a system which dates back to the beginning of the Sikh religion and was designed to promote equality at a time when the caste system meant a large section of the population was subject to abject poverty.

As part of that tradition, a band of volunteers prepare food on site, with a free meal served seven days a week between 10am and 6pm to anyone who requires it.

"It is a key part of being a Sikh - voluntary service, where you give up your time or money to support ­charitable causes. Because the Langar system is so embedded in what the ­Gurdwara provides we have a large volunteer base that allows us to provide that service very effectively.

"We are trying to ­transport the Langar aspect and take it to out into the areas of Glasgow and ­Scotland where there is a real need so just last month we have had young people start a soup kitchen."

About 1000 people use the Gurdwara as a place of worship every week and it also serves an educational purpose for those within the Sikh community, with a further 2500 people a week attending the centre on the city's south side for lessons in Punjabi, Sikh history and religion or English language.

2014 is a poignant year for the Sikh community, who will gather to mark the 30th anniversary of the massacre of nearly 3000 members of their community in India. The victims were murdered in the wake of the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.

The Sikh community say they are still waiting for justice for the victims of the mass killings and Mr Singh said that this year members of the Gurdwara in Glasgow would be marking the anniversary and moving forward with the campaign.

They will also hold events to mark the Vaisakhi festival in April and are keen to include the wider Glasgow community in their commemorations, while the Commonwealth Games provides a further opportunity to expand their community involvement. Members of the Gurdwara are working with a cultural programme coordinator to look at ways Sikhs can be represented during the Games.

The Gurdwara has been shortlisted in the inaugural Inspiring City awards and won the best community project at last year's Herald Society Awards. It has also now won the status of an accredited visitor attraction with VisitScotland.

"We didn't want to build a place of worship for our own community," Mr Singh said. "We wanted to leave a lasting impact on the Glasgow skyline and for people from all over the world."

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