Barking gurdwara “chills” of the community with the old and the new

Anyone who came across Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Barking would be forgiven for believing that he had entered India.

The Sikh Temple at the corner of North Street and Northern Relief Road is a three-story white marble wonder, crowned by a dome topped with decorative ironwork.

The dome of the gurdwara is topped with decorative metal.
– Credit: Agenda 21

The intricate exterior wall carvings not only celebrate the religion’s Indian roots, but also the Sikh community’s Barking House with stone reliefs depicting the Town Hall, a fishing boat on the River Thames, Barking Abbey and Moreover.

A sculpture of 19th century Quaker reformer Elizabeth Fry appears next to the “Lion of the Punjab” Maharajah Ranjit Singh in a nod to the first house of the gurdwara in Barking where Fry preached.

On the east-facing elevation of the temple, a relief map of Barking and the city of Amritsar in Punjab – home to the holiest gurdwara, the Golden Temple – appears side by side.

old gurdwara

The old gurdwara was once a meeting room for Quakers, but was acquired by the Sikh community in the 1970s.
– Credit: Jon King

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The Old Quaker Hall was acquired in the 1970s, but with the growth of East London’s Sikh population and community work, larger premises were needed.

The gurdwara has 4,000 members from Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Newham and Havering, although it welcomes everyone.

prayer room

There are two prayer rooms in the gurdwara, including this one.
– Credit: Agenda 21

Plans for a new gurdwara were first drawn up in 2013, with construction starting three years later. The £ 13.5million cost was covered by donations and a bank loan.

Its ancient place is connected by a footbridge, while the presence of the temple is signaled at the entrance gate with the Nishan Sahib silk flag. It is made of silk and wrapped around a pole rising over 25 meters.

narinder assi

Narinder Assi, director of the architectural firm Agenda 21, designed the building.
– Credit: Jon King

Architect Narinder Assi, Director of Agenda 21, said: “The community is thrilled and satisfied with the outcome. The old facility was small and run down. It is purpose built and state of the art.

Mr Assi added that the biggest engineering challenge for the gurdwara was the underground pipe maze at the site, which is partly on land through which Queens Road passed.


As a tribute to the temple house, this design of a fishing boat and the Thames appears alongside seven other medallions representing the Bark and Sikh culture.
– Credit: Jon King

The idea of ​​marrying modern and traditional design and construction inspired the building, which is considered a second home by devotees.


Light is entering the building which cost £ 13.5million. The money was collected through donations and a bank loan.
– Credit: Agenda 21

Although it looks like a traditional temple on the outside, the interior is filled with light, modern decor and equipped with the latest technology. There are even solar panels on the roof.

A third of the room is dedicated to religious worship, the rest being dedicated to spaces for community projects.


The building rises over three floors.
– Credit: Agenda 21

During the Covid-19 pandemic – and while construction work was still underway – volunteers provided 4,000 meals per week to those in need.

The idea of ​​sewa – or selfless service to others – is a key tenet of Sikhism, which followers value equality and unity.


The temple includes a langar that can accommodate up to 1,000 people.
– Credit: Jon King

With that in mind, the ground floor includes a 4,000 square foot dining room with a kitchen that can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

Known as the langar, free meals are served twice a day from here to people regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, or class.

Classrooms, multipurpose rooms, offices and two large prayer rooms take up most of the rest of the building.

portrait of guru nanak

Prints by 10 gurus – including the religion’s founder, Guru Nanak – adorn the walls inside.
– Credit: Jon King

Portraits printed by Canadian artist Kanwar Singh of the 10 Teachers of the Faith – known as the Gurus – hang throughout scenes depicting the historic struggles between the Sikhs and the Mughal enemies who persecuted them.


Two maps have been carved in stone. Barking on the left and Amritsar on the right.
– Credit: Jon King

The Sikh military emblem – consisting of three arms and a circle – also appears on the surface of the temple in honor of the religion’s militaristic roots.


The structure is in steel with marble cladding.
– Credit: Jon King

The marble cladding – which was cut, sculpted and imported from India – hangs from a steel frame, combining traditional and modern building techniques.

A total of 20,000 pieces of stone weighing 850 tons make up the temple, which entered under a deori or gateway tower.

catwalk tower

The bridge tower is adorned with balloons for the opening of the gurdwara.
– Credit: Agenda 21

In a room inside this grand structure, the Guru Granth Sahib – the central sacred religious scripture of Sikhism – is kept.


This decorative ceiling is part of the gateway tower.
– Credit: Agenda 21

Light enters through a protruding semi-octagonal window – known as a jarookha – under which people walk as they approach the gurdwara entrance gates.

These were made in Amritsar and have a white metal surface embossed on wood.

Seeing for the first time the completed building, the treasurer of the gurdwara, Balbir Singh – who acted as the director of operations during construction – recalled: “It was a joyous occasion.”


Stairs lead to a special room where a copy of the scriptures of Sikhism is kept. The book is considered a guru.
– Credit: Agenda 21

This great temple will be a joy to see for many decades to come.

About Mallory Brown

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