Bradford’s first Sikh temple is now open — and it's the only one in Simcoe County, according to the town's deputy mayor, Raj Sandhu.
The temple is run by a volunteer group called York Simcoe Sikh Sangat Bradford, who hosted a grand opening at the 62 Holland St. W. site on Sunday, Feb. 4, and Sandhu estimates more than 300 people attended, including dignitaries such as York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson, York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney and South Simcoe Police Service Chief John Van Dyke.
An adherent of the Sikh faith and one of 20 core members of the group who oversee day-to-day operations at the temple, Sandhu emphasized the benefits of having a Sikh place of worship in Bradford.
“It means a lot, for a couple of reasons. For us, we had to drive 50 kilometres to go to a temple,” he said. “Now it’s closer ... and it just feels good to have a temple in your own town, where people can come and they don’t have to travel far.”
Listings show the closest temples outside of Bradford are in Orangeville, Brampton, North York and Markham.
While the grand opening drew people from many of the surrounding communities — including Barrie, Innisfil and Aurora — Sandhu hopes it will also see visitors from Newmarket, East Gwillimbury, Georgina and beyond.
The temple is currently open every day of the week from 5 to 9 a.m. and again from 5:30 to 8 p.m., with the main service on Sundays, and Sandhu said everyone is welcome.
“In Sikhism, any gurdwara (temple), which means the guru’s door or God’s door — it’s open to any faith, any religion, as long as they cover their head and they take their shoes off when they come to the temple side,” he said, adding that bandanas are available at the temple for those who need one.
Being a place of worship, alcohol, smoking and drugs are not permitted, but during the service volunteers bring plenty of food, which anyone is welcome to enjoy.
“If we’re open, you’re welcome,” Sandhu said. “We’re here to answer any questions and learn from each other so we can have a better society.”
In Sikhism, everyone sits together on the floor for services and meals unless they’re not physically able, and Sandhu explained the concept is that everyone is considered equal when coming before god, no matter their financial or social standings or affiliations.
“We’re all equal. Whether you’re a king or someone working in a factory, you have to sit on the floor together,” he said.
Sandhu also underscored the importance of having a community gathering place for people to come together.
“We as Sikhs contribute to this community in town as individuals, but now as a Sikh community we are looking forward to doing even more for the town,” he said.
In addition to visiting the temple, anyone looking for more information can also call 905-778-1010 and volunteers will try to respond within one day.