San Antonians drive along Loop 1604 everyday, never seeing the Sikh Temple near UTSA, but after today, the temple will be a sight that’s hard to miss. The Sikh Dharamsal Gurdwara, a Sikh temple, has been topped with impressive domes made from fiberglass by Lahkvir Singh, an artist based in India. Singh traveled with his work from Punjab to assist in the installation of the beautiful five gumbads (domes). The pieces were shipped by boat, the only possible way to safely move these large, fragile and ornate shells.
I spoke with several members of the local Sikh community including Harpreet Singh. Singh’s father, Dr. Gurvinder “G.P.” Singh, founded the Sikh Darahamsal.
“These domes are from Sikh architecture,” Harpreet Singh said. “They are a unique style in (India), different than any other faith tradition or ethnic group in the way they construct their buildings. It’s really an art form that (the artists) have brought to life here for us, and I think San Antonio and our community specifically are really lucky to have that here.”
Beyond the beauty and attention to detail that the Sikh community and artists have embellished upon the place of worship, lies something much deeper– the cause and its principles. The religion itself is grounded by the acceptance and welcoming of all faiths as a legitimate path to salvation. Part of the mission at Sikh Dharamsal is to educate the San Antonio community about the people behind the Sikh religion.
“Rather than just doing our own thing and coming here and doing our own prayers and going back to our daily work and businesses we want to make sure we are creating awareness,” said Dr. Gurpaul Singh, who manages media relations at Sikh Dharamsal. “We are not in the preaching business, we are not in the conversion business, but we want people to be aware of what we stand for and what our beliefs stand for.
“In this current climate, there’s some xenophobia and often the turban is flashed on the TV screen and associated with terrorist-type activities in the U.S.A. The only people who wear turbans are Sikhs– it’s an article of faith for us, as opposed to a cultural dress or optional item. We are peace loving, and one of our main tenants is to serve the community and to serve the under privileged.”
The goals as stated on the Sikh Dharamsal website:
1. Our Children grow up with love of Sikhi in their hearts. They are raised with the best education in Sikhi (anywhere in the world)
2. San Antonio and Bexar County should know the Sikhs as part of their community. Our community who come in contact with the public can proudly wear their Dastars (turban).
3. We are part of the major faith traditions and interfaith organizations.
4. We are known as one of the most service oriented communities which takes pride in serving the human race irrespective of religion, gender, race, caste, creed, and all things that separate us from each other.
Below you will find my photographs of the topping off the Gurdwara with the domes, work that was accomplished in a single day. It was a beautiful and insightful experience, and the artisans, workers and community members all made me feel like family. This is something that is rare in this world, and should be cherished by every photographer.
Top Image: Amaneep Sanbhu waves his arms in the direction he instructs the crane to proceed as artist of the domes Lakhvir Singh awaits its arrival. Photo by Scott Ball.