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August 12, 2009

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A lifeline for Sikhs in Shanghai

THE gurdwara on Dongbaoxing Road is a south-facing two-story rectangular structure with red-brick walls.

Old documents give an insight into the temple. "There are 19 stairs leading to the entrance of the temple with each step 2 meters wide. An arched wooden door leads to the inside of the building. About 3 to 4 meters from the front door, there are two other arched doors.

"Inside the building, or gurdwara, there is a big hall with the sacred rostrum in the center at the back. There are small long windows at center left and center right. There are five big windows on either side of the sidewalls. Downstairs on the ground floor is the administrative office."

The role of gurdwaras in Sikh history is very significant. They guarded local Sikh interests and looked after the economic welfare of their community, especially during times of crisis. They provided a lifeline - in terms of food and shelter - to the millions of migrating and overseas-based Sikhs.

Tales of the Shanghai gurdwara also find mention elsewhere.

Legendary Indian field hockey player and Olympic gold medalist Dhyan Chand made a brief stopover in Shanghai in 1932 on the way to the Los Angeles Olympics.

In his autobiography "Goal," he says, "The atmosphere in the city was quite tense due to the Sino-Japanese clash.

"We were told to keep within bounds and avoid any trouble spots. We visited a small Sikh temple on the outskirts of the city. The temple had suffered much damage.

"As we came out of the temple, Japanese soldiers eyed us with suspicion," Chand writes.


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