ABOUT GURUNANAK DARBAR, DUBAI


The Background


India and the UAE have generally enjoyed cordial relations, partly due to their shared history with the British presence in Asia, and partly due to the pre-colonial history of trade, commerce and settlement between the two nations. Dubai is an Oasis of religious tolerance.
 
Sikhs living in UAE had no common place to gather to worship or celebrate religious festivals or weddings. In Dubai, the Bur Dubai temple and private homes being used for mass gatherings were bursting, prompting community leaders to look into the possibility of building a larger space for worship of the Guru Granth Sahib. They grew from five families, to 10 families to 50 families and it became hard for them to ask the hostess to make 400 chapattis in a day. So they decided that whoever comes brings 10 chapattis, and the hostess would make the vegetables and the dal. Though temporary Gurudwaras had come and gone, the community needed a permanent place of worship.  The very thought of building a permanent and official Gurdwara in the heart of an Islamic state was considered nothing short of an Arabian mirage. The push for an official Gurudwara began about 27 years ago. The proposals kept getting knocked back but they did not give up.  It was a pleasant and joyous surprise when consent was received from the Council of Imams.  To add to the joy and sense of well-being, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge, for the Sikhs to build their Gurdwara. 

Construction of Guru Nanak Darbar


In June 2010, foundations were laid for the Guru Nanak Darbar with all Sikh ceremonies. The-unimaginable has happened. Guru Nanak Darbar was to rise from the sands of Dubai, making it the first 'official' Sikh temple in the whole of Gulf. A historic moment for Sikh community. Now there would be a Gurdwara for solemnizing marriages and holding other religious ceremonies. One can't surpass the Golden Temple but efforts were to build one of the most modern Gurudwara in the world. The dream of the Community was to make it the best after Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Temple was to be the sacred marker of the faith, its repository and its most concrete symbol. It was the permanent spiritual home of the Sikhs. A place where all might gather to worship the One True God. 

The internationally reputed Dubai based architect firm Holford Associates has designed the Dubai Gurudwara. Holdford Associates already has to its credit over 20 churches, four mosques and one temple.  Consultancy was also sought from Richard Adams of UK, who was involved with the Shri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara on the Havelock Road in Southall, London. Before awarding the contract, the architects were sent on a tour to visit the Gurudwaras around the world, find each one's imperfection and make a perfect Gurudwara. A masterpiece that will serve the needs of the community. Paul Bishop and designer Arafeh Bashir visited the Golden Temple and studied frescoes and wall painting at Sri Harmandar Sahib. It took two years for the architectural firms to give shape to the three storied structure built over 12, 5000 sq. ft.  Construction work of Guru Nanak Darbar was started from May 2008 and got completed in December 2011. No compromise was made in its construction. The contractor was told that the Community wanted a 100-year guarantee for the building for the future generations to utilise it.

On 17th January 2012, the largest Gurudwara of Gulf region was declared open for over 50,000 devotees in UAE.  The Guru Nanak Darbar is a multi-storey facility spread over 100,000 sq.ft building area located at the T- Junction of two large accessible roads. The opulent building was worth every fil or the cent of the 65 million Dirhams or over 20 Million US Dollars spent on it. It was indeed a historic moment for Sikh community. Sikhs now would be able to go to the Gurudwara for special prayers. The Spiritual void had been filled as now Sikhs had a Gurudwara where they could pray. That was graceful gesture from UAE and signaled the beginning of a new chapter in the relations between Sikhs and UAE government.
 


Certifications


 

Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai is the first gurudwara in the world to receive ISO Certifications for following management areas :

  • ISO  9000  - Quality Management Standard
  • ISO 14000 - Environmental Management Standard
  • ISO 18000 - Occupational Health and Safety Management Standard
  • ISO 22000 - Food Safety Management Standard

The Design


The ultra-modern Gurudwara is a rare piece of architectural design- A blend of modern and traditional building style. Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar is the manifestation of this Truth. It envelopes all within its warm embrace, irrespective of caste or creed – bringing peace,solace, hope for one and all. The profusion of designs-the balance of colours-the rhythm and sparkle of the ornaments-the variety of textures-all come together in a perfect synthesis. While the eye is caught by the incredible detail, on which its gaze cannot help but linger, it is the sum of the whole that really evokes the splendor of the Temple. It is both a celebration of life, and a monument to the glory of the One Who created it, a shrine of grandeur with a sense of homely peace.

Standing apart from the church complex, the beige coloured Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar Sahib has three levels of underground car parks, and two floors above ground. Each basement is measured 25,000 square feet that can contain parking space for up to 140 cars. As you step through the sacred portico, its sublime beauty catches the eye and captures the senses. There are three floors-The 21,000 square feet ground floor houses the dining hall, Kitchen, Pantry and store rooms. The reception desk and Gurdwara office are also on the ground floor. There are plenty of convenience rooms for gents and ladies. Proper shoe storage or Jora Ghar facilities are available in several areas since shoes are not allowed to be worn in the Gurudwara. There is a headscarf stand – as both men and women must cover their heads inside the Gurudwara. There are 35 full time staff and dozens of volunteers who help at busy times. On the exterior of the Gurdwara Sahib, there is a 54 meter Parikarma covered with traditional grill work. The water body flowing around the road frontage is inspired by the Sarovar of the Golden Temple. It casts a surreal reflection of the building facade with the cascade feature lending the sound of flowing water. There are two main entrances to the complex, one from each access road.

On entering the building, one is in awe of its sheer grandeur and the attention to detail-The grand staircase is designed to hold a huge traffic of people going up and down. It is flattered by tall windows radiating natural light from stained glass that perfectly magnifies space. The Gurudwara Sahib is designed to cater the special needs of senior citizens. There are elevators too for the elderly and physically challenged.
The pillar-less Prayer Hall on the first floor has two doors leading into it. Ornate 24-carat gold canopies for the Guru Granth Sahib. Italian marble on the walls and floor. And stunning chandeliers from Murano, Italy. The floor is carpeted with a beautiful soft purple carpet where all devotees sit facing the platform. In the middle of the hall is a raised platform, about one meter above the floor, with carved gold-plated pillars on all fours sides. Above the platform is gold-plated lotus-shaped dome. Inside this gold plated dome is lined with a piece of cloth having a gold lace at the edge around it, giving a royal symbol.

Placed on the platform, is the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Ever since it’s “Prakash” - Sri Harmandar Sahib has always had a Chandoa Sahib – a canopy – over Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It is covered by several Rumala Sahibs or square pieces of cloth. Chandoa literally means a cover with the inscription of a moon on it. It has its origin in Islamic culture. In Sikhism, Sri Guru Granth Sahib represents the Almighty; hence a Chandoa is used as a matter of respect. Sitting on the platform is the Granthi Singh or the Giani, who while reading from the Holy Granth also, uses a Chaur Sahib -Yak hair or manmade fiber embedded in a metal placed with a wooden handle. This is waved over the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as a symbol of respect. Towards the right of this platform, is a slightly raised platform used for Kirtan singings and for giving religious lectures. The Ragis or the singers in the temple, who perform in the prayer hall on rotation, are hired from India. All day long the sanctum reverberates with the sounds of the Gurbani (Hymns).  A sense of calm descends as strains of shabads, fill the air. Each day, devotees throng here in thousands to pay their respect to their Guru.

There are chairs around the outside of the room for the elderly and impaired.  These are set below the main ground so no person is sitting higher than the Platform where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is placed;
The 7.2 meter soaring ceiling is elegantly crowned by the astounding 18 meter diameter dome roof. The column free hall is surrounded in circular form by the classical arch windows. These windows give lots of natural light during the day – thereby conserving on energy. One will be left in pure reverence and feel grandeur in experiencing the ambience of the hall.

 


Daily Activities


There are two Karha Parshad or sweet counters, in the lobby area. An aisle runs diagonally across the hall to the Sukh Asan or the Palki Sahib Room with a golden frame glass door. Here Sri Guru Granth Sahib rests after Samapti to 4.30 am – where he is woken up and taken on the head to its sthan or seating place in the main prayer or Darbar hall. At Sukh Asan are also kept many more Sri Guru Granth Sahib’s.  Sukh Asan means "Easy Pose" or Posture of Rest… Peace and Tranquility… Guru Maharaj Ji is put into Sukh Asan.  In essence, it is the reverse of the Prakash ceremony which takes place in the morning when the Guru Sahib is brought from the Sachkhand into the Darbar sahib for the day. At Amrit Vela or Dawn, the Guru’s minister, Granthi Singh comes to Sukh Asan - the official chambers in the Akal Takth - to rouse the Guru…This is the daily Prakash or ‘Awakening’ ceremony, which marks the Guru’s first entry into the day. The honour of carrying the Guru Granth Sahib lies with the Granthi Singh…With great reverence he places the Guru Granth Sahib on his head while the chawar is waved by special attendant. The Granthi Singh places Sri Guru Granth Sahib on the designated platform… Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unwrapped from its white silken covers… Hukumnama is to be taken out next.
The method of taking a Hukumnama is by performing an Ardas in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.  At the end of the Ardas, The Granthi Sahib takes Guru Granth Sahib in both hands and opens the pages of Guru Granth Sahib Ji at random. For taking the command or Hukam, the hymn - shabad that is continuing on the top of the left hand page or Ang must be read from the beginning. If the hymn begins on the previous Ang, turn over the Ang and read the whole hymn from the beginning to the end. If the scriptural composition that is continuing on the top of the left hand Ang is a vaar –ode, then start from the first of the saloks preceding the pauri and read upto the end of the pauri. Conclude the reading at the end of the Hymn with the line in which the name ‘Nanak’ occurs.
And the first Shabad on the left hand page of Guru Ji is the 'Hukumnama' filled with the spiritual wisdom or answer that you require. 
This Hukamnama or a Royal Decree for the day is immediately transmitted immediately to all Sikhs in UAE, via internet… It is the voice of God that finds resonance in every devotee’s heart, no matter which part of the world he receives it in.Each page of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is filled with the highest spiritual wisdom known to man, and a Hukumnama taken with love and faith can change lives. After Hukumnama is issued, the Granthi Singh then covers the Sri Guru Granth Sahib with a piece of cloth or a Rumalla.  And so begins the day at Sri Gurdwara Nanak Darbar-Ardass, Bhog, Distribution of First Karha Prashad of the Day, Kirtans. Devotees keep pouring in-Standing in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Palki with folded hands. Bowing and touching the ground with their head in reverence.
It is a Temple that reverberates with the prayers for the well - being of everyone – men, women, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the old and the infirm, the homeless and the orphans - EVERYONE...For decades it has witnessed a daily ritual of renewal that is a cornerstone for the lives of almost a million people. They envelope all within its warm embrace, irrespective of caste or creed – bringing peace, solace and hope for one and all.
 

Services for devotees


There are also Two rooms where Private Akhand Path’s or other paths can be held simultaneously.
The function room that overlooks prayer hall is of great utility. It boasts to service about 3000 people, also having a stage best fit for matrimonial ceremonies.
To develop religious values among the next generation of Sikhs in the diaspora, special three-hour sessions are held for children on Saturdays at the Gurdwara where they are taught Punjabi, Kirtan and Gurdara protocol. There are already 55 children attending these classes. Most families are sending their children for kirtan classes. When you are out of your home country, the desire is to connect to your roots becomes stronger. Thus it’s very important children to know about their culture in a foreign land. Gurbani Santhiya Classes are also held at Gurdwara Sahib for Adults. Santhiya is the correct pronunciation of Gurbani, taught in the manner of how The 10th Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji wanted all to read and pronounce the Holy Shabads.

Services offered:

  • Akhand Path sahib.
  • Sehaj Path.
  • Sukhmani Sahib Path.
  • Kirtan
  • Langar
  • Child Naming Ceremony.
  • Child Amrit Ceremony.
  • Engagement.
  • Anand Karaj - Wedding Ceremony.
  • Matrimonial Services.
  • House Warming Prayer.
  • Birthday or Anniversary Prayer.
  • Condolence or Memorial Prayer.

Facilities

  • Meditation Room
  • Library
  • Kirtan Classes
  • Gurbani Santhiya Classes

Langar


The Gurudwara Sahibs all over the world precincts also house the Guru Ka Langars. Going by the principle of equality, devotees of all religions and social standing sit together in rows and enjoy their meal.  The food served is fed to the devotees is cooked in the kitchen of the Gurudwaras. The food is pure vegetarian. All expenses are covered by the voluntary contributions of the congregation. The kitchen is manned by devotees who volunteer their services in form of Seva. There are many devotees ready to do seva. They not only cook the food, but also wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. At Guru Nanak Darbar, there is also a spacious 'langar' hall or the common dining hall, which accommodates 900 people. It serves 10,000 vegetarian meals every Friday-and about, 1,000 during the week, to people who enter the doors, regardless religion or race. On Vaisakhi and other festivals - food is served to around 40,000 people visiting the Gurdwara. It means that anyone who walks in, even for a short time, will be offered a cup of tea and a sweet or savoury snack, or even a takeaway dinner.
 
There is a state-of-the-art kitchen, which churns out food for devotees through the day every day, is worth a peak. It is complete with a dough-kneader. A chappati-maker bakes 1800 rotis per hour.  And along with the rest of the building, the kitchen too is spotless. In the large stainless steel kitchen on the ground floor everything is in mammoth proportions. The cooking pots are so large that it takes broom-sized spoons to stir the contents.  The walk-in fridge has dozens of sacks of tomatoes, potatoes and other fresh vegetables. In another large room there are shelves full of ghee, vegetable cooking oil and flour. More than 700kg of rice, 1,200kg of wheat flour and 200kg of ghee is cooked every week. Much of the produce is donated by the temple’s patrons and arrives at any time of the day or week in vans at the back door.
All devotees and visitors are respected here. Whether he’s a driver or a business owner. There’s no class system.  All are equal – as per tenets of Sikhism.
Most of the blue-collar workers in UAE aren’t with their families. For them it’s a great place to come and meet people. It's a place for the community to get together and enjoy religious harmony.
 

Visitors


As many as 10,000 people visit the Gurdwara Sahib, each Friday. Several Afghani  Sikhs also come to offer prayers besides many Sindhis and Hindu Punjabis. The Sikh religion inculcates a sense of equality among its followers and inspires them to do Seva. Seva has been described as the best cure for the ego. A devotee, who does seva, does it without expecting anything in return.  Such is the ambience of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar that a devotee cannot help but be moved to doing seva. Whatever a person’s social standing, no task is too menial when it comes to doing seva.
The Gurudwara attracts visitors from across the world. Visitors have come from the UK, the USA, Asia, Europe, Far East, Africa, Australia and Canada. They get surprised that in an Islamic country, there is such an ultra - modern Gurdwara. It has emerged as a major tourist destination in Dubai with over 800,000 visitors eating out of its community kitchen or langar each year since its inception. It has also become famous venue for destination weddings.
 
Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has included Guru Nanak Darbar in its list of attractions and establishments found in Dubai. Guru Nanak Darbar is also featured in the Dubai Tourism website.
 

Festivals


Festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence and devotees come in large numbers to be a part of the celebration. Special gatherings are held on all Gurpurab’s also. The Temple wears a festive look. It pulsates with an amazing mystic fervor. It’s illuminated with a million bulbs. It's almost a fairyland like atmosphere. Special Langar tents are erected outside to accommodate all.  Irrespective of the numbers, the Gurdwaras community kitchen churns out free vegetarian food for all. The meal served is basic but sumptuous and comprises salad, sabzi (vegetable), dal (lentil), roti (bread) and rice. Fruits or a sweet dish is also served.