National Gurdwara Opens on Embassy Row

February 18, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

On February 18, 2006 The Washington Post reported, "Forty years ago, when there were about 40 Washington area Sikhs instead of 13,000, and when they prayed in one small home rather than a half-dozen temples, a man named Shamsher Singh had a dream... Now, 25 years after a Singh-led group that local Sikhs call 'the early settlers' bought a plot of land a block north of Washington National Cathedral, it's finally happening: the opening of the first official gurdwara, or temple, in the District... The gurdwara is marking its opening this weekend with a 48-hour, nonstop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the 1,430-page Sikh holy book... Barely able to cover the taxes on the land while they were raising funds to build the temple, the group endured litigation from neighborhood groups worried about traffic; environmental protesters who bound themselves to trees; graffiti and egg yolks on a trailer at the site after Sept. 11, 2001; and even challenges from other Sikhs who questioned whether the investment and location made sense... But the early settlers feel confident that their standing and the prominence of Embassy Row will attract people from the suburbs, young Sikhs working and studying in Washington and tourists from around the world who might be curious about Sikhism... There are about 14 million Sikhs in India and a half-million in the United States."