Place of worship for Sikhs opens in Whitehorse

Members of the Sikh community in Whitehorse say they're "excited" about their new gurdwara, giving them a place to worship and gather afters years of missing out.

Some rituals, like weddings, can't be done outside a gurdwara

Dhyan Singh, left, and Inderjeet Singh are two of the people behind the opening of Yukon's first gurdwara. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Yukon's Sikh community has its first gurdwara, a place of worship for the group, and some say it's only the beginning.

Inderjeet Singh, who's lived in Whitehorse for five years and helped create the gurdwara, says the gurdwara will support Sikhs in Yukon and bring them together. The gurdwara is not only a place of worship, but it's a place where people can gather for communal meals and musical events.

He says those are a big part of the culture and religion.

The Darbar Sahib, or hall, of the gurdwara, with the Takht Sahib (bed). (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

"It's a lot of excitement, not just us, like everybody who comes in, everybody's just praising," said Singh.

Before a month ago when the gurdwara opened, Sikhs in the territory had to use their homes and other spaces for worship, said Dhyan Singh, another person that helped make the gurdwara a reality. 

But some rituals, like weddings can only be done in a gurdwara, he said. People wanting to have a traditional ceremony have had to go Vancouver or other cities in the South.

Public education events coming post COVID-19

Dhyan says there are an estimated 300 to 400 Sikhs in Yukon.

He says once COVID-19 passes and the gurdwara becomes more established, it will host events geared toward the general public.

"There will be like turban days, [people] can come and learn about turbans, how to tie them and what's the significance," he said.

It's a lot of excitement ... everybody's just praising.- Inderjeet Singh

"Why do we have so much beard, why don't we cut our hair. So we'll be holding those kind of events to get people to know more about our culture and we can learn about their culture," said Dhyan. 

The gurdwara is in rental space in a commercial neighbourhood, but Dhyan says they want to buy or build their own space.

An online fundraising campaign is underway to help pay for a permanent space, he said. They're also seeking financial help from Sikh communities in the South.