Links and documents
1911/01/01 to 0001/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Gur Sikh Temple is a simple rectangular, gable-roofed building of wood- frame construction with a false-front facade that faces the street and has an open second-floor veranda with columns on three sides. It is located on a one-acre property in the centre of the City of Abbotsford, B.C.
The Gur Sikh Temple has historic, cultural, social, spiritual and aesthetic value, particularly for its association with early Sikh pioneers in B.C. and because it is the oldest, remaining Sikh Temple in the western hemisphere.
Constructed in 1911 and officially opened in 1912, the gurdwara, or Sikh temple, is significant as a testament to the pride, vision and steadfastness of the Sikh pioneer community in the early 20th century, and remains a symbol of their collective goal of community-building and rights advocacy despite the explicit racism and discrimination they faced. It is also a representation of the hard work and tenacity of the first Sikhs who arrived in the Fraser Valley in 1905 from India's Punjab region to work on farms and in forestry. Early support from the Abbotsford community was demonstrated by acts such as the donation of local timber by the Abbotsford Lumber Company where a number of the men in the Sikh community worked.
Typical of gurdwaras in other parts of B.C., the Gur Sikh Temple has always provided sacred, cultural, social, community and political space for the Sikh community through its main function as a religious institution.
The temple has aesthetic and architectural value for embodying through its built form a mixture of traditional Sikh building practices and adaptations particular to conditions in B.C. With its frontier vernacular building style, the Gur Sikh Temple is unlike any other gurdwara in the world, with all of the elements of a traditional Sikh gurdwara adapted to conditions in B.C.
These local adaptations are found in elements such as the building's wood-frame construction, gable roof and false front; all similar features of commercial and institutional buildings in B.C.'s frontier towns of the era. At the same time, the building encompasses Sikh building traditions, religious beliefs and practices. Key elements of a Sikh gurdwara are integrated into the structure, including the second-floor prayer hall with traditional space for worshippers to sit on the floor, four entrance doors, the Sukh Aasan a room containing the Guru Granth Sahib, or sacred text and living quarters for the Granthi, or spiritual reader of the text. The langar, or dining area and communal kitchen where the free, vegetarian communal meal was prepared and eaten, was open to all and served to all visitors without discrimination based on religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity, an affirmation of the Sikh tradition of equality. The second-floor veranda along three sides of the building permitting direct access into the prayer hall is representative of other pioneer Sikh temples in B.C.
Continued social and cultural value is found in the careful 2007 restoration of the temple by its governing body, the Khalsa Diwan Society of Abbotsford, to ensure its ongoing use as a centre for prayer and congregation for the Sikh community and to preserve the history and memory of the Sikh pioneers who arrived in B.C. over a century ago.
The Gur Sikh Gurdwara gained additional commemorative significance in 2002 when it was designated as a National Historic Site by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. This designation was awarded in part for the building's historic value as the oldest surviving example of the temples which formed the religious, social and political centre of pioneer Canadian Sikh communities.
Today, the Gur Sikh Temple is significant as a place for conversation and community-building in the face of ongoing racism, ignorance and stereotyping, and for serving its current function as a Sikh heritage museum. The museum was opened during the building's centennial in 2011, as a place for all citizens to research, understand and experience Sikh history.
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.18
Provincially Recognized Heritage Site (Recognized)
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Peopling the Land
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch
Cross-Reference to Collection