Woolgoolga Gurudwara – The First Sikh Temple in Australia!
‘Gurudwara’, the term means House of the Guru (the spiritual master). The Woolgoolga Gurudwara is a place that probably expresses this meaning in one of its best forms. Located in the vicinity of the beautiful Coffs Harbor, the Woolgoolga Gurudwara is a place that radiates peace and serenity. Locally known as the “Missing piece of Paradise”, Woolgoolga boasts of a a thriving pocket of India in the land of the Big Banana.
The Sikh community started migrating to Australia as early as the end of the 19th Century. In Woolgoolga the Sikhs turned from sojourners to settlers towards the middle of the 20th Century. Woolgoolga, or Woopi as the locals call it, has the largest regional Sikh/Punjabi population in Australia today. The most striking feature of the Sikh community at Woopi is the way in which they have preserved their traditional culture and lifestyle. While on the one hand they have managed to integrate successfully into the host community, on the other hand they have also given the region its distinctive character by contributing to the enrichment of the ethnic and cultural diversity and heritage of the region.
One thing common amongst the Sikhs around the world is their zeal to set up a gurudwara, which forms a symbol of their adoration towards God and their respect towards their cultural traditions. The first purpose-built Gurudwara in Australia was built in Woopi in 1969, which came to be known as the ‘Woolgoolga Gurudwara’ or the ‘The First Sikh Temple’. From a small temple that was constructed in 1969 to the strikingly beautiful structure that stand today, the Gurudwara itself depicts the history of the community in the region.
The Small temple built in 1969
The present day Woolgoolga Gurudwara
(Photo Credit - http://www.woolgoolgaheritagewalk.org/1-guru-nanak-sikh-temple )
The Woolgoolga Gurudwara is a very significant icon of the Sikh community in Australia. A calm, beautiful and peaceful place that embodies the Sikh belief that the awareness of God comes about by remembrance of God in all that we do. In its turn, it also epitomizes the acceptance and celebration multicultural ethics in Australia. It is one amongst the many symbols of mutual respect and admiration of different beliefs amongst the diverse communities that live in this country.
During this time of the year, Sikhs around the world thank God for the abundant harvest and prosperity by celebrating the festival of Baisakhi. To mark the celebrations, Sikh devotees generally attend the Gurudwara before dawn with flowers and offerings. The festival is celebrated in Woopi with the same fervor and enthusiasm as would be in the Indian subcontinent. Australian Indians particularly, thank the God not just for the plentiful harvest but also for giving them the opportunity to conserve and celebrate their cultural identity and ethics in this beautiful way.
Ending on this note, we wish everyone a very Happy Baisakhi and a Happy New Year!
Enjoy the celebrations!