Kent

Gravesend Sikhs celebrate 550 years since Guru Nanak's birth

Celebrations in Gravesend
Image caption This year marks the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism

About 5,000 Kent Sikhs are celebrating the 550th anniversary of the birth of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.

The event is being marked at the gurdwara in Gravesend with prayers, turban tying, martial arts and making "langar" in the communal kitchen.

The building in Saddington Street was inaugurated in 2011 and is one of the largest in the UK.

More than 15,000 Sikhs live in the area, representing over 15% of the Gravesend population.

Image caption The building in Saddington Street was inaugurated in 2011

At the scene in Gravesend

Min Kaur, BBC News

This anniversary is momentous for Sikhs as it coincides with the opening of a pilgrim route between India and Pakistan, allowing access to one of Sikhism's holiest shrines.

The Punjab region was split during the partition of British India in 1947, but the Kartarpur corridor, which links the divided areas, opened days before the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, on 12 November.

It allows rare visa-free access for Indian pilgrims to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib shrine in Pakistan.

The historic gurdwaras of India, including Sikhism's holiest place, the Harmandir Sahib, the famous Golden Temple in Amritsar, have inspired the temple in Gravesend.

Its towering, 60ft Nishaan Sahib (Sikh flag) stands proudly in front of the five-domed building.

The complex has been designed with four gateways to emphasise the Sikh principle of being open to everyone.

Kartarpur corridor: India and Pakistan sign deal on Sikh temple project

Image caption Celebrations include cooking "langar", the food from the gurdwara's communal kitchen

Vice president of the gurdwara, Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, said it was a key day in the Sikh calendar.

"It gives us the opportunity to all come together and practice key teachings such as showing compassion to others, treating everybody equally regardless of race, religion or gender and most importantly remembering god and cultivating the love within," he said.

Kamaljit Narwan, a member of the congregation, from Dartford, said Sikhs greatly admired Guru Nanak.

"He started Sikhism and we respect him," he said. He taught us to be kind to each other."

Image caption Sikhs make up over 15% of the Gravesham population alone

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