January 28, 2023

LONDON: King Charles’s visit to a newly built gurdwara in Luton has been hailed as historic and highly significant as it was the first time a British head of state had sat on the floor and listened to a hymn of the Guru Granth Sahib. It was also the first time a British head of state entered and left playing kirtan live.
“He may have sat on the floor when he was a prince, but it is very different when a head of state does that. It couldn’t have been more respectful of the Sikh faith,” said Gurch Randhawa, a member of the Sangat who is also deputy lieutenant for Bedfordshirewho hosted the king’s visit to Guru Nanak Gurdwara Luton.
‘The late Queen always had respect for the gurdwaras during her many visits, but as far as I know she never sat on the ground during her long reign. Here the whole royal route was unique. The king entered a religious service and sat and listened as the Guru Granth Sahib was read and left as the kirtan played. That is historic and a first. The whole time he was inside he was treated no differently and just because the king came in the service was not interrupted. At no point did he ask us to pause anything we were doing,” he said.
Dressed in a ramaal, the king used the hand gesture of Sat Sri Akal to acknowledge the congregation and the holy book. “For a king to pray in a non-Church of England room is astonishing and very significant to me,” said Randhawa.
The Guru Nanak Gurudwara in Luton opened its current purpose-built building in December 2021 with donations from the community. It was previously operated from a former school building on the same site. “He really respected our faith and the people were extremely humble when the head of state sat on the floor in the Darbar Sahib along with 500 other people. It gave people confidence that he is compassionate and empathetic to different religions. ”
The king spent an hour in the gurudwara where he met the men and women who served and ate langar, the volunteers of the Luton Soup Sikh cuisine that feeds people of all religions and ethnicities, the doctors who ran the pop-up Covid clinic that has now evolved into a welfare clinic, and the Sikh children who are learning Punjabi and various musical instruments. He also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit.
“He asked to meet several volunteer projects and was so interested in it that it was all very endearing. He arrived at lunchtime and met a group of people eating langar and came over and said ‘Hello: I hope I’m not disturbing your lunch’. He showed great interest in the instruments the children were playing and asked them to play one. I thought he was very humble. He asked many questions about it Sichi. He was genuinely interested in all community projects and why we are so eager to help people, and I explained the principles of the Sikh faith,” said Randhawa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *