Australia’s First Sikh Temple Granted Heritage Status
Damien Peters | On 05, Nov 2020
Built in 1968, the Sikh Temple in Woolgoolga has long since been an essential pillar for the local Sikh community. Luckily, this social and religious building is now protected as a heritage site as the government has recognised its significance.
Sikhs arrived in Australia in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until the Sikh population started to grow following World War Two that there was a need for a temple. With India being part of the Commonwealth, many chose to move to Australia in search of a better quality of life and more job prospects. According to a resident, Nasib Singh Grewal, who witnessed the original Gurduwa being built, only five Punjabi families were living in Woolgoolga at the time.
Most of the new Indian settlers were farmers working in banana farming. Booja Singh was the first Sikh to purchase a farm in Woolgoolga. He came from Malpur Arkan, emigrating with his adoptive parents. As people learned that there were opportunities to be captilised in Australia, more and more Sikhs began to arrive. Woolgoolga is now home to many Indian Sikhs who are proud to call themselves Australian.
The temple is named after Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who founded Sikhism in 1469. He was the first of ten human gurus in Sikhism.
What Sikhs Believe In
Sikhs believe in one God. A God who is infinite and has no race, gender, size, or shape. Sikhism is a welcoming religion that believes everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Sikhs believe everyone has God inside them, and everyone is capable of redemption.
As with other Indian religions, Sikhs believe in reincarnation. Each life we lead is determined based on Karma; how good or bad we are in a previous life will impact our next cycle. By being an honest, decent person, doing good things for others, and having a strong relationship with God, you will be rewarded in the next life.
The Three Duties
Three duties that Sikhs must live by are:
- Nam Japna – always remember God
- Kirt Karna – live an honest life
- Vand Chhakna – share your earnings with others, be caring and charitable.
The Five Vices
There are five vices a Sikh must try to avoid as they build barriers against God. They are: pride, lust, greed, anger, and attachment to worldly goods. To overcome these is to be liberated and closer to God.
The Woolgooga Gurdwara
According to The First Sikh Temple’s website, “The First Sikh Temple is also interesting architecturally as it is the only example of a Temple design in NSW using an adaptation of an Australian vernacular ecclesiastical style for a religion that was new to Australia.”
The Gurdwara is located on 6 Hastings Street and is open to all visitors daily from 4.30 am to 7 pm and later (8.30 pm) on Thursdays.