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Holy Scripture library reopens at Bow’s Harley Grove Sikh temple 8 years after arson

PUBLISHED: 13:10 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:30 20 April 2017

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs arrives at Gurdwara Temple in Harley Grove in honourary Sihk headdress

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs arrives at Gurdwara Temple in Harley Grove in honourary Sihk headdress

Gurdwara Temple

Sikhs from all over the country gathered at Bow’s Gurdwara Sikh Temple for the opening of its new library replacing the one burned down in an arsonist attack eight years ago.

Sikh Temple in Harley Grove, Bow Sikh Temple in Harley Grove, Bow

They were joined by Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs—who wore Sikh headwear for the opening—to mark Vasakhi Day, the annual festival for Khalsa initiation when men adopt the title ‘Singh’.

Patrons of the temple in Harley Grove, off Bow Road, have named the new library after the late Giani Makan Singh Mirgind, a revered scholar and writer, to house its sacred collection of holy books.

The leading campaigner for India’s independence in 1947 arrived in Britain 10 years later and became head of the UK-wide Bhat Samparda organisation and president of the Harley Grove temple.

Mayor Biggs adorns traditional Sikh headwear Mayor Biggs adorns traditional Sikh headwear

“This was a fulfilment of a dream to honour one of the most prominent Sikhs of the Bhat community,” former temple trustee Jagmohan Singh told the East London Advertiser.

“It was also an honour for us seeing hundreds of people at our temple to mark the library opening.”

The library was formally opened by the temple’s current president, Rajinder Kaur Lard, with the mayor and several religious and political leaders.

Sikh temple's new library Sikh temple's new library

Hymns were recited in the main Darbar Hall with speeches about the life and work of Giani Makan Singh Mirgind.

The old library was gutted by a suspicious fire in March, 2009, which destroyed the community’s 14 Saroops or holy books.

A women attending prayers in the temple saw an intruder inside the building before the blaze, the Advertiser reported at the time.

2009... devastation as flames sweep rear of Sikh temple [picture: Advertiser reader Wenton Moore] 2009... devastation as flames sweep rear of Sikh temple [picture: Advertiser reader Wenton Moore]

Police began a criminal investigation and a £50,000 reward was offered, but there were no arrests.

Tradesmen in the neighbourhood rallied to volunteer to help rebuild the temple.

Mandeep Singh, who ran youth camps for youngsters from the Sikh community, said at the time: “We have had volunteers, plumbers and builders, offering to help rebuild the whole structure of the gurdwara.

2009... Fire crews battle to control temple blaze [picture: Advertiser photographer Joe Lord] 2009... Fire crews battle to control temple blaze [picture: Advertiser photographer Joe Lord]

“Our congregation has received sympathy from the public—with God’s blessing we will rebuild the gurdwara to its former glory.”

Services at first were held in makeshift tents on the green opposite the temple, after the fire, then temporarily at nearby Central Foundation school and other temples around London until it reopened three years later.

The Victorian Grade II-listed building, originally a Congregational church in the 19th century and later converted as a synagogue until the 1970s when it became the East End’s main Sikh temple, was finally reopened in 2012 after a £1.4 million renovation.

The congregation staged a parade from Bow along the Mile End Road to Stepney Green and put on a free street party thanking the community for its support.

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