Around 80 Sikhs gathered in a repurposed building in Spokane Valley Sunday to follow along as their spiritual leader, Baabaji Ajit Singh, chanted Punjabi prayers for peace in the world and in the community.
About a dozen children sat at his feet, looking up at him as he prayed.
Spokane’s second Sikh temple, Gurdwara Shree Guru Nanak Darbar, opened last month about 5 miles west of an older temple on Barker Road.
Named for Sikhism’s founder, the new temple was launched to accommodate Spokane’s growing Sikh community. Today there are an estimated 150 Sikh families in the Spokane area, including many from Airway Heights.
“It’s a good thing to have choices for people,” said Prabh Kochar, who helped start the second temple.
He said the focus of the new temple – called a gurdwara – is on youth. The gurdwara enjoys broad support from the Sikh community, he said.
“We’re all like a big family,” he said, adding that everyone is pitching in to help the new community grow.
Singh, who leads the new gurdwara, said through a translator that one of his goals for the new temple is to teach children the sacred music of the Sikh religion. That music, played on harmonium and other instruments, is central in Sikh worship, he said.
“Since kids are the next generation, I want to make sure kids know the truth of Sikhism so they grow to become good citizens,” he said.
To close one’s eyes and experience the sacred music is to experience the divine, he said.
“I want kids to experience that,” he said, noting that it’s a fruitful way for youth to learn about their religion and culture and to create a strong foundation in preparation for adulthood.
The building, which is located at 12122 E. Cataldo Ave., used to house doctors’ offices but sat empty for a while before the new Sikh community moved in. Currently, the langar – the traditional congregational meal – is served potluck-style in the basement, but plans to expand the facility are in the works, Kochar said.
The broader community is invited to the gurdwara at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 10 for the next Meet the Neighbors, organized by the Interfaith Council of Spokane.
“All Punjabis are a little shy, but once you get to know us, we’ll never leave you. We’ll be your best friend,” Kochar said.
He hopes the Spokane community will come to the event to learn about the Sikh faith. He encouraged guests to ask lots of questions.
Singh said with so much fighting going on now in the name of religion, it’s important to come to such events and learn about one another.
“People experience bliss here on Sundays. We want to share that with our neighbors,” he said.
Tracy Simmons, who teaches journalism at Gonzaga University, serves as the executive director of SpokaneFaVS.com, a digital journalism startup covering religion news and commentary in Spokane.