An ethnographic study of the concept and development of the Gurdwara in the UK

Dhesi, Manvir (2009). An ethnographic study of the concept and development of the Gurdwara in the UK. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.


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Although Sikh gurdwārās have existed in the UK for the past one hundred years, there have been few studies focused on them by western academics. Gurharpal Singh and Darshan Singh Tatla state in their work, “Remarkably, the role of gurdwārās in community development has received little academic attention” (Singh and Tatla 2006: p. 5). This dissertation examines the ever-changing social, political, and religious role of the gurdwārās in the UK in the serving of the community in reflection of the traditional authority on gurdwārās, with particular focus on six gurdwārās; three in Bradford and three in Southall. Gurdwārās in the UK provide a religious, social and political role for the community. However, this does not mean that the social, political, and religious role of gurdwārās has remained static over the years. Gurdwārās in the UK have developed and changed to meet the needs of the Sikh community and the wider society. This raises the following questions that form the focus of this study: What are the Sikh Gurūs teachings on the role and function of gurdwārās? What is the historical context of gurdwārās in the UK? How has the management system of gurdwārās in the UK adapted to the changing demographics of the Sikh community? What religious, social, political activities and services do gurdwārās perform? How does the management system along with the religious, gender, and age composition of the management committee affect the success or failure of gurdwārās doing the job that the Sikh Gurūs had envisaged? In addressing this, I draw upon scriptural texts, religious histories, and a detailed ethnographic study of six gurdwārās, three from Bradford and three from Southall. For the research I examined documentary material, conducted participant observation, and carried out face-to-face and telephone interviews with gurdwārā management staff and members of the Sikh community over a twelve month period (2007-2008). I argue that although no absolute conclusions can be made, there is a general trend that the age, gender and religious representation in gurdwārā management committees do influence how far the gurdwārās go in providing religious, social and political activities and therefore there is some effect upon their roles in the Sikh community. My findings indicate that gurdwārās in the UK are providing an important role in the Sikh society, which has a wider impact on society as a whole; nonetheless there is the opportunity and also the need for gurdwārās in the UK to push forward their roles further in making them more relevant to the lives of its community members.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism


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