Richmond’s Highway to Heaven has become famous worldwide. It was evident when recently, a post- doctoral researcher, Michail Galanakis, on a visit to Canada, from the University of Helsinki, Finland approached me for an interview about intercultural harmony and Richmond’s Highway to Heaven. It was a pleasure to talk to him. Mr.Galanakis was very curious about the intercultural harmony in Richmond and the role of Highway to Heaven in this regard. This stretch of # 5 Road between Bridgeport Road and Steveston Highway has gained worldwide attention. It is unique to Richmond. India Cultural Centre of Canada (Nanak Niwas Gurdwara, also known as the #5 Road Gurdwara)), was the first place of worship to be built along this road. Since then, close to twenty religious institutions representing various denominations call No.5 Road their home.
Gurdwara Nanak Niwas is a double storey building. Langar Hall (community kitchen), library, office, committee rooms, residences of the priests and washrooms are on the ground floor. Prayer (Diwan) Hall, place for Sukh Aasan, separate place for Akhand Path, rooms for handicapped persons on both sides of the Diwan Hall are on the second floor. Separate shoe racks (Jorha Ghar) for men and women are all on the second floor. Diwan Hall has the capacity to accommodate upto 1000 worshippers. The program of the Diwan Hall can easily be watched with the help of closed circuit television in the Langar Hall.
The Gurdwara is a top attraction for public and first choice for young men and women to get married here The Gurdwara’s convenient location, landscaping, an attractive park full of colourful seasonal flowers, water fountains and a huge parking lot are some of its highlights. Overall high quality maintenance, a clean environment /premises, friendly staff and management are another attractive feature of this holy place. At the back of the Gurdwara is a special play area including a set of swings for children. Just east of the impressive building there is a stretch of green tender grass and an orchard of apple trees up to highway 99. Fir trees are standing like guards around perimeter of property at the back. In 1999, at the occasion of tri-centenary celebration of the birth of the Khalsa, a memorial ‘Yadgar-E-Khalsa’ was installed at the front on behalf of 37 Gurdwara managing committees of B.C. and USA. Its graceful presence at the Gurdwara is a great center of attraction for devotees and visitors alike.
Like every other religious institution, the Gurdwara is managed by an executive committee which is elected every three years by the members. The members, along with the executive and volunteers, ensure that things run smoothly and every effort is made for the comfort and convenience of the congregation. There has never been a problem of any kind since the Gurdwara opened its doors some thirty years ago. The Gurdwara actively supports and sponsors a lot of projects. These include fundraising for the BC Children’s Hospital, Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation and a Mobile Hospital stationed at Guru Nanak Mission Hospital in the city of Jalandhar (Punjab). In addition to that, India Cultural Centre of Canada donated a CT Scanner to the hospital .The mobile hospital holds 30-35 clinic camps at various places in the Punjab every year. Anyone interested in sponsoring the mobile medical clinic in their hometown in the Punjab should contact India Cultural Centre at 604-274-7479.
Locally, Gurdwara Nanak Niwas is home to a number of community programs. These include the Art of Living Yoga classes, Kundalini Yoga classes, Seniors’ Yoga classes and Chai Chaupal. For more than a year, Punjabi classes have been going on at the Gurdwara. In addition to that, youth activities and tournaments are held at these premises from time to time. The Gurdwara has also hosted a number of Inter-Faith Bridging seminars in order to promote intercultural harmony. Students from various schools, colleges and universities in B.C., U.S. and other parts of the country visit the Gurdwara every year to learn about the Sikh religion, customs and culture. On special occasions like the Diwali, Lohri, Vaisakhi and the New Year, the Gurdwara overflows with devotees.
India Cultural Centre of Canada is very much interested in hearing from members of its congregation or anyone else as to how it can serve the community better. The Gurdwara would like to get the youth actively involved and welcomes any input in this regard. The management committee would like to hear any suggestions and concerns. This is your Gurdwara. It is here to serve the entire community. Please feel free to phone the Gurdwara at 604-274-7479 or president Chain Batth at 604-306-0555 or general secretary Balbir Jawanda at 604-649-5366 with your suggestions and/or concerns.