Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver
Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver.jpg
Location 8000 Ross St, a gurdwara in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Founded July 22, 1906

Coordinates: 49°12′43″N 123°04′59″W / 49.212°N 123.083°W / 49.212; -123.083 The Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver (Gurmukhi: ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਦਿਵਾਨ ਸੋਸਾਇਟੀ ਵੈਨਕੂਵਰ Khālsā Divān Sosāiṭī Vainkūvar) is a Sikh society based at a gurdwara in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was the largest gurdwara in North America. A gurdwara (Punjabi: ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਾ, gurdu'ārā or ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰਾ, gurdvārā), meaning "the doorway to the Guru", is the Sikh place of worship and may be referred to as a Sikh temple.

It is the oldest Sikh society in Greater Vancouver.[1] The current gurdwara is at the intersection of Southwest Marine Drive and Ross Street,[2] in South Vancouver.[3]


The Khalsa Diwan Society was founded on July 22, 1906 and was registered on March 13, 1909. The corporate name was "The Khalsa Diwan Society". Their first site and gurdwara was built in 1908 at 1866 West 2nd Avenue. It was inaugurated on January 19, 1908. The financial situation of the society depended on the number of Sikhs living in British Columbia. Donations rose considerably as more Sikhs came to British Columbia. The population of Sikhs rose in the period of 1904–1908, the population being 5,185. It fell to 2,342 in 1911. The Sikh population dwindled even more, to 1,099, as the year 1918 approached.[citation needed] Verne A. Dusenbery, the author of "Canadian Ideology and Public Policy: The Impact on Vancouver Sikh Ethnic and Religious Adaptation," wrote that the gurdwara served as "truly a religious, social, political, cultural, and social service center for the entire South-Asian immigrant population of the lower mainland" during its early history.[4]

In the 1940s the KDS served in a leadership role as Indo-Canadians asked for voting rights, and it did so in a secular capacity.[5] The KDS had a secular role as a community centre and also served Hindus and Muslims among the Indo-Canadians. Raj Hans Kumar, author of "Gurdwara as a Cultural Site of Punjabi Community in British Columbia, 1905 – 1965," stated that in political affairs the KDS represented all "Hindus", which at the time meant all people of East Indian origin.[6]

In the early 1950s, a serious split occurred in the Canadian Sikh community, when the Khalsa Diwan Society elected a clean-shaven Sikh to serve on its management committee.[7] Although most of the early Sikh immigrants to Canada were non-Khalsa, and a majority of the members of the society were clean-shaven non-Khalsa Sikhs, a faction objected to the election of a non-Khalsa to the management committee. The factions in Vancouver and Victoria broke away from the Khalsa Diwan Society, and established their own gurdwara society called Akali Singh.[7] The Akali Singh Society opened in 1952.[8]

By the late 1950s there were plans to establish Punjabi language students for Canadian-born children and to collect funds for a new community centre.[9] In 1963 the society began planning for a new gurdwara and community centre.[8] The society decided to build a new gurdwara in 1969. The society purchased 2.75 acres (11,100 m2) of city land in 1968. Construction was completed in the first week of April 1970 for a price of $6,060. Sri Guru Granth Sahib was moved from the 2nd Avenue gurdwara to the Ross Street gurdwara on Vasakhi Day 1970.[citation needed] The initial plans asked for a library and community centre, but these aspects were eliminated from the plans. Construction happened from winter 1969,[10] to April 1970. The celebration for Guru Nanak's 500th birthday was held prior to the grand opening in 1970.[11] The building is intended to look like a lotus rising from water. To get inspiration for the style, the architect, Arthur Erickson, traveled to Agra and Amritsar.[10]

In 1979 the annual income of the KDS was $300,000.[12] That year the leadership of the gurdwara changed.[13] Previously the KDS was controlled by Marxist Sikhs who did not practice Sikhism.[14] The membership had been around 5,000 prior to 1979, as there was a $12 membership fee. Membership increased after the elimination of the fee.[11] According to Kamala Elizabeth Nayar, in 1984 the pro-Khalistan organization World Sikh Organization (WSO) began controlling the gurdwara.[14] According to Hugh Johnston, Vancouver Sikhs stated that the political bloc that took charge of the KDS Gurdwara network by 1979 consisted of about 10-15 families.[13]

Vancouver gurdwara[edit]

The original Vancouver gurdwara had a homeless shelter and a langar or kitchen. It served as a social centre for the community.[15]


In the 1960s, the main gurdwara was in Vancouver and the branch gurdwaras were in New Westminster, Abbotsford, Victoria, and Port Alberni.[16] By 1973, the cities with KDS temples were Abbotsford, Mesachie Lake, New Westminster, Paldi, Port Alberni, and Vancouver.[17] However the New Westminster Khalsa Diwan became its own Sikh society the following year.[11] In 1975 the Khalsa Diwan Society of Abbotsford also separated, as the title of the Abbotsford gurdwara was transferred to the separated entity. The Abbotsford Sikhs wanted to have local control over their gurdwara, the Gur Sikh Temple.[18]


Every March the celebration of the martyrdom of Mewa Singh is held. Sikhs from California go to the KDS to celebrate the event.[19]

First executive committee[edit]

The first executive committee of the Khalsa Diwan Society were members from 1907–1909. They included:

Title Person
President Bhai Sewa Singh
Vice President Bhai Bhola Singh (Narinder Singh)
Treasurer Bhai Arjan Singh
Member Bhai Bhag Singh
Member Bhai Balwant Singh
Member Bhai Bhola Singh

See also[edit]


  • Dusenbery, Verne A. 1981. "Canadian Ideology and Public Policy: The Impact on Vancouver Sikh Ethnic and Religious Adaptation". In Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. 13: 3, Winter.
  • Hans, Raj Kumar. 2003. "Gurdwara as a Cultural Site of Punjabi Community in British Columbia, 1905 – 1965." In Fractured Identity: The Indian Diaspora in Canada, Sushma J. Varma & Radhika Seshan (eds.). Jaipur: Rawat Publications.
  • Johnston, Hugh. 1988. "The Development of Punjabi Community in Vancouver since 1961". In Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. 20:2.
  • Nayar, Kamala Elizabeth, "Misunderstood in the Diaspora: The Experience of Orthodox Sikhs in Vancouver." Sikh Formations 4, No. 1 2008), p. 17-32. - doi:10.1080/17448720802075397
  • Nayar, Kamala Elizabeth. "The Making of Sikh Space: The Role of the Gurdwara" (Chapter 2). In: DeVries, Larry, Don Baker, and Dan Overmyer. Asian Religions in British Columbia (Asian Religions and Society Series). UBC Press, January 1, 2011. ISBN 0774859423, 9780774859424. Start: p. 43.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Pang, Guek-cheng. Culture Shock! Vancouver. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd, August 15, 2010. ISBN 9814484806, 9789814484800. p. 31.
  2. ^ Nayar, "The Making of Sikh Space," p. 46.
  3. ^ Nayar, "The Making of Sikh Space," p. 48.
  4. ^ Dusenbery, p. 104-105.
  5. ^ Johnston, Hugh, p. 5-6.
  6. ^ Hans, p. 227-228.
  7. ^ a b Paul Robert Magocsi, ed. (1999) [1998]. Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples. University of Toronto Press. p. 1157. ISBN 978-0-8020-2938-6. OCLC 56300149.
  8. ^ a b Johnston, Hugh, p. 6.
  9. ^ Srivastava, Ram P. (University of Calgary). "Family Organization and Change among the East Indians of British Columbia, Canada." In: Kurian, A. (editor). Family in India: A Regional View. 1972 (The Hague). p. 369-391. CITED: p. 377-378.
  10. ^ a b Johnston, Hugh, p. 7.
  11. ^ a b c Johnston, Hugh, p. 18.
  12. ^ Johnston, Hugh, p. 19.
  13. ^ a b Johnston, Hugh, p. 8-9.
  14. ^ a b Nayar, "Misunderstood in the Diaspora," p. 22-23. "For instance, the World Sikh Organization (WSO) gained control over the Khalsa Diwan Society in South Vancouver, which had previously been run by non-practising ‘comrade’ Sikhs (that is, those who have a Marxist orientation)."
  15. ^ Dusenbery, p. 105.
  16. ^ Johnston, Hugh. p. 5.
  17. ^ Ames, and Inglis, "Conflict and Change in British Columbia Sikh Family Life," p. 20.
  18. ^ "Budh Singh and Kashmir Kaur Dhahan" (Archive). Carleton University. Retrieved on April 13, 2015.
  19. ^ Haar, Kristen and Sewa Singh Kalsi. Sikhism (Religions of the World Series). Infobase Publishing, January 1, 2009. ISBN 1438106475, 9781438106472. p. 86.