King Charles joins sangat in kirtan, langar at gurdwara

LONDON: King Charles’ visit to a newly built gurdwara in Luton has been hailed as historic and highly significant as it was the first time a British head of state sat on the floor and listened to a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib. It was also the first time that a British head of state walked in and left with live kirtan playing.
“He may have sat on the floor when he was a prince, but it is very different when a head of state does it. It could not have been more respectful of Sikh faith,” said Gurch Randhawa, a member of the Sangat who is also deputy lieutenant for Bedfordshire, who hosted the King’s visit at Guru Nanak Gurdwara Luton.
“The late Queen was always respectful of the gurdwaras on her many visits, but never sat on the floor, as far as I am aware, in her long reign. Here, the whole royal itinerary was unique. The King entered a religious service and sat and listened while the Guru Granth Sahib was read and left while the kirtan was playing. That is historic and a first. The whole time he was inside he wasn’t treated differently and just because the King walked in, the service did not get paused. At no point did he ask us to pause anything we were doing,” he said.
Dressed in a ramaal, the King used the Sat Sri Akal hand gesture to acknowledge the congregation and the holybook. “For a king to sit for prayers in a non-Church of England space to me is amazing and highly significant,” Randhawa said.
The Guru Nanak Gurudwara in Luton opened its current purpose-built building in December 2021 by community donations. It had previously operated out of a former school building on the same site. “He genuinely was respectful of our faith and people were extremely humbled by the head of state sitting on the floor in the Darbar Sahib alongside 500 other people. It gave people confidence that he is compassionate and empathetic of different faiths. ”
The King spent an hour at the gurudwara where he met the men and women serving and eating langar, the volunteers from the Luton Soup Sikh kitchen which feeds people of all faiths and ethnicities, the doctors who ran the pop-up Covid clinic which is now evolved into wellbeing clinic, and the Sikh children learning Punjabi and different musical instruments. He also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit.
“He asked to meet different voluntary projects and took such keen interest in them it was all really endearing. He arrived at lunchtime and met a group of people eating langar and popped over and said ‘Hello: I hope I am not disturbing your lunch’. He showed a deep interest in instruments the children were playing and asked them to play one. I thought he was really humble. He asked lots of questions about Sikhi. He was genuinely interested in all community projects and why we are so keen to help people and I explained the principles of the Sikh faith,” Randhawa said.

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