4000 Miles to Home: Traditions

May 18, 2015 Bradford Civic Society

4000 Miles to Home: Traditions

Sarwan Singh Kang and extended family, and community members pose for a photo prior to him travelling back to India, outside 190 Gladstone Street.

Community and Tradition

Introduced by Gurj Kang

“The Punjabi community in Bradford tended to congregate together in areas where other Punjabis lived. The community of my Grandparents settled in the Bradford Moor area, moving from Mildred Street to 190 Gladstone Street. The arrival of families and the desire to replicate traditions from India were also increasing, and building close networks made it easier for local services to develop.

“Many of these were built around the originating villages in India, with members of the same village or nearby being treated like extended family. Also, not all families arrived and remained as whole units. Some family elders returned to India to tend to their family and land and businesses, leaving some of their younger members in the care of elders.

Sikh Marriages initiate a meeting, or milni, of the families of the Bride and Groom. As the community started to grow, marriages between the new arrivals in the UK enabled and forced the need for these ceremonies to be held.

Men all approaching and arranging themselves for the Milni. It is important to note their appearance as being Western and the number of males with cut hair. The location of the Milni, is also the use of open outdoor, and undesignated space. Gurdwara’s now, incorporate the space outside worship halls for the ceremony.

“As newer generations settled, the need to marry and extend community became more important. The need to practice the Sikh marriage rights became an important part of the maintenance of identity. Suitable partners were found from India, but as the communities developed and they began seeing their future here, matches were found from within the UK.

Engagements were also something which involved the community at large, and the informal ceremonies and celebrations would occur in people’s homes. This particular picture, showcases the male members of the community, with Sarwan Singh, to the right of the picture in Gladstone Street.

The marriage ceremony taking place in the Gurdwara, which from dimension is an upper floor space, and typically would be a converted house. The Groom who had adapted to British fashions and appearance, now dons a Punjabi Turban. The Turban is a signifier of maturity, and more importantly, an outward symbol of Faith under Sikh orthodoxy.

“The establishment of Gurdwaras in the UK were originally in houses, and then in larger Municipal buildings, including Churches. One of the first Temples in 1964 was at Garnett street, Bradford, and the purpose built one at Malvern Street was created in the early 1970’s, and set up in 1972.

“Many of the pictures indicate the Anglicisation of many of their arrivals, with the adoption of Western dress. For many of the settled young, their identity and need to secure jobs meant that many had foregone the Beard and maintenance of hair or Kesh as a central part of Sikh identity. Within the pictures you will see Grooms maintaining the Daastar or Turban, but being clean shaven.”

The picture here is of an undeveloped negative that had been transposed onto plate glass. The picture is taken from a calendar with Sikh religious art, depicting the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Most homes would have these to serve as their main calendar for all major and religious events, but also to reinforce faith within their identity, and a spiritual focal point in their new journey.

Again, the Groom wears a traditional turban, but is clean shaven as may have been required for him to secure a job role. Here, the traditional Sikh marriage takes place in a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) with the Bridegroom’s Father offering his blessings, but with the new generation settling, it also represents a marriage to the country.

Next time: we look at the achievements of the younger community members in East Bradford.