Sikh community steps up for Oso mudslide victims

MARYSVILLE — The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville has been hosting celebrations every April for 15 years marking the founding of the religion.

They get as many as 500 people from around the state. Cars line both sides of 61st Street NE, east of downtown Marysville, as the temple’s parking lot bursts beyond capacity.

This year’s celebration Sunday had the same huge turnout as always, but with an element not present at any of the others before.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick visited the temple to accept a $4,100 donation to the United Way for victims of the Oso landslide.

The money was a combination of temple funds and donations from visitors to the Vesakhi event, temple president Satwan Singh Pandher said.

Temple members were struck by the sadness of the March 22 tragedy, in which 36 people were confirmed dead and seven still missing as of Sunday, Pandher said.

“We thought, ‘What can we do?’?”

Lovick addressed the group in the worship room of the temple, with scores of Sikhs sitting on the floor, as is the custom — women on one side of the room and men on the other.

Lovick wore a handkerchief on his head in keeping with the Sikh protocol of keeping one’s head covered while in the temple.

“This is so immensely kind of all of you,” he said.

The former county sheriff said he had spent 44 years in public service, 36 of them in law enforcement.

“In my entire life this incident at Oso is one of the most tragic events I have seen,” Lovick said.

However, the love and support shown by the community has been tremendous, he said, “and this is a prime example of that.”

Temple members feel a kinship with the community and county at large, said Pandher, 70.

“We believe in brotherhood, in equality,” he said.

The Marysville temple usually gets about 100 people to its weekly Sunday services, temple secretary Gurbinder Dhaliwal said. The public is invited, with all visitors asked to honor two rules while inside the temple: take off your shoes and cover your head.

The Sikh religion began in India about 500 years ago, Dhaliwal said.

It’s not Hindu or Muslim but its own, separate faith. Unlike Hindus, who honor multiple deities, Sikhs believe in one God, he said.

The Marysville temple is named for the Sikh founder, Guru Nanak, the first in a line of 10 original Sikh gurus. The 10th one, Guru Gobind Singh, wrote the holy book for the faith, titled the Shri Guru Granth Sahib.

At the annual Vesakhi events, which are held at several temples around the region, the holy book is read aloud continuously for 48 hours, beginning Friday. After the reading is finished, on Sunday, the rest of the event includes songs, lectures and food.

“We provide food 24 hours, seven days a week, zero cost,” Dhaliwal said. “Food is always there.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; bsheets@heraldnet.com.

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