Sunday, 24 April 2011

National Sikh memorial plans passed

The world's first dedicated Sikh memorial is to be built in Derby to represent the millions of Sikhs who died in six holocausts – and both World Wars.

Planning permission was granted by Derby City Council to build the National Sikh Holocaust and Shaheedi Memorial in the city, which the Sikh community says is “unique” and the first of its kind worldwide.

The 7.2 metre high, 13 metres wide memorial made from granite and sandstone, will be built close to the National Sikh Heritage Centre in Derby, where a museum dedicated to Sikh culture opened two years ago. The memorial will also highlight the huge contribution of Sikhs in the UK – 83,000 Sikhs died in the World Wars and a further 109,000 were injured.

Gurmel Singh, one of the volunteers who helped set up the museum, says that funding for the £1million memorial will come entirely from charitable donations from the Sikh community locally and nationally.

“This memorial is going to have a lot of interest around the world,” he said. “It will be really high profile. It is hoped that as member of the Royal Family will formally open the memorial next year".

The memorial will be made of white stone, white granite, black granite and sandstone. People will enter the memorial through a fully-lit, ornate archway which will signify the victory of Sikhs. There will be eight steps up to a water feature. Each step sill signify invasions on Sri Harimandir Sahib, the golden temple in the Punjab.

“We are a community which hasn’t healed,” said Mr Singh. “The Jewish community has gone some way to heal, but we feel our story hasn’t been told. We haven’t had any closure and this is why we are having this memorial".

Mr Singh is working with Notts-based Morgan Tucker, consulting engineers, which will design and manage the construction of the memorial from a range of different stone types – each with a specific meaning.

The black Chattri – which means ‘umbrella’ – will mark millions of Sikh victims of the six holocausts. The white Chattri will mark the memory of all Shaheeds – those who died protecting their countries and families - and those who gave up their lives during campaigns for freedom and justice, said Mr Singh.

The memorial will be entirely funded by the Sikh community – and will be built by volunteers of the community.

“Politics come into this memorial,” said Mr Singh. “Nothing like this has been built in India and there are political reasons for this. The memorial will tell the Sikh story. We have a history which we must be remembered.

“Over history, there have been many attempts to irradiate Sikhs or see off a large number of people. Sikh people have been victims of genocide and have died in many struggles. In the Sikh world, no-one has been commemorated".

The memorial will be north Indian in style and modern, said Matthew Tucker of Morgan Tucker.

“We are delighted to be working with the Sikh community on this memorial. It will be ornate and beautiful and close to the Gurdwara. We anticipate that people want to visit this memorial from all over the world. The combined museum and heritage centre and memorial will put Derby on the world stage".

work is expected to start on site towards the end of summer, said Mr Tucker, with the memorial completed later in 2011. DW Windsor prepared the lighting scheme for the memorial.

Mr Singh added: “This will be very much a Sikh community project. We are on a fundraising campaign for the memorial and have had a number of voluntary contributions. We are getting a large number of young people involved who are interested in their heritage and have offered their skills for free when it comes to the building of the memorial".

Frank McArdle, who is chief executive of the neighbouring authority, is patron to The National Sikh Heritage Centre and Holocaust Museum.

He said: “I am convinced that this is an excellent opportunity to promote community cohesion in and around the city of Derby and South Derbyshire.

“This will be a beacon which will help promote Derby as a destination for Sikhs from all over the world for many years to come".

UK exterior lighting specialist DW Windsor carried out the detailed lighting plans for the scheme.

Asianimage.co.uk, Friday 22nd April 2011

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