Sikh Gurudwara and Hindu Temple in one Hall-Room

When in Manila, Sikh Gurudwara and Hindu Temple in one Hall-Room are worth a visit. Take a detour from Makati  and go towards Metro Manila, then turn to the UN avenue.

Perhaps in other parts of the world this happens…but I have never before encountered this kind of physical proximity between the two. One up-lholding the polytheist philsophy, revering ancient scriptures,practicing idol-worship. The other a comparatively new reform religion with monotheist view of the Universe in which idol worship has no place and rituals are so few that the number of followers is decreasing out of boredom.

I dont wonder any more then…why  it felt so good …..(after the initial ‘culture shock’) seeing Guru Granth Sahib  and the statues of the divine couple: Radha and Krishan, enshrined side by side!

In the capital of India, New Delhi you can come across a mandir and a gurudwara not very far from each other, but they never share the same roof. In Bangalore, the cosmopolitan IT capital of India, again you can see a hindu temple in the heart of a neighborhood, and a Mosque at the corner of the main road, facing the direction of Kaaba. People of different religions pray to the God they have signed up with, then depart without as much as a glance towards the ‘neighbor’ Gods.

Like a famous author from the occident said:

  • “You keep your religion, I mine. That is best. Nothing embraces the whole of India, nothing, nothing and that was Akbar’s mistake.”
    - E.M. Forster, A Passage to India, Ch. 14

When in Manila, it changed for me. People like me –who are as such not very religious — and understand spirituality a little better than religion like such unusual places. So this Mandir-Gurudwara combo whips our curiosity,as many other women I have met also aver. It put a smile on our faces after a forty minute drive from Makati. I am not an authority in these matters at all. I will leave the purists to explain the logic and sociology of this rare space-sharing in a foreign country.

What I saw was delightful:

  • Bollywood’s latest movie posters, Indian curry Home Delivery pamphlets, who is getting born, marrying and dying Notices.
  • Fresh Indian grocery sold by Filipinas outside the Temple: Coriander (Wansoi), Sarson-da-saag(mustard leaves), even Methi(fenugreek leaves). Samosa and ladoos in the nearby shop owned by a Pakistani.(after Hindu-sikh unity inside the temple, this is the next step– common kitchen requirements of the Indians and Pakistanis, outside the ‘TEMP-DWARA’ (Sic.)
  • If you climb the stairs to reach the first floor (sanctum santorum), you will be greeted by the holy cow (mother) standing at the doorway of the Gurudwara/temple hall: wearing a red and gold scarf around her neck!

Of course she is a statue, a figurine: but the likeness to a real cow and its presence on the first floor can really take one by surprise. Aha! I said to myself. This is the Pinoy touch to Indian piety. In the Philippines, wherever you go, you’ll find life-like clay-art and statues: from all the important cross-roads to highway restaurants and provincial house-verandahs. Filipinos are more into idols than the devoutest Hindu in India. Pigeons pecking imaginary grain, bronzed bodies of fishermen heaving with their catch in the afternoon sun, Bonafacio urging the masses and pointing with his cane in the direction they should take… you cannot miss this public art wheninmanila!

It is nothing short of a magical art that Philippines puts a love potion even in hostile sea-farers’ coffee and blurs their diffrences.

I sometimes think of inviting EM Forster for tea in Manila and ask him if he would change his statement: ‘East is east, and the west is west. And the twain shall never meet.’ Within neighborhoods people feel the need to chose their godly clubs, once you are thrown outside on rough seas and alien islands…you are plain happy to see a human face and doggy paws.

Philippines too has its own set of religious communites: Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists and RH-bill pros and antis and my perspective is a limited perspective…like all perspectives. But being a student photographer/observer; I would any day buy a good telephoto lens that gives me access to an undistorted expansive landscape than invest in a Wide angle lens that makes closer objects appear larger  than the ones at the rear . Life in Manila (for an expat) is just that broad view, if only we will step our of our individual salons and walk into frames of reference that have multiple focal points instead of  one in a box.


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