The Bhat Sikh community has for years been associated with the establishment, construction and running of Gurdwaras. In Sialkot, the historical Gurdwara of Guru Nanak, Gurdwara Baoli Sahib was maintained by Bhats for years prior to partition in 1947, whilst in the 1930s Dr Kartar Singh Bance and his brother Gyani Preetam Singh researched and located the site of Gurdwara Rehta Sahib in Uttar Pradesh, where Guru Nanak miraculously made the normally bitter fruit of a soapnut tree sweet for Bhai Mardana to feed on. There now stands a large Gurdwara at this place.

The first and only Gurdwara when the Bhat Sikhs began arriving to Britain in the 1920’s was the ‘Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala’, which was founded with the generous donation of Maharajah Bhupinder Singh in 1911. Originally in Putney, the Gurdwara moved to 79 Sinclair Road, Shepherds Bush, London in 1913. The Bhats being the majority community played a big part in its running and the famous photograph of the 1938 gathering at the Dharamsala shows the predominant Bhat Sikh Community present at the time.
Members of the Early Bhat Sikh Community at Shepherds Bush Gurdwara,London, 1938
Members of the Early Bhat Sikh Community
at Shepherds Bush Gurdwara,London, 1938
The Sehajdhari Sikh at the far top with his head covered is Shaheed Udham Singh, who stayed among the Bhat Sikh community during his stay in England, and many elder Sikhs still remember him. The turban that Udham Singh wore is still in the hands of a Bhat Sikh family in England today. The Bhat Sikh gentleman standing next to Udham Singh, was Saudagar Singh, an early pedlar, a close friend of Udham Singh’s who spent much time pedaling with him before the shooting at Caxton Hall where Udham Singh shot dead Sir Michael O’Dwyer.
Vijaya Lakshmi (sister of Pandit Nehru) visiting
the Gurdwara at 15 Monton Street, Manchester, 1954.
As a very orthodox community, their first duty after settling into a new place of residence was to set up a darbar for the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as soon as possible. At first, the room in a Sikh house would be used until such time the community was big enough to afford a house or building for use as a temple. Such cases where, in Birmingham where a Bhat Sikh used his house for early congregations before there was any Gurdwara in Birmingham. There were similar cases for Cardiff (Harnam Singh Koumi‘s house), Manchester (Bhil Singh Landa’s house), and Ipswich (Narinjan Singh Lovlee‘s house). Early Bhats Sikhs of Birmingham recall how the first Karah Prasad in Birmingham was made in 1938.
Post-war Britain
The partition of the Punjab, gave the Bhat Sikh Community a greater reason to migrate to Britain, as many had already visited England and had their feet firmly established here. By the late 1940’s and 1950 the Bhats were settled in all the major town and cities in Britain, including Cardiff, Bristol, Ipswich, Peterborough, Doncaster, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Middlesborough, Southampton, Portsmouth and Manchester.
Master Tara Singh at Monton Street Gurdwara, Manchester, 1954
There had even been a makeshift Gurdwara in Birmingham founded by the Bhat Sikhs during the Second World War as the Guru Granth Sahib at the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala was removed by President Dr Diwan Singh due to the air bombings in London. A house belonging to Sant Singh Pardesi, at 8 Belgrave Road, Balsall Heath Birmingham 12, was converted to a Gurdwara for the duration of the War. A weekly deewan began at Belgrave Road every Sunday. Religious and social issues were also discussed, and after a collection was made, a Nishan Sahib was erected outside, and was named ‘Gurdwara Guru Nanak Mission Centre.’ All Akhand Paths and Gurprubs were held here, and langar was still served there for a full three days during prayers, even though a ration system was in place because of the war.
Scotland’s first Gurdwara at 79 Portland Street, Glasgow, 1954
The Bhats Sikhs were responsible for opening the first Gurdwaras in Britain’s major towns and cities, such Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Ipswich, Cardiff, Preston, Portsmouth and Southampton. Today, some of these town and cities have many flourishing Gurdwaras.
Bristol’s First Gurdwara, Guru Nanak Prakash, opened in 1956
Harbans Singh’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Sikhism’ mentions ‘The Bhatras were first to get a Gurdwara registered in England, in 1953 in Manchester, and many of the total number of the Gurdwaras in England are Bhatra Gurdwaras‘.
Opening of East London’s first Gurdwara at
Campbell Road, Bow. 1959
Although the East End of London’s Sikh community was the earliest in Britain, it was not until 1959 that the first Gurdwara was founded in the area. This was partly due to the fact that the community was served by the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala in Central London and later also by the Gurdwara in Gravesend. As the East End community expanded and moved further eastwards towards Stepney, Bethnal Green, and Mile End, there became an increasing need for a more local and conveniently located place of worship. During the late 1950’s the Sikh community had gathered at weekly prayers at St Nicholas Church in Stepney. In 1959, the Bhat Sikhs purchased 1a Campbell Road in Bow, and the ‘Gurdwara Sikh Sangat’ was founded. Here the combined communities congregated until the Ramgarhia Gurdwara was established at Forest Gate, and ‘Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar’ in East Ham. ‘Gurdwara Sikh Sangat’ moved to much larger premises in 1979, at the former ‘Mile End & Bow District Synagogue’ on Harley Grove.