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24 September 2014
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PC Harvinder Singh Rai and a colleague at a Sikh temple

Sikhs and the City



There are enough Sikhs in Britain to fill the Royal Albert Hall one hundred times over.


Many wear brightly coloured clothes, play loud sacred music and never cut their hair, yet little is known about their teachings and culture.


Narrated by Goodness Gracious Me star Kulvinder Ghir, Sikhs and the City offers a rare and entertaining day-in-the-life snapshot of one of Britain's biggest, but least understood, faith communities as they celebrate the 400th anniversary of their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.


Striking a balance between a Sikh identity and a British one is an issue that affects scores of Sikhs in western society every day.


Sikhs have a strong moral code and an identity which is exhibited through what are known as the five K's - long hair, a comb, a sword, the wearing of a bangle and a specially-tailored undergarment.


For some this strong identity is at the heart of their Sikhism while others take a more relaxed approach, believing it is what is on the inside that counts.


PC Harvinder Singh Rai, an officer with West Midlands Police, thinks he has got the balance just right: "I am fiercely loyal as an officer to West Midlands Police but I am equally at home with my faith. They are in perfect harmony."


The programme follows PC Rai on his beat as he deals with troublesome schoolchildren and as he gives his fellow officer a taste of the Sikh faith at a local temple.


Radio journalist Sonia Deol's version of Sikhism is far less strict than her mother's. She cuts her hair and wears modern clothes but for her being a good Sikh is all about the values she holds within.


This is also true for Sikh scholar Jeevan Singh Deol, who says his identity is western but his religion is Sikhism.


In contrast Sikh comedian, Sody Singh Kahlon, believes abandoning the Sikh identity is going against the teachings of the faith itself.


For others being a Sikh in modern society doesn't mean abandoning one for the other.


As a 93-year-old marathon runner, Fauja Singh is a traditional Sikh. But he is also a 'poster boy' for the latest Adidas campaign.


The twin artists Amrit and Rabindra Singh reflect in their work the dual cultural heritage that many British Sikhs have grown up with.


The programme also explores the saint-soldier tradition which is at the heart of the faith, the reason why Sikhs carry short swords and why all Sikh men are given the name 'Singh' - meaning lion.


Having started the day at 5.00am with prayers, the programme closes as the Guru Granth Sahib - which is treated as though it were a living guru - is placed tenderly back into its four poster bed for the night.


Sikhs and the City - BBC ONE, Thursday 2 September at 11.30pm (to be confirmed)



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Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 13.08.2004
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