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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sikh temple to open doors in Chesapeake by year's end

Release Date: July 15th, 2006
News Source: The Virginian-Pilot

By JANETTE RODRIGUES, The Virginian-Pilot
Last updated: 11:06 PM

CHESAPEAKE - By the end of the year, the first Sikh temple in Hampton Roads should be open for worship.

The Guru Nanak Foundation of Tidewater is building a 7,000-square-foot temple on nearly 3 acres on Finck Lane, off Great Bridge Boulevard near the interchange of Interstate 464 and I-64. The group broke ground last April.

About 15 years in the making, the temple will cost upwards of $800,000 to complete, foundation members said Friday. The spiraling price of gasoline and petroleum-based products is affecting building costs.

A small, close-knit community of fewer than 100 families, the majority of Sikhs in the region live in Chesapeake and the surrounding South Hampton Roads cities, said Dr. Baljit Singh Gill, a Yorktown psychiatrist and group member.

Initially, the foundation planned to purchase a church and convert it. But the group never was able to find something suitable, "so we ultimately decided to buy the land and build a temple," Gill said.

The foundation chose the Chesapeake site because it is centrally located for most members and just off the highway. Group members said it was difficult to find affordable, open land in the region.

The city also seems welcoming, said Gill, an associate professor of psychiatry at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton.

"A lot of people who live in this area are from the military, and have traveled abroad, and are more accepting of other cultures," he said.

The temple will be a simple building with a large assembly hall, smaller rooms for study groups and two bulb-shaped domes, Gills aid.

When it opens, it will be only the sixth Sikh temple in Virginia.

# Reach Janette Rodrigues at 757-222-5208 or janette.rodrigues@pilotonline.com.

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