Imagine being a Christian and living in a city without a church, or a Muslim without a mosque.
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This is the plight of the Sikh community in Dubbo who are making do without a gurdwara.
The absence of a place of worship is the "number one" reason why Sikhs don't settle permanently in the region, Dubbo Sikh Association president Sandeep Singh Garcha said.
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"It's hard because we all [would like] to go to a Sikh temple, it doesn't matter if it's once a week or once a day," Mr Garcha said.
"It's also a place to socialise, when you are away from home, away from your country.
"After our ceremonies, people get to talk to each other and extend their social circle," he said.
With one of the largest religious followings in the world, the Sikhs have a long and storied history. They descended from warriors in the Indian subcontinent with tenets like service, selflessness, equality and tolerance.
Those principles were on display during the destructive Lismore floods in 2022 when Sikhs drove from Melbourne to NSW to feed flood-affected people home-cooked vegetarian food.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported, since 2000, India had overtaken China as the country where most permanent migrants in Australia come from.
India also became the top country of birth for people living in the Dubbo postcode, overtaking England, in the latest Census.
While many have moved to Dubbo for the country lifestyle, the Sikh community feels a gurdwara (Sikh temple) would complete their lives here.
Having a place to honour their history, their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, and a granthi (ceremonial reader) would help them truly keep their faith. The community also hopes to educate their children about the roots of their religion.
"The opportunity to keep our younger generation connected to our religion... would be awesome," Mr Garcha said.
Coping with real estate prices to buy land for the gurdwara has been a challenge for the community. The Dubbo Sikh Association was only established in 2021 and with most board members working full time, they have not yet found a way to fund the temple.
"Once we settle in a bit more and get more experience, we want to see if there are any community grants available for us," Mr Garcha said.
A Sikh temple in Dubbo would be the first in the Central West NSW. Until then, the closest ones are in Sydney or the Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Griffith.
"We need help and would greatly appreciate it, but we will continue what we're doing. Day by day we are moving towards our goal. One day, we will definitely reach it with the grace of God," Mr Garcha said.
For now, the community of about 150 people meet at Wesley Hall on Carrington Avenue every fortnight. Mr Garcha was grateful to Raelene Burn from Dubbo's Uniting Church for booking the hall for them a year in advance.
The spiritual ceremonies are led with prayer then singing and praising God. At the end, people proceed to the langar where free food prepared by some members is served to all who attend. People of all religions, ethnicities and genders are welcome to attend their gatherings.
"We welcome all human beings with open arms," Mr Garcha said.
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