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'Ik Onkar' sculpture to be unveiled in a public space in Australia for the first time

Iqbal Singh Gill has made sculptures about Sikh history and culture for many gurdwaras around the world, including neighbouring New Zealand. He has sculpted the symbol 'Ik Onkar' which translates to 'There is only one God' for Australia as well.

On the occasion of Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary, Australia's small town of Bendigo will get the Sikh symbol, 'Ik Onkar' in a public park dedicated to universal peace. This sculpture was made to order by Iqbal Singh Gill from Punjab in India. 

The symbol will be unveiled in Bendigo's Great Stupa of Universal Compassion on November 12, the day on which the birthday of the first Guru of the Sikhs falls this year.

It's installation has been made possible through the efforts of Melbourne-based Mr Sukhwant Singh, Dr Supriya Singh, Dr Gurdarshan Singh, Piara Singh and the Victorian Sikh Gurduaras Council (VSGC). Mr Sukhwant Singh was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition and had commissioned sculptor Iqbal Singh Gill create the sacred symbol. The project has taken well over a year to complete.

With this, this small town in regional Victoria becomes the first place in Australia to house 'Ik Onkar', a symbol from the Sikh religion that represents divine unity. 

Speaking to SBS Punjabi from his art workshop in his village Manuke Gill, about 200 km from Chandigarh, Mr Gill says that although he has created several artworks for gurdwaras the world over, this one is special for him.

"I'm thankful to God and those in Australia who thought this task should be assigned to us at for the reason that this piece of art is being installed on the grand occasion of Guru Nanak's 550th birth celebrations," says Mr Gill, who was recently on a visit to Australia to participate in the Sydney Sculpture Conference 2019.

Weighing 200 kg, this sculpture is handmade by Mr Gill and his team of nearly 20 sculptors.

Made of carbon fibre, this 'Ik Onkar' symbol was sent to Australia from India by ship.

"The organisers and architects were constantly in touch with us by way of video calls," says Mr Gill, recounting the hard work that went into making this sculpture.

He elaborates that the base of the sculpture has been made much heavier than the top for stability.

"We have stuck the top of the sculpture into a borewell-kind of a cavity which is rested on a heavy base so that it can withstand the extreme variations in weather conditions: from torrential rains to gusty winds," adds Mr Gill, who has also made a sculpture for Gurdwara Kalgidhar Sahib, Tauranga in neighbouring New Zealand.

gill
Right: Mr Gill working on the sculpture with his team.
Supplied

"We specialise in artwork related to Sikh history and culture. We get orders for gumbad (domes) for gurdwaras overseas, amongst statues that represent our cultural ethos," adds Mr Singh who belongs to an agricultural family and rebelled against his parents to take up art as a profession. 

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this interview in Punjabi.

Please Note: SBS Punjabi team will bring you live coverage of the unveiling of the sculpture in Bendigo on November 12.

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