This profile was last updated in 2004
Members of the Sikh Center of San Antonio pride themselves on hospitality, and on welcoming everyone to prayer, regardless of race, caste, gender, religion, or ethnicity. On a Sunday morning, visitors to this suburban gurdwara would be greeted with tabla and harmonium music accompanied by children singing traditional Sikh hymns in Punjabi. Here, over a hundred local Sikhs gather each week, many of them recent arrivals to America. In 2006, members celebrated the 400th anniversary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy scripture. In 2013, the Sikh Center of San Antonio held a 6K walk in remembrance of the first anniversary of the Oak Creek shooting at a gurdwara in Wisconsin. Community members and civic leaders came together to express their continued support for Sikhs in San Antonio.
The size of the Sikh community of San Antonio ranges anywhere from 80 to 100 Sikh families; many have been in the United States less than fifteen years. For some time, local Sikhs circulated from private home to private home to worship. That changed in 2001 when community members pooled their resources to purchase the San Antonio Sikh Center, a spacious gurdwara on Hollyhock road. Today, 60 to 70 families worship here each Sunday, with several men gathering every morning for the early parkash that takes place in the main prayer hall. The once simple household prayer services have now been transformed into a colorful, crowded affair that stretches well into the afternoon with traditional Punjabi music, readings from scripture, and a communal langar meal. Sunday school classes on Sikh rituals and traditions are also held in the afternoon.
Activities and Schedule
Every morning, parkash is held from 6:30 to 8:00 am. Each evening, kirtan is held from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. The Sunday program begins early and continues all day with the Gurmukhi and Punjabi reading classes being held from 10 to 11 am, followed by the kirtan of Katha Bhaj Ranjit Singh Ji, and Ardas Sangat at noon. Young Sikhs join in to celebrate at 12:30. The service is followed by a langar meal, served in the hall adjacent to the main prayer hall. Visitors are strongly encouraged to attend this meal, where over a hundred Sikhs sit side by side on the floor, representing humility and total equality. On Saturday evening, there are kirtan classes for the local Sikh community.
The Sikh Center is located on Hollyhock Road in a quiet suburban neighborhood. The gurdwara appears much like a house from the outside, but upon entering, the visitor may encounter some one hundred Sikhs, with women wearing bright scarves and men wearing a dastaar (turban). They gather in the main prayer hall, men seated on the right side and women on the left, all facing the Guru Granth Sahib which is kept under a canopy. Following the service, a procession will take the Guru Granth Sahib from the main prayer hall to a room with a pillowed bed.
In addition to a prayer hall, there is a large kitchen where Sikhs gather and cook the langar meal, a Sikh tradition initiated by Guru Nanak who recognized the need for his visitors to be provided with food. The communal meal came to be known as Guru-ka-langar. At the San Antonio Sikh Center, this meal is eaten while everyone is seated on the floor of a large banquet hall, and on any given Sunday young Sikhs serving everyone from huge basins.
Almost all of the families who attend the Sikh Center come from the Punjab region. The languages spoken at the gurdwara are Punjabi and English.