This profile was last updated in 2005
Below is a personal and detailed narrative of the researcher’s visit to the Center:
Driving up just before the 11:30 service time posted on the website, this researcher was greeted by a group of bearded and turbaned men eager to welcome visitors inside. The modern and spacious hall, outside painted in the turquoise and orange of the southwest, inside is bustling with people preparing for the service. The building is sparsely decorated, with minimal furniture, but is full of light; the natural light is augmented by dozens of Tiffany-style dragonfly lamps on all the walls. In the prayer hall, three men on a stage sing Punjabi devotional music accompanied by harmonium while the congregation files in. People of all ages walk up to the altar with the Granth Sahib, kneel down and place their heads on the floor, and leave their dollar offering at the altar or with the priest. An elderly couple makes the arduous journey to the floor, creakingly rising and heading to opposite sides of the segregated room. Behind them a young girl eagerly trots up, long hair flowing out below her dupatta, checked by her mother into a more reverential manner. Soon afterwards come two men whose pastel turbans, held on with rubber bands, perfectly match their wives’ salwar kamize. A set of twins come in — one has forgotten her scarf, so is wearing a handkerchief like those worn by some of the short-haired men — and attempt to sit backwards to get a better view of the fair-skinned visitor. The people keep arriving for over an hour, gradually filling the prayer hall while the priest alternates between singing and giving prayers and commentary. Finally, all assembled join in singing a popular devotional song and a song about the ten gurus. All rise for a reading from the Granth Sahib, then lunch is served downstairs. The community members sit in long rows on the floor downstairs with plates in front of them. Some older men and women and many teenagers serve the food, chatting with friends but still attentive and eager to see that everyone is well fed and satisfied. A few members, mostly men, remain for a meeting upstairs, which involves a heated argument about the management of Gurudwara committees and complaints about secrecy within the Gurudwara. Finally resolving their differences, participants adjourn their meeting and join in the end of the meal before going home.
History and Activities
The Sikh Center was founded in 1972 by several Sikh families in Houston, and the building was completed at the end of 1973. Soon afterwards a small school was registered, teaching community children a standard curriculum along with Punjabi and classes on Sikhism and Sikh history, and bringing up children in Sikh traditions. Youth instruction is very important to Houston’s Sikhs. During the week of Christmas, the Center runs a youth camp (parents may also attend). The purpose of the camp is “To explore and develop a keen appreciation and work on understanding the Sikh Way of Life. To use this understanding to become a Sikh with a peer group, network to help as a support group, and develop long lasting and helping friendship.” The camp includes a Human Rights Workshop and programs on Sikh history and religion as well as typical camp activities such as sports and a campfire. The Center runs a free medical clinic open on the first and third Sunday of each month, serving 10-25 patients a week. It is designed to serve uninsured members of the community, and mainly sees immigrant patients. Members of the Center are also active outside the Sikh community, and they have sponsored lunch monthly at the Star of Hope Women and Family Shelter since 1994. Two popular programs run by the Sikh Center are the free computer classes and the Sikh radio program, which broadcasts devotional music and lectures from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. on Sundays on AM 1520.