The Festival of Baisakhi

Baisakhi is a joyous festival that takes place at the time of the traditional spring harvest in Punjab. In addition to the usual rites that take place at the gurdwara, Baisakhi is also the time of year when Sikhs raise the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag. In the United States, the festival is usually the best attended event of the year, so events such as “taking amrit” (electing gurdwara officials) often coincide with Baisakhi.... Read more about The Festival of Baisakhi

The Guru Granth Sahib

The Guru Granth SahibThe Guru Granth Sahib is the authoritative sacred text for Sikhs. It contains 3,000 hymns in various languages, with authors from multiple religious traditions. These hymns are sung during worship services held at the gurdwara, where the Guru Granth Sahib is displayed. The Guru Granth Sahib is itself considered the living Sikh guru, the final central authority over the Sikh community.... Read more about The Guru Granth Sahib

Langar: The Communal Meal

Langar: The Communal MealLangar is the communal meal shared by all who come to the gurdwara, and it has been a part of Sikh community since the time of Guru Nanak. Attendees all sit at an equal level on the floor and eat the same food, prepared in the same pots. In this way, langar serves as a ritualistic expression of the equality of all humans.... Read more about Langar: The Communal Meal

The Five K’s

The Five KsThe Five K’s are the markers of Sikh identity, and they consist of: uncut hair, a short sword or knife, a steel wristband, a wooden comb, and shorts worn as an undergarment. The observance of the Five K’s was originally the mark of the Khalsa. However, many Sikhs keep these distinctive emblems of Sikh identity without having been initiated into the Khalsa. The Five K’s continually remind Sikhs of the ethical and spiritual implications of aligning one’s life with truth.... Read more about The Five K’s

Kirtan: Singing God’s Praise

KirtanKirtan means “singing the praises of God.” Most of the kirtans sung by Sikhs are shabads from the Guru Granth Sahib. The shabads are set to traditional musical scales called ragas. During kirtan services, the granthi, the appointed reader of the Guru Granth Sahib, leads the community in the shabad.... Read more about Kirtan: Singing God’s Praise

Taking Amrit: Initiation

Taking AmritEstablished by the tenth guru, taking amrit is the initiation ceremony that allows Sikhs to become members of the Khalsa. Amrit means immortal nectar and refers to the bowl of sugar water that is prayed over and stirred throughout the ceremony by five members of the Khalsa. At the end, the initiate drinks the amrit, which is then sprinkled on the initiate’s hair and face. Upon completion of the ceremony, the initiate becomes a member of the Khalsa.... Read more about Taking Amrit: Initiation

The Gurdwara

The GurdwaraThe gurdwara is a meeting place for Sikhs that houses the Sikh sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib and serves as a place of worship, community, and education for Sikhs. In the last three decades, Sikhs have built many new, grand gurdwaras for growing communities.... Read more about The Gurdwara

Assimilation: California Farmers

Assimilation CA FarmersIn the face of discriminatory measures and the end of Punjabi immigration, many American Sikh men began assimilating with the various peoples throughout the American West Coast, specifically Mexicans. As intermarriage occurred, these newly blended families brought together both Sikh and Catholic identities. Many of the children of these intermarriages were raised within Spanish-speaking, Mexican Catholic communities.... Read more about Assimilation: California Farmers

The New Immigration: Reconstituting the Community

The New ImmigrationAfter World War II, new immigration legislation began allowing Indians to enter the United States, first in limited numbers in 1947, then in larger numbers when in 1965 national-origins quotas were eliminated entirely. As new Sikh immigrants set down roots in America, Sikh expression and identity was reconstituted along more traditional and orthodox lines. Negotiating a Sikh identity involved, for the most part, a return to a more traditional form of Sikhism as the newcomers became actively involved in the old gurdwaras.... Read more about The New Immigration: Reconstituting the Community

The Sikh Community Today

The Sikh Community TodayThe Sikh community in the United States has continued to grow and put down roots across the entirety of the United States. Sikhs are active members of civic service and advocacy projects while they continue efforts to maintain their distinctive religious traditions, such as teaching Punjabi to children and wearing the five K’s.... Read more about The Sikh Community Today

The Ghadar Party: Freedom for India

The Ghadar PartyThe Ghadar Movement was formed in 1913 by expatriate Punjabis in the United States with shared leadership from Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims. The goal of the movement was to assist in overthrowing British colonial rule in India. The publicity that the group attracted in the United States was used as further justification for anti-Asian discrimination and suspicion.... Read more about The Ghadar Party: Freedom for India

The American “Cousins”

The American cousinsIn the late 1960s, Yogi Bhajan arrived in the United States and shortly after began the 3HO movement, an acronym for the Happy, Healthy, and Holy Organization and now called Sikh Dharma. The movement is a syncretic form of Sikhism and other religious traditions that has attracted many non-Punjabi Americans. There are currently hundreds of 3HO centers throughout the United States.... Read more about The American “Cousins”

Bhagat Singh Thind: Citizen or Alien?

Bhagat Singh Thind: Citizen or Alien?One of the major legislative tests of eligibility for citizenship was the case of Bhagat Singh Thind, a Punjabi who had come to the U.S. in 1913. He had been granted a certificate of naturalization but it was later contested. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that Bhagat Singh Thind was not white and therefore his citizenship was revoked. As a result of the ruling, the Justice Department began proceedings to de-naturalize Sikhs who had already obtained citizenship. Since Sikhs were no longer considered citizens, they were not allowed to own land.... Read more about Bhagat Singh Thind: Citizen or Alien?

First Arrivals

First ArrivalsSikhs first arrived in the United States by way of Vancouver in the first decade of the 20th century. Most Sikhs at this time settled in California and worked as manual laborers. In 1912, the first gurdwara in the United States was opened in Stockton, California.... Read more about First Arrivals