Sikh Awareness Month in California

A Sikh overlooking the Golden Temple in Amritsar

In September, the state assembly passed a historic measure declaring November to be Sikh Awareness Month for the 250,00 strong Sikh community in California. Today marks the first day of cultural events all across the state.

The resolution (ACR 181) was moved by Assemblyman Dan Logue (Republican), was passed unanimously by the state assembly Sept 1, and announced to the Sikh community of Yuba City. Yuba City (an hour north of Sacramento) is considered to be the first Punjabi village in North America and has the largest concentration of direct descendants from India since 1870.  Sikh owned family farms (in Sutter County alone) account for as much as 95% of peach farming, 60% of all prune farming, and 20% of all almond and walnut production.

This is the first such resolution passed by the California assembly to recognize the contribution of any immigrant group in the state and considering I’m a Sikh I wanted to shed light on some misconceptions and hope to educate you on what exactly being a Sikh is.

When asked what I am and what religion I belong to I always get blank stares. Sikhism isn’t common. As mentioned earlier there’s only 250,000 us in existence here in California so we’re easily lumped into a mass category of Indians or considered Hindu. That’s like saying all Hispanics are Mexicans when that simply isn’t the case. The religion of Sikhism was founded in the 15th century based on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and is the 5th largest organized religion in the world.  We believe in one God and believe in salvation via deep meditation meaning there is no concept of Heaven or Hell just reincarnation. God is not considered male or female but merely a presence or “without form.” To reach God one must seek him from within at a subconscious level.

Sikhs are not related to Hinduism. There are several Hindu Sikhs but only because they are from mixed religions. Our language is Punjabi and most Sikhs reside or descend from northwestern India in a state known as Punjab. There is also a difference between Hindu and Hindi. Hindi is a language and Hindu is a person belonging to the religion of Hinduism. The two shouldn’t be confused however Sikhs are fine with being called Punjabi even though it’s a language.

Sikh Awareness Month is a huge milestone for our small community in California. If you happen to know a Sikh, I hope you’ve left here a little more enlightened about their background and religion or will join them in celebrating this month. I’m proud to be a Sikh and excited about this month.

Image source and more info about Amritsar and the Golden Temple.

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