Group Six: Sikhism
Valini Rohit, Dalya Arussy, Karla Padawer Solomon
Sikh Center, Flushing NY
- don’t smoke, drink, or eat meat
- Holidays: (birthdays of the 10 gurus)
- Khalsa Vasaki (April 14th)- 10th guru- created khalsa panth
Services: Sunday 10-4
Part 1: Sukhma Sahib prayer
- 13 women sit by 4 microphones in the front left corner, facing front
- single woman (switch off between paragraphs) says a sentence in Punjabi and others respond with a rhyme
- men and women scattered behind them (men on the left and women on right) also responding with heads bowed
- man with turban waves staff with long feathers at the end over the covered Granth Sahib at the altar (switch off men)
- everyone who enters the sanctuary first kisses the carpet, then proceeds to the white line in the center and walk to the altar (single file) and bend down on knees and again kiss the floor- they then circle the altar and sit down on their respective sides
- women who were by the microphones move to the right
- priest (dressed in all white) reads into the microphone in an animated tone as everyone listens
- priest moves to the left of the altar and continues reading there while a man waves the feathers over the Granth Sahib
- women dressed in traditional Punjabi garb and cover heads with a scarf
- men wear turbans or bandanas on their head
- men wear traditional Punjabi garb (all white) or t-shirts and jeans or a button-down shirt and suit pants
- built in 1972
- 1500 congregants- mainly from Queens (Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights, Fresh Meadows, Bayside, Astoria, Woodside), but on the weekends get some people from the Bronx
- opens at 4 am for morning prayer and closes at 9 pm after evening prayer
- 2 locations, under 1 management (President: Hardev Singh Padda)- 38-17 Parsons Blvd Flushing; 222-31 96th Ave Queens Village
- looking to expand the building to fit all the congregants
- includes rooms for people who need a place to sleep, provide monetary support for those in need (volunteers rack up funds)
- includes a free Sat/Sun school with 60 kids- learn Punjabi
- sanctuary hosts services, wedding, birthdays followed by eating downstairs
- 5 Sikh Centers in Queens- tend to go the one nearest them
- according to Mr. Padda, the population hasn’t change too much in the past 25 yrs- the amount stays about the same (+/- 100 each yr) and when members start to make more money, they move away
- free meals for all (regardless of religion) every day- 100% vegetarian
- meals cooked on site by volunteers (have other jobs)
- materials donated by individuals (bring bags of food when they enter the sanctuary and leave it by the altar where it is taken by another man who brings it downstairs to be cooked)
- immigrants from Punjab, India (younger members are 1st generation Americans)
- many attend only on Sat/Sun
- work mainly in construction, taxi drivers
- all children continue on to college and starting to pursue other careers
- came alone to NY in 1998; knew someone in Astoria who told him about the center; slept in an upstairs room at the center, received free food, helped him find a job through networking
- college students; here 11 yrs; lived in Jackson Heights, then moved to Bayside
- President Hardev Singh Padda; immigrated to CA in 1984 and moved to NY 2 yrs later; moved around jobs a lot (that’s what brought him to NY); friend helped him find a job; director of Pardes News
Sikh Day Parade:
- on the day the culture was born (April 30th)
- marchers are members of sikh centers from different states
- Granth Sahib is present on a float
- float commemorating the 1984 attack on Sikhs
Karla’s Proposal for Sikh Page Content:
Sikhism in 2 Minutes (summary of basics of Sikhism – who are the founders, what does the religion endorse, represent, stand for, what are the holidays, locations where Sikhism is practiced) – info gotten from basic sources, not having to do with Sikh Center
Sikh Center Overview –
History (basically the info under “institution” above)
what to wear? tab – pictures of sari and turban
What to eat? We should have pictures and a glossary of the food you can find at langar (puri, sambar, aloo gobi, aloo mattar, upathaam, etc. YUMMY) – it will add flavor to the site, pardon the pun
Congregants (info under “institution” above)
2 Field Studies: Dalya’s visit to Sukhma Sahib prayer, Valini’s visit (assuming she is going?) to the Sikh Day Parade
Karla’s Notes from Visit #1:
Sikhs pray (prayer is called Gurmuki in Punjab) twice a day – morning and evening. Men and women of all ages cover their hair – genders stay separate during prayer. Holy book does not claim to contain revelation from G-d, contains Sikh founders’ and followers’ discussions about G-d. Temple built after immigrants came in response to community need for temple. Didn’t the priest say there were around 2000 congregants? That’s what I wrote down
I could find absolutely no news articles on the internet related to this temple – that’s why I proposed what I did, I think it’s the best we can do with what we have. Thoughts, anyone?
Part 2: Sikhism 101
The religion of Sikhism is 540 years old. Guru Nanak Dev who directly received inspiration from G-d founded Sikhism. There have been ten Gurus in all. The last Guru was Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh wrote down all the teachings of the Guru’s thereby eliminating the need for a future Guru. The Sikh Scripture is known as Shabad Guru (Divine Word). The Scripture is considered a Guru itself so Sikhs now call it Guru Grant Sahib.
They believe in only One G-d and meditate on Him. Sikhism places emphasis on living a truthful life filled with fearlessness and humility. There is also no racial or class discrimination. They believe men and women are equal before G-d. Therefore, women should be respected. Sikhs are stressed to maintain good physical and mental health. The Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev was the first Matyr of India. He built the Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple). The Golden Temple is open to anyone. Sikh families around the world can also borrow the holy book in the temple for a time.
Sikhs believe sins can be forgiven by singing the Divine Name. They believe that once you forget the Holy Name you are tempted to sin
Sikhs do not accept pessimism but advocate optimism. Sikhs must stay away from all forms of intoxication to the body like alcohol or tobacco. They also must not trim hair from any part of the body
Sikh’s are represented by five symbols, known as the Five K’s or Kakars. They are:
Kesh (long uncut hair)
Kara (steel bracelet)
Kachhera (pair of shorts)
All of these symbols serve as a reminder of their code of conduct or truthful living significant to Sikhs.
Amrit is a Sikh Baptism were someone promises to adhere to the faith, get the Guru’s blessing, and joining the Sikh Commonwealth. Another important ceremony for the Sikh’s is Namkaran (Naming of the child). A boys middle name is automatically “Singh,” which means “Lion.” A girl’s middle name is automatically “Kaur,” which means “Princess.”
Dastar Bandi is a ceremony where a boy about 12 years old ties a turban to cover the hair on his head. The turban represents a crown given to him by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It is a sign that he is a Sikh and dedicated to the values upheld by his religion and a form of commitment to his religion.
Anand Karaj (a blissful affair) is the name of their marriage ceremony. Rasam Bhog is the name of their death ceremony. When someone dies they are cremated. Cremation purifies the dead body and it is a clean way to dispose of a dead body.
The following is the usual daily routine of a Sikh:
They begin the day by waking up before sunrise and taking a bath. Afterwards, they meditate on the Name of G-d and recite five specific meditations or Banis. In the evening they recite two more specific meditations then retire to bed. Prayers or Ardas are said after Banis and both are said before doing work or eating.
End of Part 2
Part 3: Sikh Center Histoy:
The Sikh Center in Flushing was built in 1972. It currently hosts about 1500 congregants that mainly travel from all over Queens to attend services. The Center was built following an influx of Sikh immigrants from the Punjab region of India. Even today, most of its congregants are from Punjab and don’t speak English. However, some of its younger members now are first generation Americans. Many of the congregants work hard as construction workers or taxi drivers (blue collar jobs?) in the hopes that their children will go to college and move on to successful careers, which they often do.
The Sikh Center contains a sanctuary that hosts services, weddings, and other celebrations. The Center’s busiest prayer days are Saturday and Sunday, although it is open every day for individual prayer. It has a volunteer-run kitchen that provides langar, or free food, to visitors. The volunteers who cook in the kitchen prepare 100% vegetarian food using cooking utensils and ingredients from individual donors. The langar kitchen is open for anyone to come in and eat. The Center’s volunteers also run a charity collection. Approximately sixty children currently learn Punjabi at the Sikh Center’s free Saturday/Sunday school.
The Center serves its community not only as a religious and community service center, but it also helps Sikh immigrants network and find employment. It is one of five Sikh Centers in Queens. The Sikh Center’s President for the last twenty-five years, President Hardev Singh Padda, reported that he hopes to expand the building to be able to accommodate its congregants’ needs. It seems to be a place that takes care of its members and reflects the values of Sikhism in its services.
END OF PART 3
The Sikh Center of NY is a very welcoming community that clearly demonstrates its religious values. Both the building itself and the people within it provide resources for the public and reflect the Sikh belief that all humans are creations of God who are to be respected. With its roots in Punjab, India, this Flushing community consists of mostly immigrants who speak broken, if any, English. Therefore, although they were eager to help us with our research, the language barrier limited their ability to do so. Nonetheless, through brief conversations with younger members and the president of the Sikh Center, as well as a lot of observation, we were able to learn more about Sikhism and the kind of community it has created in Flushing.
The Center has created an ethnic enclave for the immigrant Punjabis. It is a place where tradition is not only practiced, but also taught. Part of that tradition is the Punjabi language, which the Sikh Center teaches in a free Saturday/Sunday school. One of the central traditions of Sikhism is the idea that we are creations of God and should look out for each other. With rooms for the homeless, three free meals a day, and a corkboard that lists job/housing opportunities, the Sikh Center is clearly a place of support for the new immigrants. President Hardev Singh Padda notes that even of the older immigrants, members tend to move away once they have made more money. For this reason, it seems the Sikh center serves a slightly less privileged crowd. Nonetheless, those that remain seem very grateful for all that is offered. Members have expressed gratitude for all of these services from which they benefitted and continue to benefit, some of whom even now volunteer in providing these same services. Mr. Padda himself mentioned finding a job upon arrival through networking in the Center. He now is director of an Indian newspaper in the United States, Pardes News.
The Sikh Center’s congregants live all over Queens. Also, the center is located in a residential area a two-minute walk away from Flushing’s Chinatown. Although we classify the Sikh Center as an ethnic enclave because of the services it provides and the similar backgrounds and shared Sikh values of the congregants, there does not appear to be an economic extension of the ethnic enclave surrounding the Sikh Center. Or at least, if one does exist, Punjabi goods stores are located elsewhere or nearly invisible in comparison to nearby Chinatown. We were not able to glean any information as to the relationship of the Sikhs with the nearby neighborhoods. Again, though, because people mostly attend services at the center on Sundays and they come from a variety of places across Queens as opposed to living in a cluster around their house of worship, it’s possible that they haven’t created and don’t have a need to create a relationship with the neighborhoods surrounding the Sikh Center.
In conclusion, the Sikh Center of NY provides resources that include food, shelter, financial assistance, job networking, as well as religious services and instruction to the community of Sikhs (and all others) it serves. In that sense, it has created an ethnic enclave through which new immigrants can ease into life in New York, and then move on if they so choose. However, no food or religious artifact stores or economic extensions of the ethnic enclave appear to have sprung up around the Sikh Center. The geographic widespreadness of the Sikhs that attend the center could contribute to the lack of information on, or maybe even lack of existence of, interactions with other communities surrounding the Sikh Center itself.