Last month, on behalf of Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, Council Member Teresa O’Neill presented a proclamation of Sikh Awareness Month to the Silicon Valley Gurdwara. Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion, and Sikhs have lived in California for over a century.
Founded in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century, Sikhs follow the teachings of its Ten Gurus (a guru is a master or teacher). The last of the 10, Guru Gobind Singh, proclaimed in 1708 that from that time on, Sikhs would be led only by the collected holy texts contained in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Compiled by the Ten Gurus over the course of two centuries, the Guru Granth Sahib includes hymns, prayers, and meditations on the nature of God; all in the form of poetry that is chanted. Sikhs are monotheists, and place great importance on daily meditation and prayer, as well as the centrality of musical chant to connection with God.
The cornerstones of Sikhism are a mandate that all should work – Sikhism has no clergy – complete equality of all people (and sexes) before God – service and generosity, manifested first and foremost at gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship), where food is always served, 24 hours a day if possible, and free to anyone who comes.
Sikhism also mandates that social injustice be actively fought, not merely criticized. One of Sikhism’s most exceptional characteristics is its non-exclusivity – it doesn’t deny the validity or truth of other religions.
Sikhs traditionally keep their hair uncut as a symbol of unity – unbroken-ness – with God, and men often wear turbans as a mark of faith. This visibility has also made them targets of hate crimes.