Whatcom Sikhs share religion during community open house

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 27, 2013 

Sikhs follow a float carrying the Sikh holy book around the Lynden Sikh temple in celebration of Vaisakhi in 2006.

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Lynden Sikh temple is celebrating annual Vaisakhi event this weekend. Sikhs of Whatcom County are happy to invite the local community-at-large to come and learn more about Sikhs and Sikh religion. The temple has organized a two-day open house to welcome people from all faiths to their place of worship.

Vaisakhi is a festival celebrated across the northern Indian subcontinent, especially in the Punjab region by Sikh community. This festival is also celebrated around the world by Sikh diaspora, most popularly in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Sikh community commemorates the establishment of the Sikh nation (the Khalsa) on this day in 1699. This day is also celebrated by people of Hindu and Buddhist faiths for different reasons, including the start of a new year.

Sikhism, the fifth-largest religion in the world, was founded 500 years ago in the northern India region called Punjab. Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in the 16th century and is based on his teachings,and those of the nine Sikh gurus who followed him. There are 25 million Sikhs in the world; most live in the state of Punjab in India. There are over two million Sikhs living outside India in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom and 165 other countries on every continent.

Sikhism is much different than Islam and Sikhs are not Muslims. Sikhs wear turbans, as do people of other faiths in many countries across West and South Asia. Baptized Sikhs keep un-shorn hair and wear a turban as a part of their daily attire.

The word "Sikh" in the Punjabi language means student and the word "Guru" means teacher. Sikhs follow the writings and teachings of the 10 Sikh Gurus as written in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book), which are practical and universal in their appeal to all mankind.

The Vaisakhi festival bears a great significance for the Sikhs due of the fact that on the Vaisakhi Day in the year 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh established the Panth Khalsa (meaning the nation of pure ones). This day has another special significance for the farmers because this is the day harvesting season starts and all farmers offer thanks to God for the abundant harvest and also pray for the future prosperity. Vaisakhi is one of the important festivals celebrated with fun and fervor by people in most parts of India.

In the United States, there is usually a parade commemorating the Vaisakhi celebration. In New York City, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif., and many other major cities. In Vancouver and Toronto, more than 250,000 Sikhs take part in the Vaisakhi parade. Birmingham and South Hall (West London) in United Kingdom also have large gatherings on this special day.

Sikhs believe in Oone universal God. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Guru Nanak in these words: "Realization of truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living." Sikhism preaches, "we are children of one God." It teaches the full equality of men and women.

There are some 2,500 Sikhs living in Whatcom County. Many Sikhs in Whatcom County are berry farmers growing some 100 million pounds of berry crop annually. Sikhs are very apt business people and run a variety of businesses in the Pacific Northwest such as trucking, motels and gas stations. They are also professional engineers, nurses and doctors.

Sikhs have early roots in Whatcom County. There were more than 400 Sikhs working in the lumber mills and fish canneries from the early 1900s to 1907. There were riots in Bellingham in 1907 to expel the Sikhs under the pretense that they have different culture and work at lower wages, thus taking away the jobs from the white workers. It truly is a sad chapter in the history of Bellingham. It took almost 70 years for Sikhs to come back to Bellingham area and call it their home.

Sikhs are resilient people with character of honesty and ethic of hard work. This has been proven all over the world by their extraordinary success as citizens all over the world. Sikhs have made significant contribution to the wellbeing of the communities they live in and are promoters and preservers of peace and justice.

OPEN HOUSE

The Lynden Sikh Temple invites Whatcom County residents to a temple open house in celebration of Vaisakhi and the Sikh new year 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Lynden Sikh Temple 176 East Pole Road.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Satpal Singh Sidhu is a member of temple executive committee and spokesperson for the temple.

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