I learned so much about Sikhism. The most surprising fact for me was that it has 30 million followers making it one of the largest religions. I haven’t felt its cultural impact as much in the United States so I wasn’t aware of its size. My first interaction was at a Interfaith event. The Sikhs were responsible for serving lunch which they did in the tradition of langar. Langar is a vegetarian lunch served to everyone regardless of religion or caste as a symbol of equality. The food was delicious and Indian. During the month, I visited a Sikh gudwara and a Nirankari service. I also listened to a number of Sikh podcasts and to Jaapi prayers and Sikh music. I also went to an art exhibit on Sikhs and the tradition of turban wearing.
Overall, they were incredibly welcoming and I had the opportunity to eat delicious home-cooked Indian food. I love this idea that feeding groups of people is a spiritual act of worship. Also, the idea of radical equality. As an American, I don’t think the impact that this would have had is felt as much. The Sikhs have a deep love for music and for recitation of their holy Scriptures. At the Sikh gudwara, I sat for half an hour just listening as different representatives went up and sang. I don’t understand Punjabi, but it was like a mini-concert. I’ve never been welcomed quite as effusively as I was at the Nirankari service. They even encouraged me to go up to the front and give a brief talk, but I was too shy.
These last two months have been so steeped in Indian culture. It makes me realize how many Indian people are living in the area and I love the fact that they have created communities for themselves that welcome Americans to participate with them. At the gudwara and the Nirankari, I was one of very few non-Indians, but I was still welcomed with open arms.