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Harvard Chaplains of Sikh Community

August 9, 2023

Sikh Community

Many of the earliest Sikhs in Boston were professionals who came to the city in the years following the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act’s passage, such as doctors or engineers. Following the violent riots in Delhi in 1984, a second wave of Sikh immigration took place, bringing Sikhs from a wider range of backgrounds and occupations to the region.

Although several gurdwaras in the region offer translations with a projector, Sikh divans (services) traditionally employ the Punjabi language for scriptural recitation and kirtan (sacred singing). Classes in Punjabi are also prevalent, especially for second-generation immigrants and younger worshippers.

In addition to the touring musicians who perform the sacred hymns, some Boston gurdwaras offer kirtan training to young people who show an interest. Kids frequently participate in the kirtan and singing during the diwan. Another crucial component of Sikh culture is the langar, or communal supper, which is served after each weekly diwan and is open to both worshippers and visitors.

Common misconceptions about Sikh culture and practises, particularly the turban, have contributed to cases of discrimination across the United States, and Boston has not been an exception. This has been especially true in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. For instance, a member of the Milford Gurdwara Sahib was detained on an Amtrak train on September 12, 2001 for possessing a kirpan, a tiny knife that Sikh males typically wear.

Although the charges were ultimately dropped, the incident left many Sikhs in Boston shaken, worried, and inspired to interact with the larger Boston community in order to guarantee that similar confusion could be minimised. 

For instance, certain Sikh organisations started programmes to educate law enforcement personnel about Sikh traditions and practises. A lot of gurdwaras have also hosted open occasions like chhabeel festivals, which offer opportunities to explain Sikh beliefs and traditions.

Read More: Gurdwara a Sikh Place of Learning & Worship

Read More: The History of Sikhism

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