With its golden domes resplendent against the skyline of the Evergreen hills, the Sikh Gurdwara, San Jose, is an important landmark, bearing testimony to the prosperity of the Sikh community of the SF Bay Area. The recent completion of its final phase was an occasion for Sikhs to come together in thousands to celebrate its grand opening. Serenely perched on 40 landscaped acres, the gurdwara is considered to be not just the largest in the United States, but the biggest outside India.

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Aesthetically pleasing with a blue and gold color scheme, large arched doorways and windows, a panoramic view of the valley, and a cascading waterfall, the San Jose gurdwara is also eco-friendly, drawing most of its power from solar panels. Its large congregation hall can seat 2,500 devotees and the langar hall can feed almost 1,000 people at a time.

In addition to the hall, the expanded campus includes 12 classrooms for the 600-plus children who attend the weekly Khalsa school, and 11 apartments that house temple priests and visitors. The gurdwara, founded in 1984, completed the first phase of an infrastructural expansion in 2004 at a cost of $10 million. The second phase, which was budgeted at $20 million, went over budget by $1.5 million, but costs are expected to be amply repaid by donations, which average $1.2 million a year.

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world and the newest amongst major religions. It is monotheistic and based on egalitarian principles of equality, liberty, and freedom of worship for all. The three golden rules of the faith are righteous action, living in divine consciousness, and sharing of one’s gifts with the less fortunate.

Bay Area Sikhs are a thriving community of professionals: successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, physicians, educators, lawyers, engineers, and small business owners.

Sikhs migrated to California more than 130 years ago. The early settlers were farmers, railroad workers, and lumber mill laborers. Their work ethic and inherent leadership qualities have enabled them to be at the forefront of their chosen fields, be it education, technology, medicine, or entrepreneurial ventures.

Since 9/11 the community has been shaken by the assaults on its members due to a mistaken identity with Muslims. The turbans and uncut hair mandated by their faith has made Sikh men the target of bullying and hate crimes. The gurdwara plans to address this by hosting interfaith events and retreats to bring about a better understanding amongst different faiths and build meaningful cultural bridges and alliances.

For more information on the gurdwara and its activities, check out http://www.sikhgurudwarasj.org/index.html

Jessi Kaur is the author of two children’s books: Dear Takuya and The Royal Falcon. She is a frequent speaker at spiritual conferences.

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