Global Diasporas Class Visits Sikh Temple in Ventura

Last Sunday, February 7, 2016, the day of the Super Bowl, over 50 students from the Global Diasporas course taught at UC Santa Barbara visited the Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) in Ventura. They went there to observe and be part of the sangat (Sikh community) to gain a better understanding of one of the minority, but influential, Indian diaspora communities in the USA -- the Sikhs -- and learn about their religious beliefs and values. The Sikh community was founded by Baba Nanak and is less than 550 years old, but over the past century they have attained a global presence with the Sikh diaspora now estimated at 2 million, with at least half a million here in the US.

The visit involved sitting among the congregation/community members, listening to kirtan, Sikh devotional music based on shabads (words or text) contained in the Guru Granth (Sikh sacred scripture), which the Sikhs also regard as their living and eternal Guru.

On conclusion of the service and the mandatory Ardas (Sikh petition or supplication)the students were invited to partake in the Langar (community meal), first introduced by Baba Nanak in the 1520s. The Langar plays an important role in the Sikh value system where sharing the fruits of one's labour is an important virtue, along with always keeping God in remembrance and involving oneself in hard honest work. This particular Sunday, the community meal was prepared and served by the family of the local congregation to celebrate their daughter's birthday.
Instant feedback from the students was extremely positive. They immensely enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to participate in the rituals of a religious community which has considerable presence in California. The visit was organized by Shinder Thandi, who is in residence this academic year as a Kapany Visiting Professor in the Global Studies Department with the help of Dr. Gurinder Singh Mann who recently retired from UCSB after serving 15 years as the Kapany Endowed Chair and the Director for the Center of Sikh and Punjab Studies. Dr. Mann made time to visit the Temple with the students and also gave a lecture in class the following day.
The students will now be writing a reflective report on their experience.