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Centenary celebrations: Senator salutes first US gurdwara

india Updated: Dec 05, 2012 13:32 IST

The historic Stockton gurdwara in California, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, remains the spiritual home to generations of Sikh Americans in the country, a top US lawmaker has said.

"The Stockton gurdwara stands as a testament to the rich history, invaluable contributions, and progress of the Sikh community in the US," California senator Barbara Boxer said in her remarks in the US senate.

Asking her senate colleagues to join in celebrating the centenary of the first gurdwara in the US, Boxer said it was in the 1890s that the first Sikh immigrants, mostly from Punjab, arrived at the Angel Island immigration station.

"These pioneering immigrants had crossed the vast Pacific and came to the shores of California in hopes of a better and freer life," she noted.

"The San Joaquin Valley of California, with its Mediterranean climate and abundance of fertile soil and arable land, reminded the new immigrants of their native Punjab, and became a place where many of them settled to raise crops that were native to Punjab," she said.

"A tight-knit community, the Sikh residents of the San Joaquin Valley formed a committee to raise money for a temple. In September 1912, a plot of land was purchased on the South Grant Street in Stockton to build the first gurdwara in the US," Boxer said.

"When the temple was consecrated on November 22, 1915, the Stockton Record reported that it was celebrated with impressive ceremonies.

The Stockton gurdwara became the birthplace of Sikhism in the US," she said.

Boxer stated that over the past century, the Stockton gurdwara had been a site of religious and historical significance.

"It was home to the US's first Punjabi-language newspaper and the Ghadar Party, which supported Indian independence for decades before it was achieved," she said.

"Bhagat Singh Thind, a civil rights advocate and the first (Sikh) to serve in the US army during World War 1, and Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian American elected to the Congress, were members of the Stockton gurdwara," Boxer said.