Center for Faith and Vocation

Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis

Sikh Temple

10950 Southeast Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46239
(317) 862-SIKH
(317) 862-7454
www.indianapolisgurdwara.org
Email Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis

Institutional History/Information

The Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis was built in 1999. This Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, contains has a couple of significant architectural components. It has a diwan hall, which is a large, open room designated for worship by the members of the congregation. It also has a langar hall. This is a place where strictly vegetarian food is served. Though Sikhism does not reject the idea of eating meat, vegetarian fare is served in order to accommodate the variety of people from different backgrounds that come to worship at the Gurdwara. This hall helps to promote a sense of communal familiarity amongst the ever increasing Sikh population and was instituted early on by the Sikh community as a way of undermining the caste system (because of which individuals from different castes would often not eat together). The temple also includes a library, which contains an assortment of books on different aspects of Sikhism, a kitchen in which the food is prepared for the meals in the langar hall, and a playground for the younger Sikh members of the congregation.

The temple was established to accommodate the increasing Sikh community in Indianapolis. In recent years, Indianapolis has become a popular location for Sikhs to live and work. The congregation started with roughly 50 families, and today serves over 1,000 active members. Many anticipate that the community will continue to increase in the coming years. Most of the community's members are Punjabi. The Punjab is a region on the border of India and Pakistan. However, the community is very accepting of people of any ethnicity or religious affiliation. The temple offers classes in Punjabi, the native language of Punjab, to aid the non-Punjabi congregants in getting as much out of the service as possible.

Service Style

Sikh Service

Sikhs worship usually once a week, although the more devout Sikh is sure to recite passages from the Guru Granth Sahib daily. Many Sikh families also have rooms to enshrine the Guru Granth Sahib within their homes. At the Gurdwara there are many different types of events, such as Punjabi classes, langar, and of course, worship. The Sikh religion comes from the Indian state of Punjab where the native language is Punjabi, and because many Sikhs were raised in America (where Punjabi is of course not the norm), it is necessary to reinforce the language. All of the services are conducted in Punjabi as well as many of the social conversations that take place during Langar. Langar is a free, vegetarian meal served to everyone at the Gurdwara while they sit as equals.

The worship services take place in a large room covered by white carpet. All are welcome to enter, even non-Sikhs, but it is required that one cover one's head. The majority of Sikhs arrive in traditional Punjabi dress, but it is not uncommon to see several wearing western clothes. All who enter approach the altar with an offering of money and bow to their knees and touch their heads to the floor. The altar contains a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib.

In times of joy or hardship, the community will sponsor a cover-to-cover reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, which takes around 48-72 hours. This ritual is called Akhand Path. After the reading has finished, the congregation throws flower petals on the altar and the Bhog ceremony begins. The Bhog ceremony consists of singing accompanied by traditional Indian instruments such as the harmonium. Finally, the leaders pick a passage from the Guru Granth Sahib at random and read it aloud. This particular passage is said to be chosen by God. During the service, men and women sit on opposite sides of the room. Both men and women sit on the floor throughout the service but everyone stands on occasion.

Demographics

Most Indianapolis Sikhs were born in India, but many of the youth were born in the United States. Many of the people at the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis moved from California within the last three years. The move was due mainly to the availability of jobs. But Indianapolis was also attractive to them because of its thriving economy and exceptional education system. Before the recent influx of Sikhs to Indianapolis, the Sikh Satsang has only fifty families. Sikhs now estimate that there are four times that number of Sikhs in the area. The Sikhs seem to be very family oriented; therefore there are old people as well as young children at services. There was also an equal number of men and women. Many of the Indian restaurants in Indianapolis are owned by Sikhs. These businesses are very profitable. However, Sikhs have been successful in a large number of professions since residing in Indianapolis.

What to Expect

Upon entering the Sikh Temple, guests must remove their shoes and cover their head. It is not necessary to bring a head cover, as there is a box of them at the door. However, if a visitor would feel more comfortable, he or she may bring a bandana or other type of scarf. The visitor should dress in nice clothing, such as khakis and a collared shirt, but many Sikhs, particularly males, wear jeans and tee-shirts. Most Sikh women wear traditional clothing, which consists of a long tunic of different bright colors, and pants. The first thing to do upon entering the main worship area is to walk to the front and bow at the altar. Bowing is done by getting on the knees, and putting the head on the ground in front of the knees, with arms tucked into the stomach. Hands are placed on the ground near the chin. There are separate sides for males and females to sit on. When looking at the altar, males should be on the right side, and females on the left. There are no chairs in the temple, so the visitor should be prepared to sit on the ground with legs crossed.

During the service, many people will enter and exit the room of worship. Many people that assemble for worship do not participate much in the service. Many mouth along with the songs and prayers, but this is not required of the visitor, as the service is conducted in Punjabi. There are moments when the worshipers stand and then bow, or throw flower petals at the altar. The service is divided into different parts, but it is difficult to tell where one part ends and the other begins. That said, the service can last a long time. The start of the service is around 9:30-10am, and it can last until 1:30pm.

Following the service is a lunch. With shoes still off and heads covered, the guests enter the langar hall where there are no chairs. Everyone sits down in rows on the floor and enjoys a meal. Following this, the service is officially over. For more information regarding the Gurdwara Sikh Temple, the website is an excellent resource. Here, one can find driving directions, address, and a phone number. It might be difficult to call ahead, but it is fine to show up early. Someone will be there to orientate the visitor.