1965-1983: Community Revival

Yuba City’s First Sikh Parade, November 1980. Didar Singh Bains and his Son, Karm Bains, Appear on the Right. Courtesy of the Punjabi American Heritage Society.


President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Cellar Act) that abolished the old national quota immigration policy that gave preference to immigrants from Western Europe.  The new immigration policy emphasized family reunification and the immigration of skilled workers, both of which favored Asians.  The Act profoundly changed the demographics in the US with increased immigration from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Due to the favorable immigration policy, and the strong economic base provided by farming, many Punjabis in the Yuba City area began to sponsor their relatives to join them in the US.  Certain extended Punjabi families from villages and regions in the Punjab who thrived in peach farming — the Bains and the Johls — sponsored hundreds of relatives who helped work on their farms.  Punjabi Americans also married spouses in India and brought them to the US.

By the late 1960s and 1970s, there was a renaissance of Punjabi culture and the Sikh faith in the Sacramento Valley.  To commemorate the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, Yuba City established its first Sikh Temple (Tierra Buena).  By the late 1970s, the Punjabi community had grown so rapidly that they inaugurated the Sikh parade in 1980.  The Sikh parade (or Nagar kirtan) involves a weekend full of activities that begin with a continuous recitation of the Holy Book, fireworks, and a large parade. The Nagar kirtan commemorates the installation of the Holy Book (or Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as the Living Guru.  Yuba City’s Sikh parade now attracts approximately 100,000 people from throughout the US and abroad, making it one of the South Asian largest festivals outside of South Asia.  Sikhs also continued to build dozens of temples in California in the 1970s (El Sobrante) and in the 1980s in Sacramento and San Jose, and many other cities.


Mann, Gurinder Singh, Paul David Numrich, and Raymond B Williams, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Sarin, Rita and Tenzing Sonam.The New Puritans: The Sikhs of Yuba City, (Berkeley, CA: UC Berkeley, 1985).