Punjabi Americans have contributed a great deal to religious pluralism in the Sacramento Valley. They belong to all of the major religions in South Asia — Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Among the early South Asian pioneers, the vast majority were Sikh (90 percent), and the rest were mostly Muslim. Before the 1960s, South Asians of all religions, and their Catholic wives and children, congregated and socialized together at the Stockton Sikh Temple. Today there is greater diversity of religious membership among Punjabi Americans, as well as a proliferation of religious institutions. After India’s Independence and Partition in 1947, and the growing diversity of the new immigrants, the South Asian American community established religious institutions along sectarian lines. For instance, the Muslim Mosque Association — the oldest mosque in the US west of the Mississippi — was established in Sacramento in 1947.
In Yuba City, Punjabi Americans have built houses of worship representing most of the major religions in South Asia — Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. The most remarkable feature of Punjabi-American religious life in Yuba City is the strong inter-faith support and cooperation that exists as shown by the examples below.
Sikh Gurdwaras (Houses of Worship)
The largest and most influential South Asian religious institutions in Yuba City are the Gurdwaras. Yuba City’s Gurdwara at Tierra Buena is the oldest and largest in the area, and it was the third Gurdwara created in California. Since the founding of the first Gurdwara in Yuba City at Tierra Buena, Sikh leaders regularly hold open houses and tours in which they host members of local Christian churches to welcome them into their place of worship, eat together in a free communal meal, and inform them about the core values of their faith and community. Community leader Hari Singh Everest was the principal ambassador for the Gurdwara to the broader community from the 1970s to the 1990s. He gave countless talks in churches and hosted many church groups at the Gurdwara to foster good will and inter-faith understanding. More recently, the Punjabi American Heritage Society members, particularly Dr Jasbir Singh Kang, have organized open house seminars at the Gurdwara to promote inter-faith friendship and understanding.
Sri Narayan Hindu Temple
In Yuba City, there is one Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Narayan, the all-pervading form of Lord Vishnu, one of the three major Gods in the faith, who preserves dharma (or righteousness). Hinduism is the third largest world religion, and 15% of the global population is Hindu. The temple has a fascinating history. Mr Hardial Singh Hunji, a Sikh man married to a Hindu woman named Kushalia Devi, built the only Hindu temple in Yuba City. His wife, who was a devout Hindu, expressed her disappointment when she learned that Yuba City did not a Hindu temple when she arrived in 1952. To fulfill his wife’s wish, Mr Hunji donated five acres of land and built the temple in 1995 at a personal cost of $1.75 million. He also traveled to India to place the ashes of his parents and his wife in the holy Ganga River. In addition to the shrines for Lord Narayan and other Hindu Gods in this temple, there are images of holy figures from various religions, including Guru Nanak and Guru Govind Singh from the Sikh religion as well as Jesus Christ.
Islamic Center of Yuba City
The picturesque Islamic Center located on Tierra Buena Road was not yet completed when it was burned to the ground by arsonists on September 1, 1994. This was the first hate-crime to destroy a mosque in the United States. The Sikh community helped to rebuild the mosque. David Washburn’s documentary “An American Mosque” beautifully tells the story of the struggle against religious intolerance in this small rural town.
Road to Life Christian Church
Punjabi American Christians in Yuba City worship at an array of local Christian churches from Evangelical to Methodist and Catholic churches. The Road to Life Church is the Christian Church in town that offers sermons in the Punjabi language and serves the Punjabi-speaking Christian community.