Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 28 October 2013.Phone: 559-442-9323
DescriptionA small community religious institution, the Nanaksar Gurdwara features a main building, which houses the Guru Granth Sahib/Adi Granth, or canonical text of the Sikhs, within the central congregational meeting area. Adjacent to the congregational area, in the same building, is a small kitchen and area for the eating of the communal meal, or langar. A separate building, located to the north of the original building, was built expressly for langar. This large, new building can accommodate large numbers of devotees. Sikhs generally share in a communal meal when visiting the Gurdwara, after listening to recitations/singing from the sacred text and/or a speaker who addresses aspects of the text's meaning.
HistoryFresno is a major city in the southern central valley of California, situated between the coastal range and the Sierra Nevada to the east. Hot and dry, the region has experienced major growth since WWII, with the influx of large amounts of irrigation waters, which turned this dry land into a fertile valley. Asian immigration to this valley began in the 19th century, and both South Asian and East Asian Americans have a long history in the area. The first Gurdwara in the United States was founded in 1912 in Stockton, California by a small group of Sikh immigrants, who were part of a larger Punjabi migration to California and western Canada in the beginning of the twentieth century (Leonard 1992). When anti-Asian legislation was introduced in the early 20th century—and worsened over the course of the first half of the century—South Asians were at first exempt. Immigration from Punjab ceased in 1924, with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which put in place the first restrictions on immigration in the United States, and set up quotas based on National Origins. The year before, South Asians were deemed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be “Asian” rather than “Caucasian” (as they were originally deemed, legally); this brought them under the jurisdiction of anti-Asian immigration laws that had previously been directed primarily at Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Laws restricting ownership of land impacted them as well. Restrictions on immigration led to the relative isolation of the community from India, although connections continued to a degree, most famously in the form of Gaddar or revolutionary activism: northern Californian Punjabis were active in the struggle for the independence of India from England. Significant personal and cultural connections were not reestablished until the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. This legislation (1) abolished the national origins quota system, and (2) established a detailed preference system based on professional or occupation skills needed in the United States, and family unification (Coward, et al., eds., 2000: 213-217; Prashad 2000: 43-4). It was in this period that the U.S. South Asian community (and with it, the Sikh community) began to take the form it has today (Angelo 1997; Barrier, N.G. and Verne Dusenbery (eds.) 1989; Pashaura Singh and N.G. Barrier, eds. 1996; et al.). As Leonard’s work has noted, the earlier-established Sikh community of the central valley has been joined, since 1965, by a new generation of South Asians, mostly from India. The Sikh community of the southern valley is estimated to number at 20,000; there is full-time Sikh school in Yuba City, and the local school district teaches Punjabi as a foreign language. The first Sikh came to Fresno in 1906. After World War I, in the 1920’s, a larger group of approximately 20 Sikhs came to Fresno and settled there. The present community is constituted by a combination of descendents of these early settlers, and more recent, post-1965 immigrants.
Activities and ScheduleThere are, according to the President of the Nanaksar Gurdwara, G.S. Mohaar, seven or eight Gurdwaras in Fresno. Approximately 3-400 people attend the Nanaksar Gurdwara for a special event, with over 500 attendants for Purnamashi and Sangrand. The Gurdwara has two full-time priests (granthi) who generally come from India for stays of approximately three months (though this can be extended) and 5 or so local, volunteer priests. Regular readings from the sacred scripture take place daily, and langar (the communal meal) is available to all every day at the Gurdwara in its expansive Langar Hall. The Nanaksar Gurdwara also holds special events--such as the unbroken reading of the Adi Granth or Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs--at the request of community members.