Guru Singh Sabha Augusta

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.

Phone: 706-863-7391
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Guru Singh Sabha is one of two Sikh Gurdwaras in Augusta, Georgia. Sikhism originated in 15th century India. Although it shares some common roots with Hinduism, it is a distinct monotheistic belief system centering around the teachings of the Ten Gurus, which are recorded and embodied in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh sacred text. According to one member: “Sikhs believe in one Supreme God, who is free of gender, absolute, all pervading, and eternal with no beginning or end. Sikhism emphasizes the absolute importance of equality of all mankind regardless of their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, race or religious beliefs. The universal love of God is obtained through grace, sought by services to humankind.”


There are about 80 members, although at special celebrations, as many as 200-250 people might attend. Visitors from various parts of Georgia and South Carolina within a 150-mile radius of Augusta are common. All age groups are represented, including a significant number of children and teenagers. The community is entirely of Indian descent. Punjabi and English are primarily spoken, although some members speak Hindi and Sindhi.


The first known Sikhs in Augusta were physicians and dentists, who arrived with their families in the late 1960s when the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) began several new graduate programs, including a dental school. Throughout the 1980s many of the new Sikh Augustans continued to have ties to MCG. One arrival, a dentist and a colonel at Fort Gordon, was at one time the only turbaned Sikh in the U.S. Army. The Sikh community had a jump in numbers in the late 1980s, when engineers and their families arrived to take jobs at both Savannah River Site, a Department of Energy’ Nuclear Facility, and at Plant Vogtle, a nearby nuclear power plant that opened its doors in 1987.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s there was also a steady influx of Sikhs who were business owners, including owners of gas stations, convenience stores and motels, as well as the continued presence of more transient students and residents at the Medical College of Georgia.
As mentioned above, there are two Gurdwaras in Augusta. The older Gurdwara, Guru Nanak Darbar, was built in 1987 on Nellie Drive. Guru Sikh Sabha of Augusta, the second Gurdwara, was built in 1996 to meet the needs of a growing Sikh population in the area, according to member Narinder Pal Singh Malik. Construction expenses for both these Gurdwaras were funded by members of the sangat, or congregation, many of whom wished to remain anonymous donors.

Description of the Center

Guru Singh Sabha is in Columbia County, a high-growth suburban area, west of Augusta. Columbia County, which has one of the top-five median household incomes among all counties in the state of Georgia, is considered to have a desirable school district. The Gurdwara is located on a busy two-lane road, and is surrounded by woods and affluent housing subdivisions.
The two-story building is topped by a large, elegant golden dome, which is echoed by four smaller golden domes on all four corners of the building and by a motif of smaller domes lining the roof’s perimeter. A plaque outside commemorates the three hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Khalsa “Saints and Soldiers”. The Sikh flag (Nishan Sahib), as is the custom at all Gurdwaras, is hosted in front of the building and can be seen from the road at a distance. There is also an American flag on prominent display.
A visitor is first met by an entry hall, with a small room to the left for removing and storing shoes – a requirement prior to entering the main hall. All are required to cover their heads before entering the main hall, and for those without a head covering, a table supplying scarves can be found in the entry hall. To the right, a small room serves as a library with books on Sikhism and other religions.
The main hall is a light-filled, expansive room with a plush pink carpet. Upon walking in, the interior of the Gurdwara’s enormous overhead dome rises above. The focus of the room, however, is the Guru Granth Sahib: the holy book of Sikhism. It is prominent on a bright blue altar, decorated with flowers and ornamentation.
The basement floor of the building includes a large kitchen and a gathering space, the langar hall, where the congregation eats meals (langar) after the service. Members sign up in advance to shop and prepare for the entirely vegetarian meal that week, and the congregation sits on the floor to eat, although seats are provided for those who cannot do so because of a physical debility. Basement walls are lined with pictures of famous Gurdwaras and portraits of the Ten Gurus.

Activities and Schedule

On most Sundays, the weekly service is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and is followed by langar, the community meal, in the basement. On third Sundays, however, the Gurdwara’s priest, Bhai Sahib Jit Singh ji, is committed to be at the Gurdwara in Columbia, South Carolina, so there are no services at Guru Singh Sabha. There are also daily services twice a day: at 8 a.m., and at dusk. These services are often sparsely attended. However, congregants do come there under special circumstances.
For children and teenagers, the Gurdwara offers classes and summer day camp in religious instruction. Once a year a local age-graded public speaking competition is organized on the subject of Sikhism. Children are also strongly encouraged to participate in the community services.

Community Services

The Gurdwara has a regular commitment to an October food drive for the Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta. Funds are also raised for Pingalwara, a social services organization in India that provides services to sick and homeless disabled children. This kind of community service is an important part of the Sikh religion, explains member Dr. Arvind Kaur Singh.

Special Events

Politicians running for local office have had speaking engagements at the Gurdwara to explain their platforms to the congregation. Scholars of religion from various institutions are invited to give lectures. Members of the Gurdwara have participated in discussions with members of other religious groups on the topic of faith based healing, said member Malik.
In 1999, the Gurdwara hosted an elaborate function for the tercentennial celebration of the creation of Khalsa. This seminar was arranged in conjunction with Partners in Dialogue from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. This was a commemoration of an important turning point in Sikh history: the 1699 occasion upon which Guru Gobind Singh baptized the Sikhs and named them Khalsa, or the “pure ones.” The celebration included speakers (educators from Columbia, South Carolina; Houston, Texas; Washington, D.C., and Atlanta), performers and the publishing of an educational book to be distributed locally.
The congregation recently celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of their priest, Bhai Sahib Singh and his wife, and provided an opportunity to emphasize Sikh devotion to family values, according to one member. Singh, a retired Indian Army officer who regularly travels to provide spiritual services at Gurdwaras over the southeast, is a "very popular priest, not just with the Sikhs, but with the Hindus, too," according to one member. The anniversary event took place at a local banquet hall and was catered by a local Chinese restaurant, and attended by over 150 guests.

Organizational Structure

The Gurdwara is managed by a committee of three members -- a president, secretary and treasurer -- though the individuals filling these positions are addressed as sewadars, meaning servants. Sewadars are the "servants to the congregation," according to Malik. There are no elections; instead, members of the congregation step up to volunteer for the responsibility of certain positions. If there are two members willing to take the same position, they draw for it. Voting, they find, can create too much divisiveness in the congregation.


Many members of the congregation stress that in general they feel welcomed and secure in Augusta. Some members acknowledge that this may be in part because of the high-status positions many (but not all) occupy in their professional lives, as medical school faculty, engineers, and physicians.
Male Sikhs traditionally wear turbans, and Sikh women may also choose to do so to cover long hair, as neither women nor men are allowed to cut hair from their bodies. However, the turbans that Sikh men wear can attract a lot of curiosity and questions, particularly after September 11th. Shortly after the attacks, a group of technicians at one member’s workplace, for example, summoned him to their workshop. Nervous at first that the encounter would be confrontational, he was relieved and happy to know that his co-workers wanted answers to a series of sincere questions about Sikhism and his turban.
In some ways, after September 11th, members say, there has been more information about Sikhism out there than before, and fewer misunderstandings. The local newspaper and television outlets ran stories on local Sikh communities, how turbans were tied, and included explanations as to how Sikhs were distinct from Muslims. Member Malik said that he told reporters, “Be sure you understand that we don’t mean to say, ‘We’re not Muslims, so go after them!’ We just want to make it clear that we are Sikhs. We just want the other people in the city to know who we are."
Some incidents illustrate this message has not been universally clear. An intoxicated man harassed one member’s son when he ate at an all-night diner with friends. The man, who repeatedly referred to the young man as a Muslim, reportedly tried to choke him. When the Augusta Chronicle ran a picture of a turbaned Sikh in another city's subway being arrested for carrying a dagger (a traditional emblem many Sikh men carry), the small caption did not explain either the religious significance of the dagger or that the man had been cleared of all charges. Members of the Gurdwara wrote letters to the editor to set the story straight.