Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.Phone: 706-863-7391
DescriptionGuru 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.”
DemographicsThere 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.
HistoryThe 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.
Description of the CenterGuru 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.
Activities and ScheduleOn 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.
Community ServicesThe 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 EventsPoliticians 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.
Organizational StructureThe 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.
ChallengesMany 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.