Sikhs Losing Their Tradition

July 26, 2008

Author: Vanessa Colon

Source: McClatchy Newspapers

Over the last two decades, the Indian immigrants in California's Fresno area have built at least a dozen Sikh temples to serve a growing community.

But many temples are often short of one thing: young adults, some of whom say they feel like outsiders.

They don't like the temple politics and don't have command of Punjabi, the primary language of the service.

They want more youth activities and projects to keep them interested.

"There's a generational divide," said 27-year-old Naindeep Singh, regional leader of the Jakara Movement, a nonprofit Sikh youth organization.

Singh said most of the parents are immigrants who observe the religion as they did in India, reciting memorized verses. Many of the youths want a more Americanized service that allows for discussion and explanation.

"It's evolving, but it hasn't evolved at a point where it's engaging the youth," Singh said.

Last month, the generational divide was the focus of the Jakara Movement's annual Sikh Youth Conference held at California State University, Fresno. Participants agreed to ask their temples to make more accommodations for young adults.

Some Sikh elders say younger Sikhs should master Punjabi because it's central to the culture and faith.

Still, those elders agree that changes are needed.