Delaware’s second Sikh temple opens, giving local community room to grow
NEWARK, Del. — From the outside, it looks like an ordinary building in an industrial park near Newark.
Inside, however, is something quite special to the Sikh community, Gurdwara of Delaware, the state’s second temple, which opened Sunday.
Many in the congregation that morning, young and old, wore a traditional style of dress. Turbans were wrapped precisely over long, uncut hair. Seated on the floor, the Sikhs sang in the language of their ancestors. They faced a platform where their holy book was covered by special cloths and a canopy.
Much about this day was centered on beliefs that originated in the 15th century in an area that is now northern India. The new temple is a reminder of Delaware’s evolving diversity of ancestry and religious beliefs.
Jagdeep Hundal, a physician who lives in Bear, moved here from Connecticut in 2008. His brother already lived in Delaware, and Hundal decided to join him because he found the area to be peaceful. His young children will grow up learning the language and beliefs important to Sikhs.
“It is keeping kids attached to their roots,” he said.
Sikhism is considered by some to be fifth-largest religion in the world, with more than 22 million followers in India. Fewer live in America, but the numbers are growing. There were an estimated 240 Sikh temples in 2010 with between 200,000 and 500,000 members.
Counting how many people identify with any religion is never precise, but there are ways to illuminate it.
The state’s first gurdwara, Sikh Center of Delaware, had 50 families on its mailing list in 2004 when it was located in a converted house in Elsmere. In 2011 they purchased a building on six acres of land in New Castle, and by then the mailing list had grown to about 170 families. Today, the mailing list includes more than 300.
The establishment of a second temple was started by Delaware Sikhs who prefer a more traditional approach to their religion. They want a more frequent rotation of elders, some at the new temple said. They are leasing the property for their gurdwara while they raise money to buy a building.
A second temple in the state is welcome, said Randeep Kahlon of the Sikh Center of Delaware.
“Each congregation develops its own personality,” he said.
This is not unlike what other immigrant groups have done in America. For example, many Catholic churches were established around pockets of ethic communities, which allowed people with a common background to worship with customs carried from their homelands.
The religious beliefs of Asian Americans are diverse. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that Asian Americans are more likely to identify as Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or Sikh.
About one in three of Delaware’s immigrants are from Asia. In New Castle County, more immigrants come from Asia than any other part of the world, including Latin America, according to the most recent Census figures.
It was rare to see Sikhs in Delaware when Narinder Singh Minhas moved here from New York in 1999. At the time, he knew of maybe five or six other Sikh families. They would get together in homes in the years before a temple was established.