Thursday October 19, 2017

Rosario de la Frontera : Home to the only Sikh temple in South America

“We’ve had people visit here and they are amazed, happy. They know that what we’ve managed to do with this Gurudwara is very important, very good, for humanity- not only for the community but for humanity”

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Gurdwara Rosario de la Frontera Argentina, Wikimedia Commons

By Akanksha Sharma

 

 

• Rosario de la Frontera, a city in the centre-south of the province of Salta, Argentina is home to the only Sikh temple (Gurudwara) in South America.

• Sikhs originally arrived in Argentina in the early 19th century to work on a British-built railroad.
• In the 1970s, others came along after prohibited entry to Canada and US, the preferred destination for emigrants.
• At that time, they stayed in Argentina as it seemed the most promising nation of South America and later got concentrated in the north, which reminded them of the plains of Punjab.
• Today they run a supermarket and other shops in town.
• The Gurudwara is clean, beautiful and inspires divine feelings. Rituals from the Sikh home of Punjab are observed in the Prayer-room. Traditional vegetarian meals are prepared in Gurudwara’s kitchen.

• Kanwall Jeet Singh, from Sikh community, said, “We’ve had people visit here and they are amazed, happy. They know that what we’ve managed to do with this Gurudwara is very important, very good, for humanity- not only for the community but for humanity.”

Related Article: Sikhism in Fiji Samabula Sikh Temple

• Mixed marriages with Argentinians are common and their children are already more Argentine than Indian.
• “It’s impossible to keep a distance, we eat beef. Not at home. But at birthdays, parties, there are only steaks, which are beef,” said Bibiana Jasbe Singh Kaur, an Argentine Sikh.
• The Sikh community in Argentina knows that their culture will disappear within 2 generations.
• Sikhs are accepted as the part of the society in Argentina. “We consider them to be people from here,” said Josefa Casasola, a local there.
• Sikhs believe that when their culture fades away, a part of their spiritual heritage will live on in this small part of South America.

Akanksha Sharma is a student of Journalism in New Delhi. She currently works as an intern in Newsgram. Twitter@Akanksha.4117

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Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

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Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


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Fossil of Patagotitan Discovered in Argentina: The Heavyweight Champion of all Dinosaurs weighs 76 Tons

The New Heavyweight Champion of Dinosaurs is Patagotitan

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Museum attendees walk by the head of the newly named Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-foot (37.2 meter) titanosaur, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York
Museum attendees walk by the head of the newly named Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-foot (37.2 meter) titanosaur, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. VOA
  • The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012
  • The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large
  • A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is on display at the American Museum of Natural History

USA, August 10, 2017: A study proclaims a newly named species the heavyweight champion of all dinosaurs, making the scary Tyrannosaurus rex look like a munchkin.

At 76 tons (69 metric tons), the plant-eating behemoth was as heavy as a space shuttle.

The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012. Researchers who examined and dated them said the long-necked creature was the biggest of a group of large dinosaurs called titanosaurs.

“There was one small part of the family that went crazy on size,” said Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Argentina, co-author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large. The second name honors a ranch family that hosted the researchers.

Six fossils of the species were studied and dated to about 100 million years ago, based on ash found around them, Pol said. The dinosaur averaged 122 feet long (37 meters) and was nearly 20 feet high (6 meters) at the shoulder.

ALSO READ: Frogs’ Survival Possible due to Dinosaurs’ Death: Study

A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is on display at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s so big that the dinosaur’s head sticks out into a hallway at the New York museum.

Legendary T. rex and other meat-eaters “look like dwarfs when you put them against one of these giant titanosaurs,” Pol said. “It’s like when you put an elephant by a lion.”

Scientists have known titanosaurs for a while, but this is a new species and even a new genus, which is a larger grouping, Pol said. Another titanosaur called Argentinosaurus was previously thought to be the largest.

“I don’t think they were scary at all,” Pol said. “They were probably massive, big, slow-moving animals.”

“Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It’s really challenging for large animals,” he said.

The big question is how did these dinosaurs get so big, Pol said. Researchers are still studying it but said it probably has to do with an explosion of flowering plants at the time. Along with a forest, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for these dinosaurs and they just got bigger.

“It’s hard to argue this isn’t a big deal when it concerns the [probable] largest land animal ever discovered,” University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email.

Kristi Curry Rodgers, a paleontologist at Macalester College who wasn’t part of the study, praised the work as important. She said the fact that Patagotitan’s bones show signs that they haven’t completed their growth “means that there are even bigger dinosaurs out there to discover.” (VOA)

 

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Five Years of Massacre: Sikh Community in US Continue to Hail Act Of Kindness

Devout male followers of the Sikh faith, a monotheistic religion that originated in Northern India, keep long beards and wear turbans, and often are confused with Muslims

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Six people were killed when a white supremacist attacked the Gurdwara or Sikh Temple of Wisconsin five years ago. VOA

Aug 06, 2017: Over the past year, minorities across the United States have increased their outreach to the public and efforts to make their voices heard amid fears of a White Supremacy movement.

The Sikhs of Oak Creek, however, were working to raise awareness of their faith and uplift their community long before 2016.

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page killed six believers of the Sikh faith in their house of worship, a Gurdwara, outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Mourners attend the funeral and memorial service for the six victims of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 10, 2012. VOA

In the five years since, members of the Gurdwara have organized scholarships, blood drives, 6K walks and runs, and presentations on understanding the Sikh faith in local schools.

“My outreach is also a coping mechanism,” Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was one of the six victims, told VOA. “Processing my own pain and hurt… I’d rather just go into the community and make it better for everybody else.”

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Members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, prepare a communal meal for the community. VOA

Immediately after the shooting, the Sikh community increased its efforts to invite people of all faiths to come to the temple and learn about Sikhism.

But Navdeep Gill, who co-founded the temple’s outreach program, “Serve to Unite,” with Kaleka, says they soon realized they also needed to spread awareness outside the temple after members of the community said they were uncomfortable attending Sikh services.

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“Peacekeepers” at a Montessori school made this mural after a workshop with “Serve to Unite” – the organization started by the son of one of the victims of the 2012 shooting. VOA

“Whatever faith you practice, whatever community you come from, you should feel comfortable attending an event,” said Gill, who was tasked with organizing events commemorating the 5th anniversary of the shooting. “Whether that’s in schools, churches, telling other people who Sikhs are, as well as trying to learn about other people and see where the commonalities exist.”

Also Read: California Sikh community Raises Money to keep City’s Fireworks Show Alive

 Saturday’s 6K run is the 5th instance of the annual event. The blood drive was added three years ago to the August 5 activities.

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A man completes the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin’s 6k “Chardhi Kala” Run with a high five. VOA

This year, members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin had their first float in the 4th of July parade. Though organizers were initially skeptical, Gill said it was well received and prompted non-Indian neighbors to strike up conversations with participating Sikhs.

Devout male followers of the Sikh faith, a monotheistic religion that originated in Northern India, keep long beards and wear turbans, and often are confused with Muslims.

And while some minorities across the country have expressed feeling less safe since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, Oak Creek Sikhs say the political climate hasn’t affected their community.

“Honestly, nothing has changed,” Navdeesh Toor, an Oak Creek resident and member of the Gurdwara for the past eight years, told VOA.

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People gather in Lafayette near the White House, Aug. 8, 2012 to participate in a candlelight vigil against hate violence. VOA

Toor said that although hate crimes have received more media attention in the past year, which some attribute partly to divisive rhetoric heard during President Trump’s campaign and first few months in office, she doesn’t see any impact on her community.

“A vast majority of Wisconsinites voted for Trump, including minorities and a lot of desis [South Asians] I know,” she said, adding that she didn’t fault her neighbors for voting for “the lesser of two evils” in 2016.

Regardless of politics in Washington, survivors of the 2012 shooting, along with their friends, family, and fellow members of the Gurdwara, have not lost momentum in their pursuit of engaging the community.

“It’s not just about organizing 5Ks, it’s about… what we’re really being asked to do spiritually,” Kaleka said.

“I think there’s a reason [the shooting] happened, a reason those people who stood up made that sacrifice. This community has really stood up.” (VOA)