Sikhism is a monotheistic religion which was founded by Guru Nanak Dev in the Indian province of Punjab. Next to Muslims and Christians, Sikhs are the third largest religious minority in India. In America, Sikhs are a little lesser known community. Some people think that their superficial resemblance with Muslims might have caused the recent terrorist attack inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, leaving seven dead including the terrorist. It is a misconception because Sikhism, like all the large religions, seeks truth regardless of where it comes from. The fifth Sikh saint, Guru Arjan Dev, met the famous Muslim Saint Mian Mir in Lahore and similar verses of the Muslim saint Baba Fareed, known as ‘Shabd Fareedi’ are given a very respectful place in their religious scripture. The Sikh religion was founded in the 15th century, and it is considered the fifth largest religion in the world. About 30 million people all over the world embrace Sikhism. Sikhs all over the world, including the famous Sikhs in America, follow ‘Gurmat’ literally meaning ‘the wisdom of the Guru.’ Guru Granth Sahib ji is the last holy scripture, and its teachings are followed by all Sikhs. The history of Sikhs in America is traceable to the first Gurdwara built in Stockton, California in 1912.
1. Pretender Singh ‘Preet’ Bharara
Pretender Singh Bharara was born in Firozpur, Punjab, India in 1968 and raised in Monmouth County, New Jersey. He attended Ranney School, Tinton Falls, New Jersey, Harvard College, and Columbia Law School. On May 15, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated him as U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. Times magazine named him as one of ‘The 100 Most Influential People of the World.’ Bharara appeared on the Time magazine’s cover entitled ‘This Man is Busting Wall Street.’
2. Simran Lamba
Simran Lamba became a famous Sikh in America after he was enlisted in the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army had banned the recruitment of anyone with untrimmed hair since 1984. All Sikhs are religiously prohibited to trim their hair; therefore, the Sikh community was the most affected community from this ban. It was almost 30 years afterwards that Simran Lamba was the first Sikh allowed to join the U.S. Army with untrimmed hair and the typical Sikh turban. This exemption was granted to the 26-year-old Sikh on account his skill set; his knowledge of Punjabi and Hindi required by the U.S. Army.
3. Harvinder ‘Harry’ Anand
Anand graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the Punjab University in Chandigarh, India and migrated to the U.S. in 1982. He was the first Indian-American Sikh to be elected as mayor of Laurel Hollow, New York. Laurel Hollow is a village located on the north side of Long Island. He was elected as mayor on June 19, 2007 for the first time and re-elected in June, 2011. He became famous after his inauguration ceremony was covered by the media including CNN and IBN. Anand attended the Civilian Police Academy of Nissau County and also serves as Police Commissioner of Laurel Hollow.
4. Ajaypal Singh Banga
Ajaypal Singh Banga is a son of an Indian Lt. General (Rtd.) Harbhajan Singh Banga. He graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, India and earned his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India. Banga had served CitiGroup for more than 13 years and had held senior management positions in the USA. In 2005 he was CEO of Citi’s international global consumer group. Since April 12, 2010, Ajay Banga is the Mastercard’s President and Chief Operating Officer.
5. Satkirin Kaur Khalsa
Satkirin Kaur Khalsa is the most famous Sikh Kirtan singer of America. Kirtan is a Sikh devotional music, and she learned it and the ragas from the renowned teachers, including Bibi Amarjit Kaur, Bhai Jaspal Singh, Bhai Hari Singh of Anbala Gharana, and Bhai Nainder Singh. After her conversion to Sikhism in 1974, she was nominated as the ‘Granthi’ in the Los Angeles Gurdwara and is currently serving the Manhattan Gurdwara. She has the honor of singing the prayer for the opening ceremony of the 2009 United Nations General Assembly on Climate Change. She has performed in many countries and hosts a Kudalini Yoga show at JUS Punjabi TV.
6. Dalip Singh Saund
Dalip Singh Saund was born in Chhajulwadi, Punjab, India on September 20, 1899 and died on April 22, 1973. He came to the USA to study at the University of California Berkeley. He received his master’s degree in 1922 and a doctorate in mathematics in 1924. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 1957 to January 3, 1963. He served in the 29th District of California. He was the first and until now the only Sikh member of the United States Congress. He suffered a severe stroke in 1962 which debilitated him and ended his political career.
7. G. B. Singh
G. B. Singh is one of the few Sikhs who have served in the U.S. Army with permission to retain their articles of faith like wearing the turban and keeping an untrimmed beard. He served in the Army dental unit as a periodontist for a long time, and it is due to him that a few more Sikhs are now a part of the U.S. Army. He attended the University of Oklahoma to study political science. Having read an article ‘The Gandhi Nobody Knows’ by Richard Grenier, he was inspired to write ‘Gandhi Behind the Mask of Divinity.’
8. Dr. Amarjeet Singh Marwah
Amarjit Singh Marwah received his early education at Kotakpura, Faridkot, India. He graduated from Lahore and also earned his degrees from the University of Illinois and Harvard University in New York. He is best known as a famous dentist and a philanthropist. Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor was one of his clients. He won many awards and has done great philanthropic work in India and the USA. In 1969 he founded the first Gurdwara in Los Angeles. He was the campaign manager of Dalip Singh Saund when he was elected to the U.S. Congress.
9. Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa
Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa was born in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. on September 29, 1942. He is a famous Sikh in America, and is best known for his chief protocol of the famous American Sikh Group, Sikh Dharma. He attended the University of Oklahoma Business School and Washington Law University. Khalsa was endowed with the title ‘Mukia Singh Sahib’ which is the highest title in Sikhism in the West and is next only to ‘Siri Singh Sahib.’ Explaining Sikhism he said, ‘It acknowledges the truth of all religions but still has a discipline of its own. Sikhs believe it is great to be a Christian, a Jew or a Hindu, just be a good one.’
10. Waris Ahluwalia
Waris Ahluwalia came to the USA at the age of five and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is best known as a jeweler and for his small roles in Hollywood films like The Life Aquatic and Inside Man. Based in New York City, he is a frequent traveler to Italy, Japan, and India. He owns the House of Waris and sells jewelry in collaboration with Benjamin Cho. He became famous after his unique diamond rings attracted the attention of Maxfield in Los Angeles and he was given a large order.
The quintessential of Sikhism is the teachings of the ten Gurus as well as the holy scripture of Guru Garanth Sahib. They are: Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Har Gobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Sing, and Guru Garanth Sahib Ji. The last Guru, Gobind Sing Ji, directed all Sikhs to follow the leadership of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the corporate Sikh body ‘Khalsa Panth.’ Sikhs are amongst the most peace-loving and religious people in the world.