By Lace M. Smith, captions by Aimee Hamilton
Photos by John Froschauer
Aimee Hamilton’s undergraduate course, Religion and Culture: Contemporary Religions of South Asia, gathers for a morning site visit at the Khalsa Gurmat School in Kent. Khalsa Gurmat is a nonprofit school that emphasizes Sikh history, Punjabi language, computing, art and math. The school also functions as a gurdwara, or temple.
Amardip Kaur, Sikh community member and teacher, leads the Religion 230 class through a question and answer session. The Sikh religion began in the Punjab region of South Asia in the 15th Century. Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, yet many Americans are unfamiliar with its history or practices.
Site visits expand the boundaries of classrooms and offer students excellent opportunities to ask questions and reflect on their course content.
The class assembles outside the Gurudwara Singh Sabha. The Gurudwara Singh Sabha is one of the largest gurdwaras in Washington state, serving the more than 20,000 Sikhs who live in the area.
After removing shoes, hand-washing is customary before entering the main shrine of a gurdwara.
Students enter the main shrine space of the Gurudwara Singh Sabha, looking forward to hearing gurbani, the singing of the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib. Hymns are set to raags, a traditional form of South Asian musical expression.
Taking pictures is not allowed in the shrine space of the gurdwara so students are tasked with drawing what they see. This method aims to expand students’ perspectives on sacred space and religious reality. MariHa Casas shows her creation.
PLU students participate in langar, the free, vegetarian community meal served from the kitchen in the gurdwara. Miguel Castillo (left) waits to be served. Sikh-Americans participate in seva, or service to the community by donating ingredients, cooking and serving free vegetarian food.
Denis Julio shares in Sikh hospitality during langar, the free community meal. She asks questions and is asked questions in return.
Joel Frykholm (left) and Deshawn Williams (right) share langar with Jaspreet (middle), a member of the Renton Sikh community. Sikh values of equality and non-violence are communicated through sitting together on the floor and enjoying vegetarian food.
Suwilanji Silozi gets creative and incorporates soccer team pride into his head covering.
Chris Boettcher (left) takes up the class challenge to participate by asking questions of gurdwara community members.