Photo Courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution
Developed by the Smithsonian and sponsored by the Sikh Heritage Foundation, the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) will begin hosting the “Sikhs: Legend of the Punjab” exhibit Feb. 21 – Jan. 3 2016.
Sikhism is the fifth most practiced religion in the world. Since the terrorist events on 9/11, Sikhs have experienced discrimination and stereotyping associated with their wearing of turbans and other non-Western articles of religious clothing.
In an effort to further education about their culture and values, Sikh community members and leaders have worked closely with the museum to draw attention to the religion’s core beliefs.
During an interview with CBS News, Columbia University Religion Doctoral Candidate and native San Antonian Simran Jeet Singh described the ideals of Sikh culture, “For us, salvation is not the endpoint…our goal is to achieve absolute love within this lifetime and that love is achieved through recognizing oneness, all throughout the world in every interaction.”
Originating 500 years ago in the Punjab region of northwest India, the traditional garb of Sikh faith includes five K’s: Kakar, a kachhera undergarment; Kanga, a wooden comb; Kirpan, a ceremonial short sword; Kara, a bracelet and Kes, uncut hair.
While providing a tour of the Sikh exhibit during its installation phase, ITC Senior Communications Specialist James Benavides shared his thoughts on its potential impact.
“This is going to be fantastic; this is a community that has never had its story told,” Benavides said.
Dr. Bryan P. Howard, ITC’s Director of Research, Exhibits and Collections, provided further background information on the Sikh culture in Texas.
“The earliest Sikh I’ve seen in records so far appears by 1910 in Dallas. By the 1970s, the number of Sikhs in Texas was rising, but it’s really been only in the last 20 years or so the numbers have increased more dramatically,” Howard shared. “Today, San Antonio has about 1,000 Sikh residents and Texas an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 individuals.”
Those who attend on Feb. 21 can expect an exhibit featuring religious articles, art, armor, ceremonial swords, a model of the sacred golden temple and background information on religious beliefs and culture. Members of the Sikh community will serve as gallery hosts to answer questions about the exhibit.
“This is a religion that transcends borders,” Benavides concluded at the end of the tour. “It’s a religion that is also a culture that describes and defines the people.”
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located at 801 East César E. Chávez Blvd. Doors for the opening of the Sikh exhibit open on Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission for adults (13 or older) is $10 at the gate and $8 in advance, children (6-12) $5 and for children under five admission is free. For more information please visit texancultures.