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South Lodi Sikh temple may be open in month

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Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 10:00 pm

As the new year approaches, Lodi's Sikh temple is scheduled to open soon, so local residents won't have to travel to south Stockton for services and special events.

The Sikhs had hoped to open their Lodi temple, located at the northeast corner of Armstrong Road and West Lane, by now, but the project has been delayed because officials from San Joaquin County and other agencies hadn't completed their inspections and issued the required permits, said Nirmal Samra, a Lodi farmer and vice president of the Lodi temple.

Special events, such as the recent celebration of a 16-year-old boy's birthday, are held in a smaller building at the Lodi site, while the temple is being constructed.

Now that the fire sprinklers have been approved, it will be full speed ahead, said Samra, a 30-year Lodi resident who tends 100 acres of grapes at Davis and Woodbridge roads.

The new temple will measure 6,700 square feet. Worshippers must remove their shoes and cover their head, which are signs of respect for God, said former Lodi resident Avtar Sahota, who moved to Visalia five years ago but still has relatives in Lodi.

Although they wear turbans and many men sport beards, Sikhs are different from the Muslim faith, which is also prevalent in Lodi. Sikhs generally come from India, while the Muslim population from Lodi is predominately from Pakistan.

One of the Sikhs' customs is to celebrate 16-year-olds in a coming-of-age party somewhat similar to the Jewish bar mitzvah.

Such an event was held at the Lodi site recently.

"We're celebrating it at God's house," said Nevimpal Singh Sahota, a nephew of the 16-year-old guest of honor. "We're a very religious family. We wish him a prosperous future. Who else can do that but God?"

The Sikh faith, based in India, welcomes people from all faiths and respects all religions, Samra said.

"Sikhs don't condemn any religion," Sahota said. "We believe that Jesus Christ was special. I believe He's the Son of God."

There are about 100 Sikh members from Lodi, but Avtar Sahota expects more to attend services when the temple on Armstrong Road opens.

The Sikh faith is based on strict doctrine, which bans lying, stealing, drinking and smoking, Samra said. And they're all vegetarian, Samra said.

Sahota said the temple was financed by contributions from the community.

By about 2008, a second building will be constructed. It will become the new sanctuary, while the building currently under construction will be converted to a meal and social hall.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

All about Sikhism

• 15,000 Sikhs live in the greater Sacramento area.
• The first Sikh temple in the United States was built in Stockton in 1912.
• It is the world's fifth-largest religion with 26 million followers worldwide.
• It originated more than 500 years ago in India.
• It is a distinct religion, having no links with Hinduism or Islam.
• Sikhs have lived in America for more than 100 years.
• 83,000 Sikh soldiers died during World Wars I and II.
• They wear turbans to cover long, uncut hair. Turbans are made of cloth about 15 feet long and wrapped neatly around the head every time it is put on one's head. Turbans symbolize discipline, integrity, humility and spirituality.
Source: infoaboutsikhs.com.

Sikhs' beliefs

• Freedom of speech and religion, with justice and liberty for all.
• One God, common to all.
• Equal rights for women.
• Oppose terrorism, hurting innocent people, hate, racial profiling, war based on religion, fasting and proselytizing.
Source: infoaboutsikhs.com.

First published: Thursday, November 30, 2006

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