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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski issued a proclamation this week recognizing April as Sikh Awareness and Recognition Month and designating April 13 as Vaisakhi Day.
Community leaders believe that the designation will increase awareness of the growing Sikh community in Utah and help celebrate an important time for the religion.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who was the first Sikh public official in Utah, helped draft the proclamation.
“I am very supportive of it," said Gill, who was born in India and has been a Sikh for his entire life. "I think this is a great recognition.”
April was chosen for Sikh Awareness and Recognition Month because it is one of the holiest months of the year for the faith.
“April 13 or 14 is the day of Vaisahki,” Gill explained. “That is when the tenth Guru, our prophet, introduced the baptism of the Khalsa. It is a very big day for the folks in the Sikh faith, and it really brought everyone together.”
Vaisakhi commemorates the birth of the faith in 1699. Now the yearly event is a huge celebration which presents an opportunity to recommit to one’s faith. The Sikh Temple of Utah on Redwood Road will be hosting a celebration to commemorate the holiday this year on April 14.
“They’ll have their prayers and a communal service where they feed everyone who comes there as a part of their community service,” Gill explained. “I would encourage people to go to the Sikh Temple on the 14th around noon and be part of the festivities.”
Gill’s father helped to start the first Sikh temple in Salt Lake City in 1969, when just a handful of Sikhs lived in the entire state.
“There’s got to be at least 800-900 Sikh families here now,” Gill said. “There are a lot of people who have migrated from India or come in from other states to here. So it’s a very thriving community.”
Gill believes this is a chance for residents to get to know local Skih residents in Salt Lake City.
“I think this is a great opportunity for people to recognize this group of individuals who may look a little bit different but who belong to a fascinating faith," Gill said.
“I’m a public prosecutor and my sense of good and justice and a sense of community can be traced back to my experiences as a Sikh boy,” he added. “What’s fascinating about it is that it’s a faith that advocates justice, protecting the weak, and it is one that is focused on community and community service. It’s a fascinating faith and a great community.”
Sikhism Fast Facts
- Founded in 1699.
- Has a following of over 20 million people worldwide.
- Sikhism proclaims, “A message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind, social justice and denounces superstitions and blind rituals.”
- The Sikh Holy Book enshrines the teachings of its 10 gurus and its current living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
- “Sikh” refers to a disciple of God who follows the writings and teachings of the faith.
- Monotheistic, Sikhs believe in only one God.
- Sikhs believe that the soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before reaching a human form. The life goal of a disciple is to lead a virtuous and exemplary life so that they may merge with God in the afterlife.
- Sikhism honors earning an honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins. They condemn blind rituals like fasting, superstition, pilgrimage, and worship.
- The faith preaches equality of all races, religions and sex.
Visit the Sikh Temple of Utah here.
Editor's Note: an earlier version of this article stated that Vaisakhi Day is the Sikh New Year. It has been corrected to say that it's not the Sikh New Year, it commemorates the day the faith was formed.