The local Sikh community honored their founding ancestor Sunday by throwing open the doors of their worship and community center on Illinois Road to everyone.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, a Hindu by birth, founded Sikhism in 1469 in Punjab, a northern province of India, said Kulwinder Singh, president of the Dashmesh Gurudwara, the name of the center built in 2014.
More than 300 people visited and worshipped at the center on Sunday, many of them non-Sikhs. Guests were asked to cover their heads, and some women anticipated that by wearing a scarf much like a hijab. Anyone else was invited to wear a complimentary bandanna.
In order to enter, it was also necessary to go shoeless.
While Sikh musicians sang scripture verse in the Worship Center, playing the harmonium and a drum called the tabla, others dined on Punjabi food on long carpet runners in the community room. Dishes included makhani paneer, aloo gobhi, and dal makhni served with zeera rice.
Sweet dishes included gajjar halwa and rice pudding. But there was a corner where American-style sandwiches and a fruit salad were available for those who didn't want to try the Punjabi cuisine.
Fort Wayne foodie Mark Meyer, leader of a group called “The World Says Eat Me,” said about 60 members of his group signed on to come to the 550th celebration of the founder to take in Sikh culture as well as try the food.
“What feels so good about it,” Meyer said, referring to the event, “(is that) it feels so authentic and real.” He also said he felt a sense of peace in the air.
Asked what his favorite food was at the buffet, he said, “You tell me absolutely the name of everything in there and I'll tell you it was great.”
Much of the food was provided by Kuldeep Singh, a local restaurateur with a small place in Columbia City. Otherwise known as Mr. Bomy, he is an ambassador for the Sikh community, which numbers about 300 people, or 120 families in the area.
As Bomy explained with fellow Sikh Sonia Chauhan, the Sikhs are charity-oriented and strive for equity.
“There is no caste, no color,” Bomy said, noting that the worship and community center has four doors in every direction. “Everyone is welcome from all directions, even men and women.”
Brochures describe Guru Nanak Dev Ji as a social reformer who challenged the caste system in India, patriarchy and other social injustices.
Sikh men typically wear a turban, Bomy said.
Sikhs started coming to Fort Wayne in the 1960s, Kulwinder Singh said. At first, the new immigrants worked in factories. Now, about 80% of the Sikh community owns a gas station or a small business, he added.
The Sikh community has flourished here.
“Fort Wayne is a small town and it's a good place to raise a family,” he added.