The students who run the Penn Sikh Organization, a club that promotes greater awareness of Sikh values and traditions, are working to revive the organization after years of little activity.
Founded nearly 20 years ago, PSO’s mission is to expand understanding and awareness of Sikh religion and heritage in the Penn community through cultural, social and religious activities, according to its leaders. In recent years, however, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has held one or two events a year to celebrate holidays together and other important events.
Jasleen Gill and Rhea Bakshi, college juniors and co-leaders of PSO, hope to expand the organization’s presence on campus, including registering it with the Penn Clubs and receiving official recognition and funding from the University.
Gill and Bakshi said that taking Punjabi lessons with lecturer Amrit Gahunia, who is PSO’s educational advisor, inspired them to take on the goal of reviving PSO.
“I want [the] Penn community at [be] aware of the Sikh religion and heritage,” said Gahunia, who has worked with PSO since its inception nearly two decades ago. “This [has been] our goal from the start.
“We want to be able to run at least one or two events each semester to keep things going,” Gill said.
This fall, PSO hopes to host its annual Langar on Locust event again. Gill said the langar, a free communal meal served by the gurdwara – the Sikh place of worship – is an important part of Sikhism where members and non-members of the gurdwara serve each other and sit on the floor on a foot stand. equality to have a meal together.
“The basic idea is that food should be available for everyone,” said Harjap Singh, Wharton junior and PSO member.
In previous years, PSO members invited the Penn community to participate in Langar on Locust, in which PSO students brought meals to campus from the local gurdwara and hosted a langar on Locust Walk where students sat on the floor and ate their meals together. While Langar on Locust hasn’t happened in a few years due to the pandemic, Gill and Bakshi plan to hold one before the end of this semester.
Singh hopes that holding more events through PSO will increase the group’s exposure to other Sikh, and even non-Sikh, Penn students who may not know it.
Gahunia said that in addition to Langar on Locust, PSO has already organized events such as turban demonstrations, film screenings and trips to a nearby gurdwara in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
PSO has already held several meetings within the organization this semester, Bakshi said.
“[At our meetings]I saw this connection which warmed my heart and made me incredibly proud to be a Sikh woman,” she added.
Such community connections are an integral part of PSO. Gill, Bakshi, Singh and Gahunia all mentioned PSO’s role in bringing Penn’s Sikh community together.
“My religious identity is a very important part of who I am,” Singh said. “[PSO is] a space where Sikhs can meet other members of the community. »
Bakshi echoed that sentiment, also explaining that she has become closer to her religious identity since coming to college.
“We all had Sikh friends here and there, but bringing them all together was really important to us because it’s not really a community that can connect as one unless you bring everyone together in one space” , Bakshi said. “It was easier to connect to my own religion and my own identity at Penn. I found many more people like me.