MARYSVILLE — The Sikh religion teaches the equality of all people and the duty to help those in need.
At the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple of Marysville, followers practice those beliefs every day. They have reached out to donate money to survivors of natural disasters near and far. A stranger is always welcome to line up in the community kitchen on Sundays for a free meal known as langar.
“We want to be part of anything happening here,” president Satwant Pandher said. “People want to contribute.”
There are just two rules: cover your head, to show respect, and remove your shoes.
During the first Sunday in October, the Marysville temple rang with religious music. The aroma of the day’s meal wafted through the air: chickpea curry and an Indian flat bread called roti, along with yogurt and rice pudding.
Children took classes in the Punjabi language and music lessons.
A special guest appeared in the worship hall upstairs: Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
Nehring was there to accept a $6,100 check for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas. The city of Marysville forwarded the money to a relief fund set up by officials in Houston.
“This is not the first time I’ve been here when you’ve donated to people locally and nationally,” Nehring told the congregation. “It’s very touching and very moving, and I know the city of Houston will be very grateful.”
The mayor, who is Christian, said he, too, is grateful for everything the Sikh community has done for Marysville.
Local Sikhs also raised money for the Oso community after the deadly mudslide in 2014.
“Our religion believes in helping needy people, wherever, whenever there is need,” said Kulvinder Manhas, a former banker who serves on Marysville’s Diversity Advisory Committee.
The Sikh religion emerged some 500 years ago in the Punjab region that spans modern-day India and Pakistan. It’s separate from the other major religions of that area, Hinduism and Islam.
Today, there are more than 25 million adherents worldwide. Most are in India, though an estimated 500,000 live in the United States, including a growing community in the Puget Sound area.
The Marysville temple — gurdwara is the term Sikhs use — takes its name from the faith’s founder and first prophet, Guru Nanak. A U.S. flag flies outside, along with two “God Bless America” signs.
Sikhs are often recognizable by their distinctive turbans, though not all believers wear the traditional headdress.
During their history, Sikhs have promoted equality through women’s rights and by rejecting India’s caste system, accepting people of all backgrounds as equals, regardless of race, social class or religion.
“Anyone can come here. Anyone is welcome,” Manhas said at the temple. “That’s what our Sikh religion believes in.”
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NWhaglund.