Asheville Asks: The Sikh Community


Asheville Asks: The Sikh Community

  • Cailey McGinn

     Local journalist and writer based in Asheville, NC!

The closest Sikh temple to Asheville is located in Greenville, South Carolina (their symbol pictured above). It is one of the only temples in the region available for the Sikh community.

“Sikhism is basically the notion that everything you do comes back to you times ten. So always help others and no matter what try your best because god will always see it,” Says Ariel Powell.

Powell, a 20-year-old, Asheville local, recently converted to Sikhism. Powell, a dishwasher at Andaaz, always has a positive attitude and would be best described as a social butterfly. “I did not grow up in the Sikh tradition at all I was just introduced into it and it felt right,” says Powell.

Sikhism, one of the newest major religions, originated in the Punjab region of India. It is estimated that over 30 million people around the globe practice Sikhism.

Asheville has its own Sikh community. It's very small, with only a few families and individuals, but it's growing says, Powell. “It's there, for sure it's there.”

People who practice Sikhism call God, Waheguru. One of the main tenants of Sikhisum is to regard men and women as equal in all spheres of life. Sikhism was almost a direct response to the caste system. They believe in equality amongst all human beings regardless of race or caste.

Varinder Chahal, 28, an Asheville local, has followed the Sikh religion almost all of his life. Varinder, or Vee for short, works as a server at Andaaz, an Indian restaurant close to the Biltmore Estate. He is very personable and has a quick sense of humor, in his spare time he enjoys playing video games. Vee originally from India, says the Asheville area is very accepting of his religious beliefs.

“The people back home follow the same kind of rituals. While it's not quite the same here it’s still the same in spirit” said Vee.

Vee explained that the majority of discrimination surrounding the Sikh religion came after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


“After 2001, we faced some discrimination, this is because Sikhs also wear a turban. At that particular time, we did go through racism because people assumed we were behind the terrorist attacks. Thankfully since then people have been educated more on the matter and I don’t see it that much,” said Vee.

Vee said he does not go to the temple every day. He goes once or twice a month because of the distance mixed with his busy schedule. “I don’t know about the cultural differences here but back in India if your Sikh and you’re extreme about it, you have to go there every single day. If you are not extreme and you just believe in god, like myself, you just try to go one or two times a month.”

Ariel Powell is a convert to the Sikh religion.

Powell grew up in the Christian religion but said it never fully clicked with him. “I was a part of the Christian church when I was a kid, it just wasn’t the same, it's not the same at all,” says Powell.

He said he did not enjoy the discrimination of other religions within the Christian community he was part of “It’s very accepting of other religions. They accept any other religion. In their place of worship they let anyone in. everyone can help each other and work together there. It’s a really beautiful thing,” says Powell.

Powell says he is surprised that there is not a Sihk temple in Asheville. He says Asheville is a melting pot of religions and is very accepting of different faiths. “There's already a Hindu center here. The people here are way cooler than the surrounding places, period. Number one place I'm surprised there's not a temple here.”

Powell says that following Sihkisum has helped him profoundly in life. He says the religion helps him stay true to himself and how to be kind in every facet of life. “Never cause a commotion. Always help people when they need help. Stay the natural you that you're supposed to be. Just stay with you,” said.