The Asian Indian Community
Compiled by Clifton L. Holland
India, the most populous country in South Asia, is a peninsula bounded by Nepal and the Himalaya mountains to the north, Pakistan to the northwest, the Indian Ocean to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the Bay of Bengal to the east. India occupies about 1,560,000 square miles.
Second in population only to China, India is home to around 900 million people of diverse ethnicity, religion and language. About 82 percent of all Indians are Hindus. Approximately 12 percent are Muslims, while smaller minorities include Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians. While official Indian languages include Hindi, which is spoken by about 30 percent of the population, and English, hundreds of dialects are spoken in India.
India is a multi-lingual country with over 300 dialects. About 24 of these dialects are spoken by over a million people. This diversity is reflected in the Asian Indian community in America. First-generation Indians continue to speak their native language within the familywith spouses, members of the extended family, and friends within the community. Most also speak English fluently, which has made the transition to American society easier for many Indian immigrants.in the Walnut-Diamond Bar communities.
Regional differences are prevalent. Hindi is spoken mostly by immigrants from northern India, and is generally not spoken by South Indians. Immigrants from the states of southern India speak regional languages like Tamil, Telegu or Malayalam. A substantial number of immigrants from western India, particularly those from the state of Gujarat, continue to speak Gujarati, while those from the region of Bengal speak Bengali. Most second- and third-generation Asian Indians understand the language spoken by their parents and extended family, but tend not to speak it themselves. Many Indians are multilingual and speak several Indian languages. Thus, a Gujarati speaker is likely to know Hindi as well.
Immigration to the USA
In many accounts, immigrants to the United States from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are referred to as Asian Indians. The first Asian Indians or Indian Americans, as they are also known, arrived in America as early as the middle of the nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century, about 2,000 Indians, most of them Sikhs (a religious minority from India's Punjab region), settled on the west coast of the United States, having come in search of economic opportunity. The majority of Sikhs worked in agriculture and construction. Other Asian Indians came as merchants and traders; many worked in lumber mills and logging camps in the western states of Oregon, Washington and California, where they rented bunkhouses, acquired knowledge of English, and assumed Western dress. Most of the Sikhs, however, refused to cut their hair or beards or forsake the wearing of the turbans that their religion required.
In 1907 about 2,000 Asian Indians, alongside other immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, Norway and Italy worked on the building of the Western Pacific Railway in California. Other Asian Indians helped build bridges and tunnels for California's other railroad projects.
Between 1910 and 1920, as agricultural work in California began to become more abundant and better paying, many Asian Indian immigrants turned to the fields and orchards for employment. For many of the immigrants who had come from villages in rural India, farming was both familiar and preferable. There is evidence that Indians began to bargain, often successfully, for better wages during this time. Some Indians eventually settled permanently in the California valleys where they worked. Despite the 1913 Alien Land Law, enacted by the California legislature to discourage Japanese immigrants from purchasing land, many Asian Indians bought land as well; by 1920 Asian Indians owned 38,000 acres in California's Imperial Valley and 85,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. Because there was virtually no immigration by Indian women during this time, it was not unheard of for Indian males to marry Mexican women and raise families.
In July 1946, Congress passed a bill allowing naturalization for Indians and, in 1957, the first Asian Indian senator, Dalip Saund, was elected to Congress. While more educated and professional Indians began to enter America, immigration restrictions and tight quotas ensured that only small numbers of Indians entered the country prior to 1965. Overall, approximately 6,000 Asian Indians immigrated to the United States between 1947 and 1965.
From 1965 onward, a second significant wave of Indian immigration began, spurred by a change in U.S. immigration law that lifted prior quotas and restrictions and allowed significant numbers of Asians to immigrate. Between 1965 and 1974, Indian immigration to the United States increased at a rate greater than that from almost any other country. This wave of immigrants was very different from the earliest Indian immigrantsIndians that emigrated after 1965 were overwhelmingly urban, professional, and highly educated and quickly engaged in gainful employment in many U.S. cities. Many had prior exposure to Western society and education and their transition to the United States was therefore relatively smooth. More than 100,000 such professionals and their families entered the U.S. in the decade after 1965.
Almost 40 percent of all Indian immigrants who entered the United States in the decades after 1965 arrived on student or exchange visitor visas, in some cases with their spouses and dependents. Most of the students pursued graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. They were often able to find promising jobs and prosper economically, and many became permanent residents and then citizens.
The 1990 Census reported 570,000 Asian Indians in the United States of America. About 32 percent are settled in the Northeast, 26 percent in the South, 23 percent in the West, and 19 percent in the midwestern states. New York, California, and New Jersey are the three states with the highest concentrations of Asian Indians. In California, where the first Indian immigrants arrived, the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are home to the oldest established Asian Indian communities in the United States.
In general, the Asian Indian community has preferred to settle in the larger American cities rather than smaller towns, especially in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
The earliest Hindu mandir, or temple, the "old temple," existed in San Francisco as early as 1920, but in general the religious needs of Hindu Asian Indians prior to the 1950s were served mainly through ethnic and community organizations like the Hindu Society of India. Since the 1950s, Hindu and Sikh temples have increasingly been built for worship in cities with high concentrations of Asian Indians like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, while Asian Muslims worship at mosques and Christians at existing churches. There are now more than a hundred places of worship for Asian Indians around the United States.
All Hindus, regardless of their regional differences and the particular gods they worship, tend to worship at available temples. While Hindus are functionally polytheistic, they are philosophically monotheist. Brahman priests typically lead the service and recite from the scriptures. Services can be conducted in either Sanskrit, Hindi, or the regional languages. Poojas, or religious ceremonies that celebrate auspicious occasions like the birth of a child, are also performed by the priests. While some priests serve full time, others might have a second occupation in addition to performing priestly duties.
While some Asian Indians visit temples regularly, others limit their visits to important religious occasions. Since Hinduism tends to be less formally organized than other religions like Christianity, prayer meetings can also be conducted at individuals' homes. It is also quite common for Asian Indian homes to have a small room or a part of a room reserved for prayer and meditation. Such household shrines are central to a family's religious life.
Many Asian Indians practice Islam, meaning "submission to God." Followers of Islam believe in the prophet Muhammad, who was ordered by the angel Gabriel in 610 A.D. to spread God's message. Muhammad recorded the angel's revelations in the Koran, the Muslim holy book. There are five requirements, or Pillars, of Islam: (1) Confession that there is "no god but God" and Muhammad is the messenger of God; (2) Pray five times daily; (3) Giving of alms; (4) Fasting in daylight hours for the Muhammadan month of Ramadan; and (5) Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. While Muslims regard the message of Islam as eternal and universal, their individual lives have demonstrated a variety of orientations toward traditional and popular patterns.
The Asian Indian community in America also includes small numbers of Buddhists, followers of Gautama Buddha, and Jains, followers of Mahavira. The most unique feature of the Jain religion, which was founded in the sixth century B.C., is its belief in the doctrine of ahimsa, or nonviolence. This belief leads Jains to practice strict vegetarianism, since they cannot condone the killing of animals. The Jains in the U.S. have their own temples for worship. Buddhists, Jainists, and Hindus all place a great value on personal austerity and are concerned with the final escape from the cycle of birth and rebirth known as reincarnation.
Small but significant Zoroastrian or Parsi communities have settled in cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The Parsees came to India as refugees from Arab-invaded Persia in the ninth and tenth centuries. They are about 100,000 strong in India and have made significant economic and social contributions to the country. Earliest reports of Parsi immigrants to the U.S. date from the turn of this century, when groups of Parsees entered this country as merchants and traders.
Of all the Asian Indian religious communities, the Sikhs are the oldest and tend to be the most well organized in terms of religious activity. Sikhism is different from Hinduism in its belief in one God. Sikhs follow the teachings of Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion, and worship in temples called Gurudwaras (Gurudwaaras). Services in Gurudwaras are held about once a week as well as on religious occasions. Tenets of the Sikh religion include wearing a turban on the head for males and a symbolic bangle called a Kara around their wrists. In addition, Sikh males are required not to cut their hair or beards. This custom is still followed to by many in the community; others choose to give up the wearing of the turban and cut their hair.
Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta (1896-1977) was the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, which emerged in the 1970s in North America and Europe. At the age of 69 Bhaktivedanta left India and immigrated to the United States, preaching the worship of Krishna in New York. Hare Krishna is organizationally embodied in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). While he quickly gained an international following, Bhaktivedanta also experienced the harsh criticism of the anti-cult movement. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1911 ) arrived in the United States in 1959 as a missionary of traditional Indian thought. Mahesh founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, whose purpose was to change the world through the practice of Transcendental Mediation.
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Exerpts from: Establishing Roots, Engendering Awareness: A Political History of Asian Indians in the United States by Vinay Lal [Published in Live Like the Banyan Tree: Images of the Indian American Experience, ed. Leela Prasad (Philadelphia: Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1999):42-48.] http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Diaspora/roots.html
The first significant presence of Indians in the United States can be traced to exactly one hundred years ago , when peasants from the province of Punjab began appearing on the west coast, seeking work in Washingtons lumber mills and Californias vast agricultural fields. Though predominantly Sikhs, they were described in the popular press as "Hindus"; and almost from the outset they were seen as inassimilable, possessed of "immodest and filthy habits", the "most undesirable, of all the eastern Asiatic races . . ."
In 1907, Asian Indians were the victims of a racial riot in Bellingham, Washington, and henceforth concerted attempts would be made by the Asiatic Exclusion League and other associations to prevent further immigration from India into the United States and to restrict the capacity of those already in the country to own property.
In these circumstances, the new immigrants, whose difficulties were compounded by their high illiteracy rates and poor knowledge of English, undoubtedly imbibed their first political lessons, acquiring the skills and tenacity necessary to use the courts to their advantage, combat racism, and pursue a livelihood.
The most contemporary phase of the political history of Asian Indians in the United States begins, however, with the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which set a quota of 20,000 immigrants from each country. The greater number of Indians, at least in the first fifteen years, were to arrive as professionals, though subsequently many more have come under family reunification preferential categories. By 1975 the number of Asian Indians had risen to well over 175,000, and it is around this time that the question of self-representation, and how they wished to be known collectively to others, first surfaced among members of the Indian community.
The aversion of Indians to being viewed as part of a "black" community no doubt owes something also to their own racism, and as one black man wrote of Indian college students in the 1920s, "the Indian wore turbans so as not to be identified with negroes; they kept their distance, wanted nothing to do with negroes." To be assimilated into the category of "Caucasian" or "white" might consequently seem desirable, but Indians could not then claim those entitlements due to members of "minority groups" that faced the real hazards of prejudice. Where, at one time, Indians were zealous in pressing forth the claim that they ought to be considered "white", they now sought to disassociate themselves from this identity without disavowing the category of "Caucasian", which was seen as prestigious and having scientific credibility. Writing to the US Civil Rights Commission in 1975, the recently formed Association of Indians in America (AIA) submitted that "Indians are different in appearance; they are equally dark-skinned as other non-white individuals and are, therefore, subject to the same prejudices."
These efforts at preserving the minority status of Indians,
while allowing them a distinct identity, were to bear fruit when the Census Bureau agreed
to reclassify immigrants from India as "Asian Indians."
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See the Los Angeles Hindu Community Guide at: http://www.laindia.us/
According to some sources, the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area is home to "several hundred thousand Asian Indians." However, the 2000 Census only listed 60,268 Asian Indian residents in Los Angeles County and 20,197 in Orange County, for a total of 80,465. Cerritos, Artesia, Whittier, Anaheim, the City of Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Valley are only some of the areas where Asian Indians have made their homes. Although Artesia is the business hub for the Asian Indian community, Indian restaurants and grocery stores can be found throughout the region.
530 E. 231 Street
Carson, CA 90745
Center of Los Angeles
12329 Marshall Street
Culver City, CA 90230
("Founded in 1953 by Dr. Judith M. Tyberg, and based on the teachings of the great modern yogi and world-teacher Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator, the Mother, the Center stands as a lighthouse in metropolitan Los Angeles, offering the promise of a new life that can be the seed of a new world.")
12147 Lakewood Blvd.
Downey, CA 90242
(Shree Swaminaryan Mandir is affiliated to Shri Kaxminarayan Dev, Vadtal. The deites at the temple include Swaminarayan, Krishna & Radha.)
3752 Watseka Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Phone: 310 836-2676
1700 E. Cesar Chavez Avenue, Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90033
1966 N. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Shiv Durga Mandir
3412 West Beverly Blvd.
Montebello, CA 90640
18700 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge, CA 91324
(Deities at the Valley Hindu Temple include Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Satyanarayana & Mahavir.)
9292 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92503 (Riverside County)
Govinda Gaudiya Matha
301 Rose Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
Narayan Hindu Temple
Whittier, CA 90601
Phone: 310 692-2730
The Little India Chamber of Commerce, in the partly Indian neighborhood of Artesia outside Los Angeles, has been unable to persuade the municipality to put up signs guiding visitors to "Little India." Also see the Artesia Indian Community Guide at: http://www.artesiaindia.us/advt.html Local Artestia-Norwalk area temples and churches include the following:
22116 Pioneer Blvd
Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716
12634, Pioneer Blvd,
Norwalk, CA 90650
(The deities at the Radha Krishna Mandir include Radha Krishna, Rama, Lakshman, Sita, Hanuman & Ganesh.)
15311 Pioneer Blvd.
Norwalk, CA 90701
(Deities at the Sanatan Dharma Temple include Balaji, Rama, Lakshman, Sita, Hanuman & Ganesh, Radha Krishna & Durga.)
Asian Indian Church
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In 1997, the IDEA DATABASE for the Los
Angeles 5-County Region contained the following 49 Asian Indian churches, sorted by city:
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||GURU SRI SINGH SABHA||101 S CHAPEL AVE||ALHAMBRA||CA||91801-3951||818-447-7662|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2107||SYORC||SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF SO INDIA||416 N GARFIELD AVE||ALHAMBRA||CA||91801-2498|
|BAPTIST||B2.23111||NABC||EAST WEST COMMUNITY CHURCH||720 S MAGNOLIA AVE||ANAHEIM||CA||92804-3321||714-827-8763|
|JAIN||D2.2||JAIN||JAIN CENTER OF SO CALIF||2912 W LINCOLN AVE||ANAHEIM||CA||92801-6245|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||RUHANI SATSANG DIVINE SCIENCE OF THE SOUL||PO BOX 3037||ANAHEIM||CA||92803-3037|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||SANATANA DHARMA MANDI||4624 FLORENCE AVE||BELL||CA||90201-4313||310-865-7048|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||VEDIC DHARMA SAMAJ AUM CENTER||9999 PALM ST||BELLFLOWER||CA||90706-5934||310-328-6638|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||GURU NANAK SIKH TEMPLE||6420 ARNOLD WAY||BUENA PARK||CA||90620-1506|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||GURU NANAK SIKH TEMPLE||8302 WHITAKER ST||BUENA PARK||CA||90621-3132||7147392703|
|JAIN||D2.2||JAIN||JAIN CENTER OF SO CALIF||8072 COMMONWEALTH AVE||BUENA PARK||CA||90621||714-993-3098|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||SARVAMANGALA MISSION||8492 SAN CARLOS WAY||BUENA PARK||CA||90620||714-860-0482|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||HINDU TEMPLE SOCIETY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA||1600 LAS VIRGENES CANYON RD||CALABASAS||CA||91302-1942|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||ARYA SAMAJ||10038 INDEPENDENCE AVE||CHATSWORTH||CA||91311||818-341-1091|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||ARYA SANAJ OF SO CALIF||1375 N FIRCROFT AVE||COVINA||CA||91722-1531|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||RUHANI SATSANG DIVINE SCIENCE||9445 DACOSTA ST||DOWNEY||CA||90240-3504|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||SAVC SRI RADHA-KRISHNA TEMPLE||2011 E CHAPMAN AVE||FULLERTON||CA||92631||714-870-1156|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||ANANDA ASHRAM||5301 PENNSYLVANIA AVE||GLENDALE||CA||91214-1343||818-248-1931|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||RUHANI SATSANG DIVINE SCIENCE||1801 OAK KNOLL RD||GLENDALE||CA||91208-2621|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2106||CSI||MAR THOMAS CHURCH||134 S VISTA BONITA||GLENDORA||CA||91741|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||SIKH SOCIETY OF SO CALIF||22 FORTUNA W||IRVINE||CA||92720-1848|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2106||CSI||CHURCH OF INDIA / LA CAŅADA METHODIST CHURCH||104 BERKSHIRE PL||LA CAŅADA||CA||91011-4048||213-442-4288|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||GAURANGA TEMPLE||285 LEGION ST||LAGUNA BEACH||CA||92651-2424||714-494-7029|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||CHURCH OF DIVINE SCIENCE||3242 SAN AMADEO APT 2H||LAGUNA HILLS||CA||92653-3044|
|JAIN||D2.2||JAIN||ACHARAYA SUSHIL JAIN CENTER||3125 OCEAN BLVD||LONG BEACH||CA||90803-0000||310-438-8638|
|BUDDHIST||D1.1||BUDH||KHEMARA BUDDHIKARAMA||2100 W WILLOW ST||LONG BEACH||CA||90810-3042|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||TANTRAYANA VAJRADHARMA MEDITATION||4142 HATHAWAY AVE||LONG BEACH||CA||90815-2665|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||AVATAR MEHER BABA CENTER||10808 SANTA MONICA BLVD||LOS ANGELES||CA||90025-4602||310-474-9454|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2203||SJC||JACOBITE SYRIAN CHURCH OF INDIA||900 S HOOVER ST||LOS ANGELES||CA||90006-1909||213-241-5623|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||SIKH DHARMA BROTHERHOOD||1620 PREUSS RD||LOS ANGELES||CA||90035-4212||213-550-9043|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||SIKH TEMPLE||4554 RUSSELL AVE||LOS ANGELES||CA||90027-4412|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||SRI CHINMOY CENTER||1921 S SHERBOURNE DR||LOS ANGELES||CA||90034-1303||310-838-4746|
|PROTESTANT-UNCLASSIFIED||B5.0||PRXX||THE CROSS BEARER CHURCH||6026 ECHO ST||LOS ANGELES||CA||90042-4226||213-258-1387|
|BUDDHIST||D1.1||BUDH||VAJRAYANA ORDER OF THE BUDDHA||3765 MAYFAIR DR||LOS ANGELES||CA||90065-3208|
|BUDDHIST||D1.1||BUDH||THERAVADA BUDDHIST CENTER||12905 CANTARA ST||NORTH HOLLYWOOD||CA||91605-1123|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||HARI OM ASHRAM||17400 ARMINTA ST||NORTHRIDGE||CA||91325-4416||818-343-4063|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2107||HOCCEA||ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE EAST||17918 RAYMER ST||NORTHRIDGE||CA||91325-3155|
|PENTECOSTAL-UNCLASSIFIED||B4.1100||OPEN||INDIA PENTECOSTAL CHURCH||11009 PIONEER BLVD||NORWALK||CA||90650-1654||310-863-3729|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||SIKH TEMPLE||PO BOX 59133||NORWALK||CA||90652-0133||213-666-9210|
|PROTESTANT-UNCLASSIFIED||B5.0||PRXX||GUJARATI INDIAN CHRISTIAN CHURCH||161 S ORANGE ST||ORANGE||CA||92666-1423||818-918-3352|
|JAIN||D2.2||JAIN||JAIN MEDITATION CENTER||6016 E CADBURY DR||ORANGE||CA||92669-4304|
|PROTESTANT-UNCLASSIFIED||B5.0||PRXX||INT'L FELLOWSHIP||1461 E WOODBURY RD||PASADENA||CA||91104-1555||818-794-7513|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||ATMANIKETAN ASHRAM||1291 N WEBER ST||POMONA||CA||91768-2251||714-629-8255|
|BUDDHIST||D1.1||BUDH||THERAVADA BUDDHIST||850 W PHILLIPS BLVD||POMONA||CA||91766-4442||714-622-0814|
|PROTESTANT-UNCLASSIFIED||B5.0||PRXX||CHRIST FOR INDIA-CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP||2326 MARTY LN||SANTA ANA||CA||92706-1238||714-750-8652|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||SIKH TEMPLE OF ORANGE COUNTY||2514 W WARNER AVE||SANTA ANA||CA||92704||714-641-9034|
|EASTERN ORTHODOX||A1.2107||HOCCEA||ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN OF INDIA||15156 MCINTYRE ST||SYLMAR||CA||91342-5075||818-362-3178|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||ARYA SAMAJ||22322 S HARBOR RIDGE||TORRANCE||CA||90502||310-328-6638|
|SIKH||D2.3||SIKH||ADI SHAKTI ASHRAM||839 HILLDALE AVE||WEST HOLLYWOOD||CA||90069-4913|
|HINDU||D2.1||HINDU||BSS TEMPLE||12401 PELLISSIER RD||WHITTIER||CA||90601-1544||310-693-9507|
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Maps of the Asian Indian population in Los Angeles, 1990
The IDEA Strategic Mapping and Information Service, directed by Clifton L. Holland, has produced a series of computer maps on ethnic and religious diversity in the Los Angeles 5-County Region, based on the 1990 Census of Population. See the following links:
Los Angeles County: ../laco/laco-asian-ind.pdf (note PDF format) Note the large concentration of Asian Indians in the communities of Walnut and Diamond Bar in the East San Gabriel Valley.
Orange County: ../orco/D-AS-IND.pdf (note PDF format)