Sikh pioneers in California, circa 1910.

California’s pioneering Sikh population

Yuba City, about 35 miles north of Sacramento, is home to one of the largest Sikh populations in the world outside of the Indian state of Punjab. In the early 1900s, the first Punjabis immigrated to California, where they worked at lumber mills, farms, and the railroad. The most famous among them, Didar Singh Bains, arrived in 1958 with $8 in his pocket and became the “Peach King of California” — one of the world’s largest peach growers.

Sikhs living in Yuba City are now estimated to number about 15,000. Every November, more than 100,000 people gather there for a major Sikh festival. In 2017, the city swore in the first Sikh woman to be mayor in U.S. history.

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