Southern California has been the home to the Indian-American community for over 100 years. However, steady growth of the community started with the liberalization of American Immigration laws in late 1960s. At present, over 250,000 people of Indian origin live in Southern California. Several entrepreneurs, businessmen,
With the increase in of Indian immigrants several, cultural, religious, social and charity organizations were formed. In Los Angeles area, an umbrella group, Federation of Indian American Associations (FIA) was started to celebrate India Independence day, India Republic day, etc. India’s Independence Day celebration was organized first time in 1981 as a whole day mela. It is now organized at four places in Southern California, San Diego, Riverside, Artesia and San Fernando Valley. These events, attract over 40,000 Indian Americans, bring the community on one platform, showcase India’s cultural heritage, promote Indian businesses and provide a forum to many elected officials and aspiring politicians. Mela style celebration has become a preferred mode of celebration in Southern California and many other cities in the United States. India’s Ambassadors Mira Shankar, Nirupma Rao and Arun K Singh have presided over the Independence day celebrations. Ed Royce, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee and Congressman Brad Sherman, senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee are regular guests at India Independence Day celebrations.
Religion The region is dotted with over fifty temples, gurdwaras and mosques, which serve the religious needs of the community. Baisakhi and Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday are celebrated in Los Angeles convention center attracting more than 15,000 people. Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday is celebrated every year on December 25, in Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pomona. Southern California has also been the home for many Indian religious and yoga awakening movements. Jiddu Krishnamurti (Ojai, California 1922), Paramahansa Yogananda (Self Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, 1925), Yogi Bhajan (Kundaliani Yoga, Los Angeles, 1968), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Bhagwan Rajneesh, and many more found fertile ground for spreading their respective missions. The Self-Realization Center at Pacific Palisades still preserves Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes.
Farming California is a farming state. Some Indian farmers own thousands of acres of farming land. An Indian farmer has earned the reputation of “Raisin king of California” The New York Times called Harbhajan Samra as “the Okra king of USA”. The Munger family of Bakersfield is the largest blueberry producer in the world. Dalip Singh Saund, after obtaining his Ph.D in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkley, could not get a job commensurate with his qualifications. His first job was as a farm worker.
Lajpat Rai Munger of Bakersfield donated $3.5 million, in two installments, to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. The family built regional campus of Punjab University at Hosiarpur, at a cost of Rs 20 crores. Lajpat Rai came to the US in 1966. He worked as a laborer, rose to own 8,000 acres of land.
On getting US citizenship in 1949, he was elected as a judge in 1952. In 1956, Saund was elected as U.S Congressman from Imperial/Riverside counties. Till today, he makes us proud as the first Asian to be a U.S. Congressman. He was re-elected to the House of Representatives twice.
Over 40% of motels in the United States are owned by the Patel community and they have prospered in the hospitality industry coming to be known as the “Innkeepers of the USA.” Several Indians own leading franchises such as Hiltons, Radisson, etc. Southern California Indian-American hotel/motel owners have combined holdings of several billion dollars. B. U Patel is one of the highly respected hoteliers in Southern California.
A large number of Indian American physicians are practicing medicine in Southern California. The accomplishments of some of these physicians have reached far beyond the boundaries of the region. Dr Deepak Chopra, author of over 80 books, has his Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Southern California.
Dr. Prem Reddy of Victorville, cardiologist and philanthropist, has committed $40 million donation to finance a medical school in the San Bernardino County. Dr. Reddy founded Prime Healthcare Services, which owns and operates 25 hospitals.
Dr. Harvinder Sahota and his wife Asha donated $1.5 million for a chair in Sikh studies at UCI. He is the creator of the perfusion angioplasty balloon. He is also affiliated with; Claremont Lincoln University, Claremont School of Theology, Loyola Marymount University and U.C. Irvine.
Dr. Ushakant Thakkar and his wife Dr. Irma gifted $1.5 mllion for the establishment of Thakkar Family-Dharma Civilization Foundation Presidential Chair in Vedic and Indic Civilization Studies within the School of Humanities at UCI. In August 2010, the couple donated $1million to Simi Valley (California) Hospital,