Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, a beacon to the Indian American community, especially the Sikhs in California since his coming to the U.S. in 1953 to study pediatric dentistry, will be recognized Feb 4 on his 93rd birthday by the Studio for Southern California History.
Marwah, who came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship under the Guggenheim Foundation to study pediatric dentistry in New York in 1953, will be recognized for his contributions to Los Angeles history and particularly to the Sikh-American community of Southern California, by Los Angeles Councilmember David Ryu.
Sharon Sekhon director of the Studio, a nonprofit that announced the event Jan. 27, worked with the South Asian American Digital Alliance (SADAA), the Sikh Temple, and Councilman Ryu to recognize Marwah, who will be honored with street signage at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Finley Avenue, the location of the Hollywood Sikh Temple.
After his study in New York, Marwah enrolled at the University of Illinois where he received a master’s degree. He attended Howard University in D.C. and got a doctorate in dentistry, allowing him to practice in the United States. Marwah taught at the University of Illinois, Chicago and through the U.S. Public Health Service in 1959, he was sent to teach at Bombay University.
Marwah arrived in Los Angeles in 1962 and joined the faculty in the School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California (USC) and opened his private practice. Marwah was the first person of color to desegregate Los Angeles’ medical professional building and lived in nearby Baldwin Hills.
For 50 years Marwah worked as a dentist completely on referral, and some of his clients included Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor and impoverished people who he treated at USC’s Dental Clinic.
Marwah has worked with different Los Angeles leaders but most closely with Mayor Tom Bradley. In 1974 Mayor Bradley appointed Marwah as Commissioner to chair the Cultural Heritage and Hollywood Art Commission for the City of Los Angeles where he served for 18 years.
He established Historic Cultural Monuments for the 1888 Chinese shrine at Evergreen Cemetery, Barnsdall Park, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Union Station, and many others.
He has served as an ambassador in both formal and informal titles – in 1984 he hosted the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at his home for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1968 Dr. Marwah created the Sister City Program with Los Angeles and Bombay, working with Mayor Yorty.
One year later in 1969 Marwah donated a building to establish first Sikh temple in the United States, since India’s Independence in 1947, at Vermont Avenue to honor the 500th anniversary of the religion’s founder Guru Nanak . He founded the Sikh Study Circle, the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Foundation, and the coordinating Council of India Associations.
In India he has built K.K. Marwah Girls College (named after his wife, Kuljit Kaur Marwah) in Faridkot, Punjab. In Mahindra College, Patiala, he helped build an auditorium with matching funds. He has provided thousands in scholarship support.
Marwah has been cited in Congressional documentaries for his work in helping to elect Dalip Singh Saund to Congress, representing the Imperial Valley, and on PBS for his stewardship of Bhagat Singh Thind’s legacy as a civil rights leader and spiritual guru.