The Khalsa Dharmak Club (later renamed Khalsa Dharmak Sabha) was formed by the Sikhs in Singapore who had originated from the Malwa region of Punjab. A pro tem committee was formed on 23' June 1923 to prepare the Rules and Regulations. This club was formally registered with the Government on 17th January 1924. Its temporary office address was Number 85 Kampong Baru Road.
The first Annual General Meeting was held on 19th February 1924. Sardar Sarwan Singh Samalsar was elected President, Sardar Jeon Singh Vice President, Sardar Bhagwan Singh Kokri Secretary, Sardar Utam Singh Akawali Assistant Secretary, Sardar Arjan Singh Pakha Treasurer and nine committee members. An additional five members were also elected to serve on the Management Committee of the Queen Street Gurdwara Sahib. All committee members of this club were forbidden to consume liquor.
This club's members used to hold all their religious programmes at the Queen Street Gurdwara Sahib in the early years of its formation. On 5th April 1924, the office of this club was shifted to Number 126 Cecil Street. These premises were rented at Straits Settlement $10 per month. On 8th August 1925, the Management Committee decided to acquire appropriate religious books for the advancement of the Sikh religion and literature. These books were sold to the sangat at a very reasonable price.
The Khalsa Dharmak Club members decided to have their own Gurdwara Sahib on 24th April 1926. Soon after, the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, was brought from the home of Sardar Balbir Singh Butar in Kota Tinggi, in the State of Johor, and placed in the Cecil Street premises. The Manji Sahib, Chanani and rumalas were all donated by Sardar Balbir Singh. Members of the congregation performed the duties of the Granthi. On 11th December 1926, the name of this club was changed to Khalsa Dharmak Sabha, Panch Khalsa Hethkari Jatha, Singapore. Some of the members of this Sabha led a strict religious life and were staunch followers of the Panch Khalsa Diwan.
In January 1927, the Management Committee rented a double storey bungalow at Number 10 - 3 Dhoby Ghaut (Handy Road). These premises were renovated and converted into a Gurdwara Sahib. The Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, was placed in this premises on 18th January 1927 and a Sehaj Path commenced. Bhai Chanan Singh Mandali was appointed the first Granthi of this Gurdwara Sahib on 13th February 1927.
At the Annual General Meeting held on 15th December 1929, fifteen committee members were selected to include a wide representation of Sikhs from the Malwa region in Singapore, viz;
(a) Central Police (City Police)- 1 Member
(b) Naval Base and Air Force Base Seletar (Additional Police)- 2 Members
(c) Pulau Berani (Oil storage depot - Sikh watchmen)- 1 Member
(d) Raffles Hotel (Sikh taxi drivers)- 1 Member
(e) Kirkby Club (Sikh taxi drivers) - 2 Members
(f) New World (Sikh watchmen)- 1 Member
(g) Sangat (Sikh congregation)- 7 Members
In the early written records of the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha, the Degh was referred to as Degh Maha Prasad'. This phrase was also used during the ArDas (prayers). On 17th July 1935, the phrase `Degh Maha Prasad' was changed to Warah Parshad' in reference to the Degh. The Management Committee approved this change after listening to the views of the Secretary, Sardar Jagjit Singh Pato.
On 12th April 1936, the President, Pandit Nand Singh Samalsar, convened an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Sabha's members. All those present agreed to purchase the property located at Number 18, Niven Road for Straits Settlements $16,000.00. At the same time, five Trustees were appointed; Pandit Nand Singh Samalsar, Sardar Narain Singh Khaee, Sardar Budh Singh Thobra, Sardar Bhan Singh Bheka and Sardar Partap Singh Mehna. On 15th June 1936, the Management Committee paid for the above property in full. Donations were requested from the sangat to renovate the building into the Gurdwara Sahib. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was placed in the renovated Gurdwara Sahib in early 1938. Over the years, this Gurdwara Sahib was renovated on several occasions. In 1965, major renovations and extensions were carried out at a cost of nearly S$71,000.00. Further renovations and improvements were done in 1977 at a cost of nearly S$46,000.00.
In 1938, this Sabha set up a library for the benefit of the Sangat. Suitable books on the Sikh religion and culture, literature, novels etc. were acquired from Punjab. Rules and regulations were also prepared for the loans of these books. There were many Sikhs from the Malwa region of Punjab who worked and resided in Seletar as well as the Islands of Pulau Samboe and Pulau Bukom off Singapore. In December 1938, the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha established cordial relations with these Malwa Sikhs and used to send parcharaks (preachers) to these places as and when required.
In February 1942, the Japanese invading forces occupied Singapore. Singapore was renamed `Syonan To' and the year was changed to 2602 in accordance with the Buddhist calendar. The time was also brought forward by two hours to coincide with the time in Japan. The Japanese finally surrendered on 5th September 1945 (2005) and Singapore was re-occupied by the British.
During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha played an essential part in providing a vehicle free of charge, to convey the bodies of deceased Sikhs as well as firewood to the crematorium. This was a blessing as vehicles were in very short supply. This vehicle was also used to transport needy Sikhs who were very sick to hospital. The Sabha had a large stockpile of firewood. Poor needy families were given the firewood free of charge.
There were nearly 50 Sikh widows and children in the Widow's Ashram in the Silat Road Gurdwara Sahib. This Sabha assisted these ladies by supplying provisions and other basic necessities and even cash where necessary. Provisions were in short supply during the Japanese occupation. To prepare the Degh, red palm oil or coconut oil was used in place of ghee, maize floor mixed with rice floor was used in place of wheat floor and brown sugar replaced white sugar.
In August 1954, Master Tara Singh Ji, Leader of the Akalis in Punjab visited Singapore. This Sabha presented him with a siropao (purse) of Malayan $5,100.00. In February 1961, the Management Committee decided to offer a scholarship to needy Malwa Sikh children for further studies. A sub-committee was formed to scrutinise all relevant applications and make recommendations for this purpose. This scholarship was discontinued in March 1968.
Over the years, Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji Malacca had been invited on many occasions to do parchar in this Gurdwara Sahib. In July 1964, Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji decided to go on a visit to Punjab. This Sabha presented him with a siropao of $525.00. In August 1966, Sant Fateh Singh, who had led the successful Punjabi Subha Morcha (agitation), stayed in the Sabha premises. Upon his departure, he was presented with a siropao of $5,100.00.
In 1968, during the Indo-China border war, the Malaysian Government had set up a Save Democracy National Defence Fund. This Sabha donated $1,000.00 towards this fund.
The 500' Anniversary of the birth of Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji was celebrated on a grand scale in Singapore on 16th November 1969. This Sabha donated S$1,025.00 to the joint fund, which was set up to celebrate this occasion.
The 500th birth anniversary of Guru AmarDas Ji was celebrated on a large scale in this Gurdwara Sahib between 23rd April 1979 to 8th May 1979. The Granthi, Giani Prem Singh Wedah Ghar, did the katha on the life of Guru AmarDas Ji based on the `Gurpertap Suraj' . Sant Harnek Singh Ji and Sant Nahar Singh Ji, who were both present during this occasion, did the katha and kirtan.
In December 1990, at an Extraordinary General Meeting, a decision was made to construct a larger building on the same site to cater for the ever-growing Sikh Sangat. A building committee was appointed to raise funds for this project. The preparation of the building plans and final approval to commence construction took about three years.
In March 1994, the Sikh Sangat held five Akhand Path's in the previous Gurdwara Sahib prior to the building being vacated on 27th March 1994. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was taken in a procession by the Sikh Sangat, accompanied by the Panj Piyarae, to its temporary location at the Sikh Missionary Society Malaya premises at Number 86 Sofia Road. Smaller religious functions were held in this location for the next five years. Major religious programmes were held at the Wadda Gurdwara Sahib. The Khalsa Dharmak Sabha made a donation of S$30,000.00 to the Sikh Missionary Society for the use of their premises.
The previous Gurdwara Sahib building at Number 18 Niven Road was demolished in May 1994. The ground breaking ceremony of the new Gurdwara Sahib building was performed by Sardar Kartar Singh Thakral on 25`h May 1994 which was the birthday of Guru Amar Das Ji, the third Guru. Retired Justice Choor Singh Sidhu laid the foundation stone of the new Gurdwara Sahib on 14th August 1994. The Gurdwara Sahib building was completed within two years and ready for occupation by August 1996.
On 7`h August 1996, an Akhand Path prayer was held for the last time at the premises of the Sikh Missionary Society. On the morning of 9th August 1996, (National Day of Singapore), the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, was respectfully taken in a large procession, accompanied by the Panj Piyarae and the Sikh Sangat, to the newly completed Gurdwara Sahib at Niven Road. After the Guru Granth Sahib Ji was placed in the Darbar Sahib, the kirtan jathas and parcharaks sang various hymns and gave lectures. After the prayers were over, 18 continuous Akhand Path's were held by the Sangat to commemorate the completion of the Gurdwara Sahib, to offer thanks to WaheGuru and ask for his blessings.
The cost of this new Gurdwara Sahib building, which is located on a piece of land approximately 14,800 square feet in size, came to approximately S$4,800,000.00. The 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Khalsa Dharmak Sabha fell on 17th January 1999. A Rehin Sabahi kirtan (continuous singing of verses from the Gurbani by kirtan jathas) commenced on the previous evening. It concluded with the recital of the Asa Di War Kirtan and prayers on the morning of 17th January 1999.
There is a Sikh Assistant Register of Marriages in this Gurdwara Sahib who officiates at Sikh marriages when called upon to do so. The actual marriage ceremony is performed by the Granthi in accordance with Sikh rites.
From 1978 to 1990, Punjabi classes were held twice a week in this Gurdwara Sahib. Since March 1990, Punjabi has been taught in Government schools in five different centres on Saturdays from 2.00p.m. to 6.00p.m. The number of Sikh students at these centres has grown from about 350 in 1990 to about 1,800 students by 2003. There are presently about 500 Sikh families who participate in the religious activities of this Gurdwara Sahib.
Giani Manggal Singh Lakha, a poet, writer and preacher, served as a Granthi in this Gurdwara Sahib for five years (September 1952 to November 1957). The next Granthi was Giani Gurbaksh Singh Samad `Khande Wala' who served as a Granthi here for 19 years (April 1958 to May 1977). Giani Prem Singh Wedah Ghar served as a Granthi from 1979 to 1990 followed by Giani Jang Singh Gajiana (1981 to 2002).
The Sunday prayers are held from 6.30a.m. to 8.30a.m. (First Diwan) and 9.00a.m. to 11.00a.m. (Second Diwan). Every Thursday evening, the katha (recital) of the Suraj Parkash is held from 6.40p.m. to 8.30p.m. This programme was started in May 1979 and continues up to this day. The Isteri Satsang programme is held every Monday from 1.30p.m. to 4.00p.m. Other religious programmes are held as and when necessary at the request of the Sikh Sangat.
Reference: "Ithas Khalsa Dharmak Sabha Singapore 1924 - 1983" by Sardar Tara Singh Hathesi, Page 1 - 210 in Gurmukhi (Published by Khalsa Dharmak Sabha 1985).
Sikh Gurudwaras in Malaysia&Singapore
Saran Singh Sidhu AMN,PNM,FRNS
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