At the dawn of the 20th Century, there was a large community of Sikhs in the island of Penang. All these Sikhs used to go to the Diamond Jubilee Gurdwara (Wadda Gurdwara Penang) for prayers and other religious functions. Most of these Sikhs were from the Majha, Malwa or Doaba regions of Punjab. There was always rivalry among the three groups, which sometimes led to a lot of unhappiness. Finally, the Malwa Sikhs, who were a minority, decided to establish their own separate Gurdwara Sahib.
An inaugural general meeting attended by 55 Malwa Sikhs was held on 17th August 1937. The Sikh Malwa community of Penang decided to establish a religious society, which was named the Khalsa Dharmak Jatha. It was also to include a Gurdwara Sahib in its premises. This Jatha's main aims were to preach the Sikh religion, set up a Punjabi school, unify the Sikh community and intervene in religious matters in case of dispute and settle them in an amicable manner.
In late 1937, the Management Committee led by its President, Sardar Kehar Singh Dhurkot, rented a house at Number 156 Brick Kiln Road, Penang for Straits Settlement $20.00 a month. This building was converted into a Gurdwara Sahib and Bhai Hazara Singh was appointed its first Granthi.
In 1939, a double storey building was purchased under the name of Kalgidhar Diwan Malaya at Number 74 Malacca Street, Penang. This was converted into the Gurdwara Sahib by the Sangat. Subsequently, the Kalgidhar Diwan Malaya gave this building to the Khalsa Dharmak Jatha on a 99-year lease on 24th August 1964.
In memory of the illustrious Sikh writer, Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha in Punjab, a library was set up in the 1950's. It contained books on the Sikh religion, poetry, novels, stories, and drama as well as selected books in English, Urdu and Hindi, which were an invaluable source of reference. This library has fallen into disuse over the years and needs to be revitalized.
In 1964, the Khalsa Dharmak Jatha, purchased a large double storey bungalow with a land area of 6,654.18 square feet at Number 51, Patani Road for RM58,000.00. This building was renovated and converted into a Gurdwara Sahib at a cost of RM42,000.00. Sardar Natha Singh, then a City Councilor and Chairman of the Building Committee, declared this Gurdwara Sahib open on 25th August 1965.
By the 1990's, the Sikh Sangat had grown tremendously and the Darbar Sahib was inadequate to seat everyone. In 1998, the Management Committee decided to extend the Darbar Sahib (prayer hall). In addition, a multi purpose hall was built on the ground floor and all other facilities upgraded which included the Granthils quarters, the Gurdwara Sahib kitchen, the office and two rooms for Sikh visitors. The cost of this major renovations was RM400,000.00 which was graciously donated by members of the Sikh community. This Gurdwara Sahib building is very beautiful and much admired by all visitors. This renovated Gurdwara Sahib was declared open by the President, Sardar Harbans Singh Sangay on Vesakhi Day 14th April 2000.
The immovable property of the Khalsa Dharmak Jatha was placed under a Board of Trustees. In the late 1950's, the Trustees were Sardar Kheon Singh Gill, Sardar Santa Singh Mehna, Sardar Chanan Singh Dalla, Sardar BalDev Singh Sewak and Sardar Gurdial Singh Sekha. The present Trustees of the Gurdwara Sahib are Dato' Chet Singh, Dr. Daljit Singh Nagreh, Sardar Gurbachan Singh Gill, Sardar Diljit Singh Bedi and Sardar Arjan Singh Gill. Giani Nihal Singh served as a Granthi here for nearly 10 years from 1939 to 1949. About 20 Sikh students attend Punjabi classes in this Gurdwara Sahib twice a week.
The Management Committee comprises of the President, Secretary, Treasurer, their assistants and six committee members. There is a Sikh Assistant Registrar 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.
There are presently about 300 Sikh families who participat in the religious activities held in this Gurdwara Sahib. The normal weekly prayers are held on nday mornings from 7.30a.m. to 9.30a.m with the commencement of Asa Di War Kirtan. The Isteri Satsang programme is held on Saturday afternoon from 2.00p.m. to 5.00p.m. and starts with the Sukhmani Sahib Path prayers followed by kirtan. The Sikh Naujawan programmes are also held occasionally.
Sikh Gurudwaras in Malaysia&Singapore
Saran Singh Sidhu AMN,PNM,FRNS
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