The centenary of Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (SGSS) of Singapore was celebrated with much fanfare, reflecting the multi-religious and multiracial ethos of Singapore. Members of the Sikh community came in large numbers to participate in the event. President of Singapore Halimah Yacob was the ‘guest of honour’ at the programme.
The celebration comes after the recent re-sanctification ceremony of 148-year old Hindu Sri Krishnan temple organised on June 3.
Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (SGSS) has witnessed the remarkable progress of the Sikh community in Singapore. It was established in 1918. The name ‘Singh Sabha’ was used in line with the Singh Sabha Movement that was gaining momentum in India since its launch in 1873 with the founding of Amritsar Singh Sabha.
The first building of Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha was located close to the old Central Sikh Temple at Queens Street. The congregation used rented premises until the property at 90 Wilkie Road was acquired in 1932.
Extensive structural changes were made to prepare the congregational hall on the first floor. In 1968 an adjoining plot of land was purchased for the construction of an entirely new premises. Construction on this new building began in 1978 and was completed in 1980. The new Gurdwara was declared officially opened in 1984.
SGSS has played an active role in the propagation of Punjabi language in Singapore and promoted the tenets of Sikh religion among the community. It allowed its premises to be used for over 25 years from the 1940s to the 1960s to run Punjabi classes for Sikh children. Khalsa Punjabi School was also run in the Gurdwara’s premises in the 1950s and 1960s.
“SGSS has always been in the forefront of organising and participating in the Sikh religious activities and has been a beacon for the teaching of the Panjabi Language, which today, is one of the South Asian Languages recognised by the government,” said a statement released by SGSS.
Moreover, the Sabha has been active in encouraging closer cohesion of the Sikh community in Singapore, being supportive in the organisation of festivals like Vesakhi, Gurpurabs and National Day celebrations.
In addition to this, this gurdwara also extends support to various organisations like the Sikh Welfare Council (SIWEC), Singapore Sikh Education Foundation (SSEF), Sikh Institutions and several other institutions involving the wider Singapore community.
During the centenary celebrations, a commemorative centennial coffee table book christened ‘Daastaan — Sri Guru Singh Sabha Singapore’s Journey’ documenting activity of the gurdwara was also released on the occasion.
Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore lauded the role of Sikh community for being active in the inter-racial and religious confidence circle in the multicultural and multiracial city-state.
Making an observation about SGSS in the book, President Halimah wrote, “As one of the oldest gurdwara, the 100-year-old Sri Guru Singh Sabha (SGSS) has made huge strides in contributing to the overall efforts in building a more caring, cohesive and inclusive society.”
“Singapore prides itself as a multicultural and multi-racial society. Over the years, the various communities have played their parts to strengthen Singapore’s social fabric,” she added.
Praising the Sikh community of Singapore, she wrote, “The Sikh community, too, has been active in meeting the needs of the community and engaging the wider society.”
Writing about the activities of gurdwara, President Halimah observed, “The gurdwara remains central to the Sikh community. Apart from being a place of worship, a gurdwara also serves as an outreach node for the community.”
“It provides langar or communal meals, as well as conducts social, educational and other charitable activities for all Singaporeans regardless of race and religion,” she wrote.
Speaking about the book, Tirlok Singh, president of the SGSS management committee, said, “This commemorative book... honours the pioneering spirit of the predecessors of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, who planted the seeds of honest hard work, community spirit and selfless service.”