Sikh Gurduaras & Societies of the Federal Territory, Malaysia, and Sikh Determination!
Malaysia created the Federal Territory area, that includes the city of Kuala Lumpur and Putra Jaya about 60 miles south, not too long ago, in 2005. Celebrations on it's formation take place annually. Being a multi religious country, all religions are encouraged sometimes with financial aid, to conduct prayers for this day in their respective manner in the Mosques, Buddhist Pagodas, Hindu Temples, Christian Churches and Sikh Gurduaras, within the federal territory. Interestingly enough and perhaps it comes as a pleasant news to many Sikhs outside Malaysia that there are a number of Sikh Gurduaras and Societies that operate and function from within this area -
Some of the societies are :-
Malaysian Gurduara Council
Panch Khalsa Diwan Malaysia
Sikh naujawan sabha malaysia
Sri Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa Garh Malaysia
Association of Professional Sikhs Malaysia
Malaysian Khalsa Co-operative Society
Punjabi Vidhayak Board Malaysia
Malaysian Sikh Vidhyak Fund
Malaysian -Singapore Sikh sports Council
Punjabi Sahitak sabha Malaysia
Sikh Bhilaii Sabha Malaysia
Singh- Kaur Society Malaysia
Parti Punjabi Malaysia etc
In addition to all the above and many other smaller societies there are also fourteen Gurduaras in the Malaysian Federal territory.
The oldest and historical Gurduara is in Jalan Parliament, KL. It was usually referred to as the Old (Purana) Depot Gurduara. This was built in 1890, and it's architecture is based on imperial British colonial style architecture.
During the 400th Anniverary of Guru Granth Sahib celebrations in KL, the Guru Granth Sahib was escorted along from this historical gurduara by air-in a helicopter, to the central city square-Dataran Merdeka and from where it was then majestically paraded, in a gigantic Nager kirtan to the newest and most recently built Gurduara - Guru Nanak Darbar, at the Tatt Khalsa complex in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city.
The spirit of the nager kirtan displayed the rising chardhi kala and profile of the Sikhs in the Malaysian nation- a gift of the Guru's bakshish to Sikhs since their arrival in this country in the early 1860s. The Sikh Panth in Malaysia has been blessed by Satguru, as it appears to enjoy freedom and a place of great esteem in the nation unseen in any other country.
The new Guru Nanak Darbar-Tatt Khalsa building is the most modern endeavor of Sikhs in Malaysia . It is a very impressive modern building reflecting the great acheivement of the 180,000 strong Sikh community of Malaysia.It is said to be the most largest and impressive Sikh Gurduara in South East Asia.
Along side it, stands the six storey Wisma Tatt Khalsa building - is the silent reflection of Panthic success-a brain child of the far sighted and wise Sikh leaders in the 60's era in the country.It is the result of their committed religious sewa towards the continual the well being of the Panth.
Wisma Tatt Khalsa is the home to the oldest Punjabi language newspaper outside India; is now the only national voice of the South East Asian Sikhs.
The Guru Nanak Darbar is a very attractive building reminiscent of the Punjabi architecture - with gobinds, minars and beauty that attracts the attention and curiosity of tourists & visitors very easily from a distance.
A few miles away,another nice and an attractive Gurduara in the federal territory is the Gurduara Sahib Sentul, with its attractive and beautiful building, and Nishan Sahib always fluttering seen from a distance.
It is enjoined by a multi million impressive newer building; that is now home to the Sikh Centre Malaysia-catering for a range of needs within the Sikh community. It houses Punjabi, Hindi and an English library. There is also only but a small and very interesting Sikh museum housed within its complex.
Along another road in another part of KL, as malaysians affectionately call their capital city along Jalan Pudu, sits the Main Doab Gurduara Sahib, originally sat up to meet the needs of the Sikhs from the Majha geographical region of the Punjab. To this day,Malaysian Sikhs from the Doaba region of the Punjab and the Ghail Sikhs are very closely attached to this gurduara and regard this as their "very own" centre. This Gurduara is always recalled for their generosity when donations are made. Through this Gurduara, Sikhs of the Doaba region have preserved their regional history and the achievements of their regional fore fathers who arrived in Malaysia a hundred and fifty- five years earlier.
There is also a large community of Arora and business minded Sikhs. They own large departmental stores and shops in the most affluent business areas of KL, mainly around Gombak Lane, now known as Jalan Raja Laut. They too had a Gurduara in this area, but have moved it to Jalan Pahang. Locally, it is now more popularly known as Gurduara Sahib Titiwangsa. There are a number of programmes held at this gurduara on sundays. This Gurduara is known to celeberate the barsi of Malaysia's most famous Sikh son and only Sant; Sohan Singh, on the first of May every year.
Along Gombak Lane,the Panch Khalsa Diwan Malaysia had their own Gurduara.But with the development of KL city,this gurduara was closed,as its membership had declined. From 1920 to 1973 this Gurduara served all the needs of the Panch Khalsa Sikhs. Other Sikhs referred to the Panch Khalsa Sikhs as Bhasourriye because they had their head centre at village Bhassaurr, Punjab. The Panch khalsa Sikhs were and are known as very orthodox in their practise of the Sikh religion; they would never consume anything-like tea or food from other non-amritdhari Sikhs. They only associated with fully amritdhari Sikhs. Their ladies used to conduct their hair into a joora, and have small turbans or keski under their dupattas. This practice has now died down in Malaysia by the late 1970s.
However, there has been a rise of young Sikh females like their counterparts in the western countries, wearing small turbans or keski as sign of a bold statement and assertion of their identity.
Along Jalan Kampung Pandan, there is another large gurduara that at one time was referred to as the ''baboo'an da" Gurduara.The story goes, when this gurduara was first established, on another site, in Cochrane Road, most of its leaders and sewadaars were government officials, middle management and/or English educated Sikhs. In those days such people were usually referred to as "baboos' [Government servants]. But many highly placed Sikh officers were not keen with this tag, as the term was usually used by the general population for those bengali/bhaiya bread makers-who would travel on their push bikes selling the bread from door to door, ringing the bells, and shouting out loudly!
The Sikh officers prefered the suffix 'Sardar Sahib ji'. However in time it became a practice in the police among Sikh officers to use some Malay words when addressing senior fellow Sikh officers. So words like "INCHE" or "TUAN"(Sir; respected One etc ) crept into the every day Punjabi language. This practice was soon caught on by other Sikhs outside the forces, and used widely. Sikh officers/constables at that time would also sometimes refer to another fellow Sikh police constable or havildaar with the Government issue numbers, in chaste punjabi- e.g someone may lovingly be called - Havildar 3140 ( in Punjabi- katti challi: or 9060 would often affectionately be called (Nabhe sath); or some one may be ...a shabbi panjah [ 2650].!!.....imagine ....a baraan terraan [1213 or tera'n tera'n )
This was a peculiarity of the good old Punjabi humour and teth pendu [purely village mentality and humour] customs of the old days. Now, times have changed, many Sikhs are dropping the use of Singh in their names. Others have abandoned their identity as given by the Guru Sahibs. So much so, the traditional warm love and respectful hospitality that was between Malaysian Sikhs for each other in the old days, seems to have disappeared these days. Today when one meets another, they are almost reluctant to even wish Sat Sri Akal. Old values are disappearing fast. The new change is not always a value for living skill or a postive practice for good.
The Sikh police had their own gurduaras too. The famous Sikh Para military force-the Malay State Guides-who saw action from Hong Kong to Aden, to Somalia and Ethiopia to Turkey- were in operation from 1896 to 1914 in Malaysia. The Sikh Police Contingents also had a special relationship and an attachment with KL. It was in such period a number of Sikh police Gurduaras were established.
The Jalan Parliament Gurduara is the oldest Police Gurduara. It is situated in some nice gardens adjacent to the Houses of Parliment in KL.
Another Sikh Police Gurduara in The High Street has much history attached to its existence. Retired and serving Sikh Police officers of all ranks generally hold their affairs, wedding, and bhogs in this Gurduara. The Gurpurabs are collectivley celebrated in the Gurduara. The tradition is for the senior most Sikh police officer in KL to be nominated as its president.
There is another beautifully constructed Sikh Police Gurduara Sahib in Jalan Semarak, Police Depot. This Gurduara is also sometimes called Gurduara Sahib Pulapol. The beauty of this Gurduara is reflected nicely again, through the style and design of old Colonial British architecture- similar to the British offices and grand halls.
The total care of this Gurduara -the upkeep of its gardens, orchard, the redecoration and its expenses are borne completely by the Malaysian government. As the Gurduara is situated within the premises of the Depot/camp the area is very quiet and blissfully peaceful. It is also surrounded by beautiful mature trees, in whose shadows and breeze lie the unspoken history of this gurduara and the Sikhs from old who came to this foreign land and have left a legacy of great pride and success, and majestically earned a place of grand respect; for themselves and the community and generations of Sikhs who will recall their proud history with affection and pride in years to come. Recently a big drive was taken to improve the building and it's looks.
Sadly, the new Sikh generations in their haste to look "modern" and feel "accepted" into the local society have not only shed the articles of their faith, but have forgotten the heroic history of their forefathers, and the Gurduaras left behind by them, along the breadth and length of this beautiful tropical Malaysian Peninsular, immersed in the shadows of great Sikh sacrifice, beyond their numbers, in the not too distant past. What secrets and history the cool breeze from the mature trees around the Gurduara will carry to the listening ear,.....is beyond anyone's imagination and inquisitive mind!
The Sikhs working as officers, mechanics in the Malayan Railways had their very own gurduara in the Brickfields area. This Gurduara survived serving the needs of the railway employee Sikhs from 1920 to 1970, when it closed down. The numbers of Sikhs in the railway now has decreased, compared to earlier years when there were a reasonable number of Sikh station masters, signalmen, clerical officers or auditors working for the Malayan railroad.
Within the Brickfields area, the Central Majha Diwan Malaya at one time operated their own Gurduara which was in existence from 1960 to 1964, but then it too closed down.
Readers may recall,there were two Gurduaras in the Gombak Lane area previously, one of which was closed down, and the other was moved to Jalan Pahang and became known as the Titiwangsa Gurduara. Near the area of Gombak Lane is now another Gurduara along Jalan Raja Laut-Gurduara Sahib Wisma Thaker Dass. This Gurduara was opened up the family of the late Sardar Seth Havela Singh. It is situated on the top floor of the modestly impressive building that belongs to the family. I recall this building is about four to five storey high. I visited this Gurduara once when I stayed in the hotel opposite the building.
In other parts of Kuala Lumpur city there are many more Gurduaras; whereever there is a substantial number of Sikhs resident, there is a Gurduara to be found, for example Gurduara Sahib Petaling Jaya, now also serves as the centre of Punjabi teaching and appears to be a very busy and popular Gurduara as access to it is easy. Gurduara Sahib Bander Sunway is one of the more recent ones, near the famous Bander Sunway Pyramid shopping complex.
Among them the more famous ones are Gurduara Sahib Sungai Besi Shapan, a fairly large and impressive building, that has been extended over the years improved upon.
Another is Gurduara Sahib Jinjang, another suburb of the Federal territory.
Gurduara Sahib Kuyu, Sungai Besi, which is situated near the Mines area-on the way to the famous and impressive -The Golden Horses Palace Hotel and its Mines Shopping complex. This Gurduara is situated to the right of the road leading to the Mines complex( a water sports and general entertainment complex) on some lowland-its yellow colour is very distinctively visible,with a Nishan Sahib flying in front. If I recall correctly, this Gurduara reminds one of the old traditional wooden gurduaras built by the first generation of Sikhs. Here I recall a famous epithet--jadon gurduare kacche hunde si, Sikh barre pakke hunde san,hon Gurduare pakke ban gaye taan Sikh kacche ho gaye! [when Gurduara buildings were unimpressive, the Sikh practise was impressive, now that the Gurduaras have been built beautifully, the Sikh faith has lessened]
Included in the Federal territory about 2000 miles to the east of main land Malaysia-on an island called Labuan, in the north of east Malaysian state of Sabah, is another impressive Gurduara with gold plated domes and a highly placed Nishan Sahib fluttering majestically!
The Sikh Gurduara was established here from before 1950s when large numbers of Sikhs served in the North Borneo British Sikh Police. The original Gurduara was destroyed in a fire set off accidentally in 1967. It was then replaced by another wooden building. However in 1996, the sangat decided to re- build the Gurduara - and finally presented to the Panth one of the most beautiful Sikh Gurduaras to grace this side of Malaysia and South East Asia.
It cost the 90 or so Sikh residents here One million and five hundred thousand Malaysian ringgits. It is an amazingly impressive two storey concrete building with tiled roof, all white- except for the gold tinted gobinds. It is very attractive indeed, and must not be missed by any Sikh visitors who may venture to this side of the world. It surpasses the beauty and attraction of the new Singh Sabha Gurduara, Southall UK any day.
Sardar Saran Singh, who has written a brief history of the Sikh Gurduras in Malaysia chose this Gurduara to adorn the front colourful cover of his book.
Early Sikhs in Malaysia laid a very solid foundation for their future generations - in the hope that the culture, traditions and religious identity of the proud and great unique Sikh nation would be preserved and carried alongside into the twenty first and twenty second centuries and beyond, without any compromise-but that vision and hope seems to be vanishing slowly, as the new generations looking into the future with false hopes and hallow knowledge of their own colourful and unmatched history move away from their OWN roots, cluelessly in order to be "accepted"- a view held because of their own lack of knowledge about the proud Sikh history and an in built self inferiority complex.
Apart from these 14 Gurduaras in the FT there are number of others around KL. In other parts of Kuala Lumpur city there are many more Gurduaras; where ever there is a substantial number of Sikhs resident,there is a Gurduara to be found, for example Gurduara Sahib Petaling Jaya, now also serves as the centre of Punjabi teaching and appears to be a very busy and popular Gurduara as access to it is easy. Gurduara Sahib Bander Sunway is one of the more recent ones, near the famous Bander Sunway Pyramid shopping complex.
There are a number of others too like Gurduara Sahib Ampang, Gurduara Sahib Selayang Baru-(they have their own website); Gurduara Sahib Subang Jaya;- these though near and within KL are not within the federal territory. The newest most Gurduara is being set up around Bukit Berjuntai-an intersection rich in large national and international standard factories - where large number of Sikhs have moved to in search of jobs. I understand they have a rented accommodation, and are in the process of setting up their own Gurduara building.
The Malaysian Government has built a new administrative capital about 60 miles to the south- called Putra Jaya. This was one of the personal visions of the former PM - hence it was built with total government control. But as the government buildings opened up and Putra Jaya became habited, many senior Sikh officers have moved in too. Just as their fore-fathers they have now set plans to get approval from the government to open a Gurduara within Putra Jaya. In this respect, it looks like many of these Sikhs who are seen as the brains of the Sikh Panth in Malaysia - have not lost the blood and motivation of their fore-fathers and their link to their Guru - giving us the flickering hope that many Sikhs who abandoned their identity will return home to roost, when it dawns upon them that they have left behind a rich history and culture, whose Sikhs, are reputed to have the ability to fight off an enemy of swa lakh single handedly- "swa laakh se ek larraoun, tabbe Guru Gobind Singh kahauun" - this is not a saying but a reality when one looks at the history of Guru Gobind Singh; as he staved off attacks from a much superior enemy both in terms of arms and numbers. Thus He had prepared a Sikh to mentally withstand the might of 125,000.
Reflecting back,and looking at the unparalleled courage of the Majestic Guru Gobind Singh ji; He had only forty Sikhs with him in a dilapidated adobe structure at Chamkaur, surrounded by the imperial army hordes in their hundreds of thousands, Guru Gobind Singh refuses to buckle under the pressure.
He replies to the message sent to surrender, HE says that Lord Akal Purakh commands him to die fighting rather than give up, to spread the message of the Khalsa Panth, rather than forsaking it. Judging his reply to the enemy, He proves his single Sikh fights the swa lakh enemy.
Khalsa ji, it is here where he proves the truth as he says -
Chirrion se baaz larrayun, tabi nam Gobind Singh kahaoon
I will cause sparrows to fight hawks [with the bakshish of amrit],
then I would be worthy of being called Gobind Singh.
It is in such climate of affection, humble submission and respect for the Great Guru Gobind Singh Ji, a famous twentieth century poet writes, in a message to the un-gian [ unknowledge] and aghirat -ghaan [ungrateful ] people of India. In ONE line he exposes the ungrateful and unknowledgeable people of the blessings of this great Guru Gobind Singh -the votary of TRUTH.
Another poet, a Muslim says ...
Na kahoon ab ki na kahoon tab ki
agger na hotte Guru Gobind Singh
te sunat hoti sabh ki
Sikhs in Malaysia have a proud hstory that must not be forgetten and left to rot on the shelves of dark rooms. They need to relive their great heroic past ...trying to be "accepted" by others is a step of self defeat, try telling others who you as a Sikh really are-they will accept the Sikh without any hassle.
Mita ke apni hasti ko agger tun martbba cha he
ke dana khaak me milkar gulle gulzaar hota hai
But to do that Sikhs need to live to the values of the great magnificient Guru Gobind Singh ji, the son of one shahid [martyred ] father, and father to four shahid [martyred] sons
Ek shahid pita da puter, aur char shahidon ka pita
I shall end this with a poem from a sufi kavvi Kibria Khan in honour of the Great Guru Gobind Singh - who has made it possible for the Sikh success throughtout the world.
Kya dasmesh pita teri baat kahoon
jo tun ne par upkaar kye,
Ek khalas khalsa panth saja,zaton ke bhed nikal diye,
es tegh ke bete tegh pakker,dukhion ke kaat zanzaal diye,
us mulko watan ki khidmat me,kyi baap diye,kyi lal diye.
[How and what can I say about YOU, Oh 10th Master,
The good deeds that you blessed us with matter here ,
Initiating Khalsa Order, U wiped out the casteist fear,
As inheritor of this sword, wiped out cause of tyranny and fear ,
In serving the nation u martyred father & children most dear!]
Gurcharan Singh Kulim
Kamuning Hills,KL;Chigwell, London.
The world's finest word is WAHEGURU
The world's best poem is SHABAD
The world's perfect encyclopaedia is GURU GRANTH
The world's best excercise is SIMRAN
Chardhi kala in the name of WAHEGURU
PROUD TO BE A SIKH