Sikhs in Panama and Medical School Scholarship Opportunities

Civic Society Guru Nanak Sahib, entrusted with the administration of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib has decided to grant ...

The beginning of the Sikh immigration to Panama dates back to before the independence of Panama and its status as a Nation. Panama separated from Spain on November 28, 1821 and joined Colombia until November 3, 1903.

The Isthmus of Panama was widely know as a transit center since the time Panama was a Spanish Colony, the crossroad of the riches that came from Peru, and famous for its merchant fairs. In 1849 the California Gold Rush started the migration of adventurers who wanted to find new and faster routes to head west, making Panama the shortest route, reason which initiated the conception of railways and canals for the passage of merchandise and passengers. In the Paredes-Stephens treaty Colombia negotiate with the Unites States the construction of a railway through Panamanian territory.

The construction of the Panama Railroad that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans began in 1850. With the boom of labor opportunities large number of immigrants saw Panama as a place to find fortune, initiating the first recorded movement of Sikh immigrants to the Isthmus. We do not deny the fact that other Sikh immigrants might have reached Panama before this period, but it was the boom of this period that historically marks the large number of labor migration into the territory.

The inter-oceanic railroad or transcontinental railroad, which was later of vital importance for the construction of the Panama Canal, initiated operations on January 28, 1855. In this route a passengers or merchandise would travel by ferry from New Orleans or other eastern ports to Panama, where they crossed the Isthmus by rail, and then a ferry to California. Although some of the Sikh immigrants left the Isthmus after the completion of the railway, many stayed behind to try their fortune now that services where needed for all the passengers and merchandise that crossed the Isthmus.

In the 1880’s the French initiate the first attempt in construction a Canal that would unite the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. This first attempt by the French failed, but successful under the leadership of the United Sates, marked the second wave of mass immigration to the Isthmus and of course of many Sikhs who worked in the construction of the Panama Canal until its opening in 1914.

During this period, specifically on November 3, 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia.

After the completion of the Panama Canal many of the Sikh immigrants returned home with the wealth they had accumulated, some died due to Yellow Fever and Malaria, but others who felt comfortable and who had established roots in Panama stayed in the Isthmus.

After the construction of the canal managed by the Panama Canal Commission and United States Military bases having a permanent presence in the Isthmus, immigrants became aware of the employment opportunities. Some imigrants established stores, restaurants, and some joined civil services with the US government.  In this third wave of immigrants who where seeking fortune we see that the Indian and Sikh community start forming and establishing themselves as permanent citizens of Panama. It is in this third wave of immigrant that we see a different pattern of migration because in this third wave we see complete family migration. Among the third wave of Sikh immigrants we find Gursan Singh Gill 1924, Chain Singh in the 1930’s, Amar Singh Mann and Rattan Singh Dhaliwal who arrived in Panama in the late 1930’s, also the founding father of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak.

Rattan Singh Dhaliwal a native of the village Mansoorpur, Julundhar, Punjab, left as an illiterate and disabled young boy, only having one eye  and younger than 18 years of age, left his village seeking his fortune and adventure. His voyage led him to Mumbai as a carpenter’s assistance and then to France as a farm boy. Having accumulated some wealth in France, and without speaking French or Spanish, his journey led him to Cuba where he harvested sugar cane, Argentina where he harvested corn before arriving in Panama. In Panama with the help of a distant relative he started as a merchant selling tablecloth and perfumes on installments and sometimes lending money, little did he know this would mark the beginning of his conglomerate. Whit this small endeavor he accomplished in opening his first finance company, being the oldest running financial company till date in his present conglomerate in Panama.

In this journey he helped many Panamanians in particular doctors, nurses, teachers and professors who in their time of economic need new they could count on Rattan Singh’s help. His courtesy, simplicity, and righteousness that commended his principle made him an outstanding and noticeable member of the community. His way of life and presence with the Panamanian community distinguished him, as a quoted from a book about Panama that remembers him as “the man of the golden glasses”, dark glasses which he whore because he did not want people to notice his missing eye. For all of his contributions, after his retirement the Minister of Education, in 1993 bestowed upon him the honor as constant and continual collaborator of the educators. In his life’s journey until his death, he started as an illiterate peasant, but by the Guru’s grace he became a mentor, a renowned businessman, helper to others and the founding father of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib in Panama. His family now conform the fourth generation in the Republic.  

In 1947 the Indian Community constituted mainly by Punjabi’s, Gujarati’s and Sindhi’s established the Indian Society of Panama receiving vast contributions from the Sikh community. It was in these times that the Indian customs and culture start integrating with the Panamanian community and social and religious establishments initiated. In this time the Sikh community maintained their cultural and religious belief through the Sath Sangat Path on Sundays that where constituted in different houses of the community members. From these congregations of the Sangat the idea of establishing a Gurdwara initiated. With the cooperation of the Punjabi and Sindhi community the Gurdwara Guru Nanak was founded under the non profit organization Sociedad Guru Nanak which opened its doors on Guru Nanak’s birthday 1986 and continues to serve as a place of worship for the Sikh Community in Panama. The growth of the Indian community has flourished with the constructions of the Gurdwara, Mandir, Mosques and the Bahai Temple.  
It was in the Gurdwara, that by the Guru’s grace, two strangers met and the idea of creating a Medical School came together. Sardar Ranjit Singh Hans, who was visiting from Orlando, Florida, met with Sardar Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, who after the Sath Sangat Path where conversing on one 10th Feb afternoon of 2008. The idea of providing all communities with educational programs to develop de minds of our youngsters had initiated.  It was from this reunion, as destined by our Guru’s grace that Panamanian Medical and Management Corporation of Higher Education (PMMC) was envisioned.  From this moment on Sardar Darshan Singh Dhaliwal entrusted his son Rattan Singh Dhaliwal, Esq. with help of Sardar Ranjit Hans to set forth the journey of accomplishing was destined to be. With the collaboration of Sardar Ranjit Singh Hans, other members where incorporated and decided, due to the high demand and lack of doctors in the world, to initiate with a Medical Program.

Remembering Sardar Darshan Singh’s words that afternoon “It was by the Guru’s Grace that we met this afternoon in his house his Gurdwara, it is also by His Grace that this endeavor will be successful.”

No truer words where spoken since it quickly became obvious that we where blessed when we received the cooperation of one of the best universities in Central America; Universidad Latina de Panama.

The Panamanian Medical and Management Corporation of Higher Education set forth the plans to present youngsters with the best education possible.  Starting with the best possible English based Medical Degree for licensing in the United States, Asia and Europe to other degrees that will include Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Economics, Finance, and Computer Science in their own Campus will follow. In recognition of the needs and demand of our youngsters and as envisioned by our Guru Gobind Singh, who said that all Sikhs must develop both our physical and mental capabilities the Panamanian Sikh Community decided to cooperate.

Remembering Guru Gobind Singh’s teaching the Civic Society Guru Nanak Sahib, entrusted with the administration of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, decided to grant a five thousand dollar (USD 5,000.00) scholarship toward the tuition of any youngster of the Sikh community world wide who wishes to enroll in the English Medical degree program of PMMC in Panama. All of the students of the Sikh community world wide who enroll in the medical program in Panama will receive the full cooperation of the Gurdwara and of the community.

Enter from H.S. or College - 6 or 4 yr. Programs
Small Classes, Best Tuition Deal, Excellence Guaranteed.
US clerkships and rotations available

Call PMMC at 407-496-5934
Or visit:

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!

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