Here's what made Singapore PM emotional during a visit to historic gurdwara


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the inauguration ceremony of the newly renovated Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road (All images courtesy: Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore)

The Sikh community in Singapore is all praise for the local government after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended the inauguration ceremony of the newly renovated Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road, one of the most popular gurdwaras in the country.

"Delighted to attend the inauguration of Silat Road Sikh Temple today after a prolonged renovation during the pandemic. Congratulations to the Sikh community on this momentous occasion!" tweeted Lee.

As the video of Singaporean PM wearing a white turban and addressing the Sangat (assembly) later went viral on social media, Baljit Singh, President of the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB), which oversees the running of two gurdwaras in Singapore - Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road and Central Sikh Temple - besides a Sikh Centre, told that it was a proud and emotional moment for many, including the current PM.

Singapore Gurdwara

His father, Lee Kuan Yew, the former PM of the country who is widely regarded as the 'father of modern Singapore', had inaugurated a different section of the same gurdwara, exactly 11 years ago.

"The former PM opening the memorial gurudwara 11 years ago was a pure coincidence. However, this time around, the honourable PM definitely wanted to be here with us on the occasion last week. He felt that the inauguration was a very important event as Singapore supports all religions. Very nobly, he agreed to put a turban, appreciating its importance to Sikh identity. He also paid homage to the Guru Granth Sahib and we offered him a Siropa and also gifted a Kirpan," Singh told over phone from Singapore today.  

The CSGB President said that the one thing which had always amazed the Singapore PM is how meticulously thousands of langars are served in the gurdwara every day.

"Even during this Covid period, we are distributing about 1000-1500 packets during the langar on the weekdays and around 2000-2500 on the weekend. It goes to anywhere around 5000 during Gurpurab. This temple, so rich in history, has never failed to serve meals. The PM is always struck by the fact and also to find that all this work is done voluntarily by the Sangat members, Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs who have also funded the renovation work," says Singh.  

Singapore Gurdwara Prime Minister

Built in 1924 and declared as a historic site by Singapore's National Heritage Board (NHB) in 1999, Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road was the first gurdwara in Singapore to be built in traditional Sikh style architecture with domes and arches in accordance with the gurdwaras found in Punjab.

According to the Singh, initially it used to handle the needs of the Sikh Police community and also house the new Sikh arrivals in transit to other parts of Asia. The old timers recall that the gurdwara provided accommodation and looked after the welfare of widows and children of many Sikh soldiers who died fighting for British military and police forces while defending Singapore during the Japanese Occupation (1942-45).

On 12 October 1966, the memorial for Bhai Maharaj Singh, the first Sikh identified to arrive in Singapore, was relocated from the Singapore General Hospital compound to the front of Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road. It resulted in a massive increase in the congregation as people believed that an Akhand Path service performed at this gurdwara, next to the Bhai Maharaj Singh shrine, will earn the devotees great merit.

Extensive renovation to the gurdwara was completed in October 1995 and the memorial too was expanded and officially opened by former PM Lee Kuan Yew in July 2010.

Singapore PM Gurdwara

It was also the first gurdwara in Singapore to have regular Akhand Paths and langar on all days of the week. The marble Prakash Palki in the Darbar Hall is also said to be the largest of its kind in the world.

During his visit to the gurdwara last week, Singapore PM Hsien Loong appreciated the introduction of live-streaming services during the Covid-19 pandemic so that devotees can attend the congregation virtually, especially during when all places of worship in the country had to close.

"I have been even more encouraged to see the gurdwaras rally the Sikh community to pitch in and help out during this difficult period. They organised charity drives, provided rations and lent a helping hand through various assistance programmes like offering langars to anyone in need," he said adding that it reflects the Sikh tradition of Chardi Kala, the ability to maintain a positive state of mind in the face of adversity.

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