Central Sikh Temple - History


In 1849, after the British conquered the Indian state of Punjab, many Punjabis began to migrate overseas, to places such as Singapore. The British decided to recruit Sikh migrants as security forces in the Straits Settlements. Sikhs began to arrive in Singapore in 1881, to form a Sikh Contingent of the Straits Settlements police force.

The first Sikh temple, or gurdwara, was set up in the police barracks, but it soon could not accommodate the growing Sikh community. A bungalow was purchased for a new temple at Queen Street in 1912, with the assistance of Sindhi merchant by the name of Wassiamull. The Sikhs used the land to build a gurdwara. The gurdwara later became known as "Central Sikh Temple" when other temples were established. The name Wada Gurdwara means the "Big Temple" in English. Central Sikh Temple was reconstructed in 1921, and the congregation hall was located on the first floor and other facilities on the first floor. It is a custom for gurdwaras to provide food and lodging for their guests. Besides being a place of worship, the temple was also used for welfare and education services.

Internal conflicts between the Sikh communities plagued the temple's congregation, which was later divided into three factions from different areas of Central Punjab, namely the Majha, Malwa and Doabha. Their fighting for leadership led to a split in the temple leadership. In 1917, the temple's management was handed over to the Muslim and Hindu Endowment Board, which the Sikhs took as an insult. The Sikh community publicly protested in the 1930s against the management of the Muslim and Hindu Endowment Board. In 1940, the colonial government created the Queen Street Gurdwara Ordinance, under which Sikhs were allowed to appoint their own board of trustees, and each of the three factions had equal representation of the board.

An all-faction building committee was formed in 1955 to build a new temple. In 1959, the committee acquired a property comprising nine houses adjoining the Central Sikh Temple. There were also plans to build a new temple at Newton, though many preferred to remain at Queen Street. Architectural plans were drawn up and approved by the government in 1963. However, plans were shelved for a new temple following an internal disagreement. In 1976, the government acquired the land where the nine houses stood as part of an urban redevelopment programme and the temple was asked to vacate a year later. The Queen Street site was later gazetted as a historical site. The temple temporarily moved to Seng Poh Road at Tiong Bahru Estate in December 1979, occupying the old building of Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre. An alternative site was found near Towner Road and construction began in 1984 and was completed in 1986. The temple was opened in November 1987, coinciding with the 518th anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Gurus.

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