About Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road
The British in India had found the Sikhs to be brave and loyal soldiers. They brought the first Sikhs to Singapore to serve in the Sikh Police Contingent in 1881. The pioneer Sikhs set up 2 Sikh Temples (Gurdwaras) in Pearls Hill and Tanjong Pagar.
Upon the demolition of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Sikh Police Gurdwara in 1912 and the small Gurdwara at Pearl’s Hill, the members of the Sikh Police Contingent requested land from the Government to build a bigger Gurdwara. Besides meeting the religious needs of the Sikh Police community, the Gurdwara was also to house new arrivals and Sikhs in transit to other parts of Asia.
The 23,775 sq ft freehold land at Silat Road was acquired from the authorities for $16,800 in 1922. Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road building was completed in 1924 at a cost $54,000; of which 70% was raised by members of the police forces in Singapore and Malaya and the balance was donated by Sikhs from neighbouring countries.
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.
The Gurdwara was initially managed by Sikh Police personnel. In 1937 the Government vested the property to the Silat Road Gurdwara Board of Trustees, comprising 10 members; 9 nominated by the Sikh Advisory Board (3 each from Majha, Malwa and Doaba Sikhs) and the 10th member (the President) from the Police Force. This continued until 1981 when the Silat Road Gurdwara Board of Trustees merged with the Queen Street Sikh Temple Board of Trustees to form the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB), which manages it today.
During the Japanese Occupation (1942-45), many Sikhs who were part of the British military and police forces died defending Singapore and Malaya. The Gurdwara provided accommodation for and looked after the welfare of their widows and children. These widows and other civilian Sikhs played an important role during the war in ensuring that the Gurdwara functions continued.
After the war, these widows were offered free sea passage and many returned to Punjab. Even after that, Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road continued until the 1970s to provide accommodation to new immigrants and those needing help.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Gurdwara went through difficult times as the congregation diminished due to migration of the ex-Sikh policemen back to Punjab and the establishment of other gurdwaras in Singapore. To provide additional funds, the ground floor was leased out to a merchant as a warehouse.
On 12 October 1966, the Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial in the Singapore General Hospital compound was relocated to the front of Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road.
The restructuring of the Gurdwara under CSGB and the relocation of the revered Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial to Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road resulted in a significant increase in the congregation at the Gurdwara and the facilities became inadequate to meet the needs of the sangat.About 1990, it was decided to rebuild Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road. To maintain its historical heritage, the front façade was retained while the rest of the Gurdwara was completely rebuilt. The Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial was also relocated into a new location on the side of the Gurdwara.The rebuilt Gurdwara, as it stands today, was officially opened on 23 October 1995 by S. Kartar Singh Thakral, a philanthropist and leading businessman in Singapore.
The extensive patronage by devotees (both Sikhs and non Sikhs) made Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road famous and it was the first Gurdwara in Singapore to have regular Akhand Paths and langgar on all days of the week. The marble Prakash Palki in the Darbar Hall on Level 2 is also said to be the largest of its kind in the world.
Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road was declared a Historical Site by the National Heritage Board on 14 November 1999.
It is because of Bhai Maharaj Singh’s shrine that Silat Road Gurdwara has acquired overwhelming popularity. At one time totally neglected, it is now undoubted the most popular Gurdwara amongst all the seven Gurdwaras in Singapore. Deep veneration of the shrine and the adjoining Gurdwara has resulted in the belief that an Akhand Path service performed on behalf of a devotee at this Gurdwara earns the devotee great merit. Consequently there is long booking list for performance of Akhand Paths. This is also the only Gurdwara in Singapore where langgar (food) is prepared and served everyday, throughout the day.
Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial
Bhai Maharaj Singh’s Memorial was located in the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital which was close to Outram Prison. However there is no official record of how Bhai Maharaj Singh’s Memorial first came about. In October 1966, the Government acquired this site for redevelopment and the Memorial was moved to the front of the Silat Road Sikh Temple.
The widespread patronage by the Sangat prompted the building of a permanent Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial beside the Silat Road Sikh Temple in 1994. The Memorial was later found to be too small and a bigger one was built in 2010. This new Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial was official opened by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on 3 July 2010.