MALACCA: As had been the vowed routine annually, an endless stream of Sikh devotees and pilgrims from all over Malaysia with their families in tow converged at Malacca’s lone Sikh Gurdwara along the upper reaches of Jalan Temenggong to commemorate the Sant (Holiness) Baba Sohan Singh Ji 41st memorial festivities over a four-day span.
The festivities described as an epitome of religious, cultural and traditional grandeur and always held in the third week of May, the pilgrimage numbers eased past the 70,000 mark this time around.
Hundreds of community members from as far as Australia, Indonesia and Canada joined hands with their Malaysian and Singaporean brothers and sisters to partake in proceedings while renewing and rebonding friendships and family connections.
Assisted by some 50 priests from several Malaysian states, Singapore, Indonesia and Amristarin India regarded as the spiritual centre for the Sikh faith worldwide, the attending pilgrims and worshippers partook in daily recitals of the Kritan (holy verses in musical form), chants, reading of the scriptures and singing of religious hymns.
All pilgrims and devotees were served authentic Punjabi vegetarian meals thrice daily plus a host of delicacies and pure milk-based refreshments and desserts. For non-Sikh visitors, locals, tourists and the uninitiated, they were also cordially invited by the temple authorities for meals throughout the day and night to taste and experience traditional cuisine meals, snacks and savoury tidbits, seldom seen in the market on normal days.
A good number of male and female volunteers also regisered themselves to undertake services or ‘sewa’ to the Almighty by way of helping in the preparation and serving of meals and refreshments to one all including visitors and tourists, as well as the washing up and rubbish clearing chores.
Festivities organising committee spokesperson and youth leader Karam Singh said: “This co-operative spirit, similar to the gotong-royong concept, works wonders as a good number of volunteers carry out all of the in-house activities as well as the preparation and serving of meals and refreshment minus the need of hired outside help.”
For the host of the curious, uninitiated, local visitors and tourists turning up, they could also patronise the sixty overs stalls set up within the temple compound and along the main road outside selling a host of merchandise ranging from traditional packed foodstuffs to trinkets, souvenirs to audio and video cassettes at bargain prices.
A household name within Sikh communities in both Malaysia and Singapore and the region as a whole, the Sant bron Bhai Udhai Singh in
June 1902 in the state of Punjab, first came to Malaya in 1926 and was based at the Seremban Sikh temple. Well versed in religious Punjabi poetry and teachings of the Gurus, he moved to Malacca in October, 1928 where he set up base for the propagation of the Sikh faith and teachings to other parts of the country as well as Singapore.
Soon his fame built around exensive knowledge of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Scriptures), recitation of religious Punjabi poetry, written and spoke Hindi and Urdu languages and dialects and traditional medicinal cures, spread He returned to Punjab in 1932 to seek further knowledge govrning Sikh scriptures and prior to his return to Malacca in 1934, was bestowed the mantle “Maha Giani” or reverend.
He made two further trips to Punjab between 1935 and 1947 for additional studies and pilgrimages to various Sikh shrines in India.
He returned to Malacca with the title “Sant” or holiness for having attained the ultimate in religious studies. Following another visit to India in 1956, he returned to commence a Malayan and Singaporean tour of duty laying foundation stones for temples, conducting seminars for priests on both sides of the causeway. In 1964, he made visits to all Sikh temples in Malaysia, then numbering 73.
Poor health forced him to slow down on missionary work from mid 1970 onwards. Frequently hospitalised for some ailment or another, Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji died at the Ipoh General Hospital on May 24, 1972.
His body was brought back to Malacca for cremation and till today, a four-day celebration renders annual commemoration of the eminent priest’s passing and tribute of his dedication to the spread and preservation of Sikhism throughout Malaysia and Singapore in particular.