MALACCA: Thousands of Sikh pilgrims came from Malaysia and overseas to Gurdwara Sahib Malacca in Jalan Temenggong to observe the 42nd death anniversary of Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji.
Born as Ooday Singh in 1902 in the village of Chathewalla, district of Bathinda in Punjab, he came to Malaya in 1926 and was initially based at the Seremban Gurdwara.
Two years later, the holy man versed in religious Punjabi poetry and the teachings of the Sikh Gurus moved to Malacca.
He made this historical state his base and preached in other parts of the country as well as Singapore.
Soon his fame, built around extensive knowledge of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book), skill in Punjabi poetry, written and spoke Hindi and Urdu and traditional cures, spread. Subsequently, he visited other parts of Malaya and Singapore.
He returned to Punjab in 1932 to seek further knowledge and prior to his return to Malacca in 1934, he was bestowed the mantle of Maha Giani or ‘Chief Priest”.
He also made two further trips back to Punjab between 1935 and 1947 for additional studies and to visit family.
Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji returned to Malacca in 1952 and was bestowed the title Sant.
Following another visit to India in 1956, he returned to Malacca to continue preaching and laid the foundation stones for numerous gurdwara. He also taught Sikh priests on both sides of the Causeway.
By 1964, he had visited all Sikh gurdwara in the country, then numbering 73. Poor health forced him to slow down from 1970 onwards after he sustained a slip disc following a fall.
San Baba Sohan Singh Ji died at the Ipoh General Hospital on May 24, 1972. His body was brought to Malacca for cremation
Until today, a four-day commemoration of his death will be held during the fourth week of May to pay tribute to his wholehearted dedication to the preservation of Sikhism throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
Apart from the continuous reading of the Sikh holy book from as well as the singing of religious hymns, a group of volunteers did seva or service by preparing, cooking and serving Punjabi vegetarian meals and refreshment.
Savinder Kaur, 65, a widow from Geylang in Singapore who has been making the annual pilgrimage along with her sister Parminder since 1985, said the co-operative spirit among these volunteers was similar to the local “gotong royong”.
All efforts are undertaken by the community with no outside catering.
Savinder said: “We do all the cooking and cleaning ourselves as there is a duty roster. We help prepare meals for pilgrims who include non-Sikhs.
For visitors, this is the time to savour and enjoy authentic Punjabi vegetarian cuisine such as capati, jelebe, ladoo, barfi, gulab jamun, kher and fresh cow’s milk yogurt.”
Many locals also visited the 50 canopied stalls set up both within the temple grounds and along the middle stretch of Jalan Temenggong.
They sold a host of merchandise ranging from packed traditional foodstuff, women, men and children’s wear, religious music CDs, souvenirs, books, pictures and accessories and jewellery.
A blood donation campaign was also conducted while a dozen walkers under the United Sikhs Malaysia banner completed a 300km charity walk from Silat Road Gurdwarwara in Singapore and ending at Malacca Gurdwara on May 24.
They started their walk on May 16.