Thursday, September 29, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

 

GURDWARA SAHIB BUTTERWORTH, PENANG

Jalan New Ferry, 12100 Butterworth, Province Wellesley, Penang

By the beginning of the 20th Century, there were a few Sikhs employed as watchmen by the Straits Trading Company Ltd. in Butterworth. These Sikhs and their families were provided with living. quarters in the 'Sikh Lines' near the vicinity of the Company's smelting works along what is now known as Jalan Pantai.

In the 1920's, the British management of the company allowed one of its quarters in the Sikh Lines to be used by the Sikhs as a place of worship. This small Gurdwara Sahib was able to accommodate the Sikhs and their families during prayers. There were no regular Granthis, and as such, the Sikhs managed the Gurdwara Sahib by rendering voluntary service.

Gradually, some of the older Sikh employees retired. Thus, the Straits Trading Company took the Gurdwara Sahib building back. With the opening of a ferry service between Butterworth and Penang Island, the Sikh population also grew. By about 1930, there were about 100 Sikhs, including women and children, living in Butterworth. In the absence of a Gurdwara Sahib in Butterworth, these Sikhs began holding religious gatherings in individual homes on a rotation basis.

In late 1932, Sardar Balwant Singh (Retired Assistant Official Assignee, Penang) was posted to the Public Works Department in Butterworth. The Sikhs here appointed him as their advisor and formed a Building Fund Committee to build a Gurdwara Sahib.

In 1934, a piece of land, Lot 116 (4) Mukim 15 Province Wellesley North with a total area of 2 Roods 12.3 Poles (about 1 hectare) was purchased along Chain Ferry Road for the sum of Straits Settlements $1,150.00. Forty Sikhs contributed towards the purchase of this land by donating various amounts of cash. The Sikhs built a Gurdwara Sahib building, a single storey brick structure with a tiled roof, which was completed by the end of 1934. Gradually, the Sikh sangat started to grow and this Gurdwara Sahib could not accommodate everyone. Finally in 1968, this Gurdwara Sahib was demolished to make way for a new building.

In 1968, building plans were approved to construct a three-storey Gurdwara Sahib building. The foundation stone was laid by the then Chief Minister (Ketua Menteri) of Penang, Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee on 3rd October 1968. This building was completed three years later at a cost of RM160,000.00 out of which RM45,000.00 was donated by the Federal Government.

On 12' December 1971, the new Gurdwara Sahib building was officially declared open by the then Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister, Y.B. Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud (presently the Chief Minister of the State of Sarawak). This Gurdwara Sahib is an imposing landmark for the Sikh community of Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam. There is one room for Sikh visitors in this Gurdwara Sahib.

Giani Harnam Singh served here as a Granthi from 1952 to 1964 after which he joined the Wadda Gurdwara Penang. He was a well learned person who was much liked by the Sangat.
The Management Committee comprises the President, Secretary, Treasurer, their assistants and seven committee members. The present Trustees of the Gurdwara Sahib are Sardar Baldev Singh, Sardar Mela Singh, Sardar Sudagar Sardar Sadha Singh and Sardar Jagjit Singh.

There is a Sikh Assistant Registrar of Marriages who officiates at Sikh marriages in this Gurdwara Sahib when called upon to do so. The actual marriage ceremony is performed by the Granthi in accordance with Sikh rites.

There are 25 Sikh students who study Gurmukhi and kirtan (religious hymns) in this Gurdwara Sahib.

Presently about 200 Sikh families residing in the Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam areas participate in the religious activities in this Gurdwara Sahib.

The normal weekly prayers are held on Sunday mornings. The Isteri Satsang programme is held on Wednesday afternoons from 3.00p.m. to 4.30p.m.

(Note: The Management Committee has purchased a piece of land, approximately one acre in size, in Seberang Jaya, Province Wellesley. Plans are being finalised to construct a new Gurdwara Sahib building in the near future.)

Courtesy:
Sikh Gurudwaras in Malaysia&Singapore
Saran Singh Sidhu AMN,PNM,FRNS

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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