Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

1896 - 1919
(No longer exists)

By the 1860s, the District of Larut in the State of Perak was a rich tin mining area under the control of Ngah Ibrahim bin Jaafar, the Menteri of Larut. The Chinese workers in these mines were from two different clans, the Ghee Hins and the Hai Sans. These two factions were always fighting among themselves, which caused a lot of problems and loss of revenue to the Menteri. In July 1873, Ngah Ibrahim the Menteri of Larut appointed Captain T.C.S. Speedy (the Superintendent of Police, Penang) to recruit a force of Sepoys from India to deal with the Chinese miners.

In late 1873, Captain Speedy established a police force of 110 sepoys comprising mainly Sikhs, Hindus and Pathans. It was known as the Perak Armed Police (1873 - 1884) and was stationed at Bukit Gantang and Taiping in the State of Perak. Captain Speedy, better known as Captain Speedy of Larut, was the first commandant of the Perak Armed Police a well as Assistant British Resident of the State of Perak (January 1874 - February 1878). Captain Speedy resigned in February 1878 due to problems with his superiors and left Malaya for good.
In 1879, Lieutenant R. S. Frowd Walker (who later retired as a Colonel of the M. S. G.) took over the command of the Perak Armed Police. In 1884, Walker (now promoted to Major) changed the name of the Perak Armed Police to First Battalion Perak Sikhs (1884 - 1896). At this time, the strength of this police force was 650 men. Some of these policemen were sent to Parit Buntar and Telok Anson. Others performed guard duties at the residency in Taiping and maintained law and order in the State of Perak. A section of this force was mounted on horses as cavalry troopers. In 1916, some of these troopers were posted to Kuala Kangsar as bodyguards to His Highness The Sultan of Perak, Sultan Sir Abdul Jalil (1916 - 1918).
In the 1880s, in the State of Selangor, Captain H.C. Syers had a force of about 530 Military Police known as the Selangor Sikhs. Similarly, W.W. Douglas had 75 Sikh Police in Sungei Ujong in 1881. In 1889 the Pahang Sikh Police force was established while Inspector Hennessey had about 13 Sikh Police in Jelebu in 1890.

In 1896, Walker decided to set up a military force, which could carry out their military duties without being called to do police work as well. This led to the formation of the Malay States Guides (1896 - 1919) and Walker, now promoted to Colonel, became its first commandant. Sikhs and Pathans from the Police forces of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and even Singapore volunteered to join the Malay States Guides. Its total strength was 900 personnel comprising six companies of Infantry and two companies of Artillery.

The personnel of the Malay States Guides all donated one-month's salary to construct the Wadda Gurdwara Sahib Penang. The Khalsa Diwan Malaya and the Larut Singh Sabha were founded by the Malay States Guides to improve the social position of the Sikhs in Malaya.

The Malay States Guides had a Gurdwara Sahib, which was located next to the parade ground, near the barracks in Taiping. The first regimental Granthi was Bhai Gurbaksh Singh from District Ambala. He was succeeded by Bhai Tara Singh from District Jullunder. Bhai Tara Singh's hobby was to grow rare and beautiful flowers and plants in the M. S. G. Gurdwara Sahib garden. The next Granthi was Bhai Sant Singh from Ferozepur followed by Bhai Gujjar Singh from Amritsar. The last Granthi was Bhai Piara Singh who later accompanied the M. S. G. regiment to Aden in September 1915. The regimental Granthis were very highly respected by the Sikhs. Any misunderstandings of a religious nature were referred to them and their decision was respected and followed. All Sikhs had to partake of the Amrit and the trimming of the beard was strictly forbidden.

There was usually rivalry between the Sikhs from the Majha and Malwa regions of Punjab. Majha Sikhs came from the Districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Lahore. The Malwa Sikhs were from the Districts of Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Ambala, Nabha and Patiala, whereas the Doaba Sikhs came from the Districts of Jullundur and Hoshiarpur.

In 1910 Colonel Walker made a decision to separate the Majha and Malwa Sikhs in the Malay States Guides. The Majha Sikhs were all attached to the 'A' and 'B' Company. The Malwa Sikhs were all posted to the 'C' and 'D' Company. The Sikhs from the Doaba regions, who were a minority, could join either the Majha or Malwa Companies.

Although the Sikhs in the Malay States Guides were separated into two groups, there was generally no ill feeling between them. Whenever the Sikh community in Malaya or Punjab needed help, these two groups joined forces and united for a common goal.

Colonel R.S. Walker, C.M.G., fondly known as the father of the Malay States Guides, retired in 1910 and left for England. He had in the past 30 years brought his Regiment to a very high degree of efficiency. He was also a good administrator. In 1882, he was appointed Acting British Resident of the State of Perak. He was also given the honour of laying the foundation stone of the Wadda Gurdwara Sahib Penang on 3rd June 1901.

Left. Colonel Murray from the 89' Punjab Regiment was appointed Commandant of the Malay States Guides in 1910 but he left two years later.

Left. Colonel O.H.B. Lees from the 53rd Sikh Regiment was seconded from the Indian Army as the Commandant of the Malay States Guides in 1913. Accurate shooting was stressed in the Regiment's training and it soon distinguished itself in the Warren Shield competition.

In September 1915, Colonel Lees led the volunteers from the Malay States Guides to join the Aden Field Force during the First World War. The war came to an end in Aden in November 1918 with the surrender of the Turkish Commander. Most of the Sikhs chose to return to Punjab after the war and were adequately compensated.At the end of 1919, the Malay States Guides and the Sultan of Perak's mounted bodyguards, composed of troopers from the Guides, was disbanded. Most of these personnel then joined the Federated Malay States Police Force.

The first Police Sikh Gurdwara Sahib of the Malay States Guides in Larut, Taiping was closed in 1920.

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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