Saturday, September 24, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

WADDA GURUDWARA PENANG

WADDA GURDWARA PENANG
87, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 Penang, Malaysia.


Founded in 1901, this beautiful and biggest Gurdwara in South East Asia was first named Diamond Jubilee Sikh Temple to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria of Britain. Located on the charming Island of Penang, a port of entry, it became an important meeting point for Sikhs in Malaya(now is Malaysia) and the neighboring countries. In accordance with Sikh teachings, travelers of all races and religions were provided food and shelter as the passed through on their way to the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Borneo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The Gurdwara building, situated at No.87, Jalan Gurdwara (formerly known as Brick Kiln Road), Penang, is a beautiful striking structure of mixed Moorish and modern architectural design and was, at the time of it's completion, the biggest Gurdwara not only in Malaya but in the whole of South East Asia.

It was on 3rd June 1901 that Colonel Walker of the Malay States Guides laid the foundation of the Gurdwara, Penang. The Straits Settlement Government of Penang, in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria of Britain granted the land on which it is built. The foundation stone can be seen in the corner of the building near the "Nishan Sahib" (Flagpole).

Not many people know that this historic Gurdwara is one of the three sites in Penang, which commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The other two being the clock tower near Fort Cornwallis and the Victoria Green Field of the Chinese Recreation Club in Burma Road. In the corner of the field is a statue of Queen Victoria.

The Malay States Guides (M.S.G) formed in 1896 from the former First Perak Sikh regiment features prominently in the history of this Gurdwara and among the first trustees appointed with the approval of the government were officers of the M.S.G. They contributed generously to the building fund. Officers and men of the Guides, British, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims donated part of their salaries voluntarily. Such was the camaraderie among the various communities in those days.

The arrival of Sikhs in Malaya is generally linked to the first group of 110 soldiers recruited in Punjab and brought to Larut in Perak in 1873. But there were known to be scattered individuals in Malaya much before that. While the actual period of arrival is still a matter of conjecture, there remains no question at all of the great contributions and sacrifices the Sikhs have made towards the development, peace keeping and defense of the country. Pioneers in many fields, the Sikhs were involved in such activities as contracting, railway construction, transport and diary farming.

The Sikh Gurdwara, Penang, was also known as the Malaya Tapuan Da Gurdwara (Malayan Territories Gurdwara) and was for many decades a central meeting place for all northern Indians in Siam, Sumatra, Borneo, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Penang was the major transit port for people traveling to and from India and regions of South East Asia. As the travelers faced difficulties in finding a place to stay, the need for a Gurdwara was urgently felt.

The Sikh religion regards all human beings as a brotherhood belonging to the One Almighty God and so the Gurdwara Penang provided accommodation to all travelers irrespective of their colour, creed or religion. People of many religions visited and stayed at the Gurdwara. Even today, the Gurdwara, in keeping with tradition, maintains several rooms for all travelers and food is provided from the Langar (community kitchen).

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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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