GURDVARA SAHIB SEREMBAN, NEGERI SEMBILAN
No. 138A Jalan Yam Tuan (Jalan Paul), 70000 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
In 1881, the para-military Police force under the command of W.W. Douglas, had 75 Sikhs stationed at Sungei Ujong (Seremban). A few of the early Sikhs who settled around Seremban town were cattle owners. They owned bullock carts, which were used for transport. Around 1900, these Sikhs built the first Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Seremban near the present site of the railway station and the King George V school field. The Gurdwara Sahib was a single storey building made with plank walls with an attap roof. Due to development in this area, the Gurdwara Sahib was moved to its present location in 1905. This site had been gazetted earlier as a Sikh temple reserve vide GN 27 on 17th.June 1902. The land area of the Gurdwara Sahib is 0.464 acres (1 Rod O42 Poles). There is a short stretch of road known as Lorong Khalsa, which runs parallel to this Gurdwara Sahib.
In 1914, under the leadership of Sardar Sundar Singh Mehron J.P. of Kuala Pilah and Sardar Bahal Singh J.P. from Kedah, the Sikh sangat of Seremban decided to build a permanent single storey brick building. Other prominent Sikhs who played an important role in the construction of the Gurdwara Sahib building were Sardar Sadhu Singh Tharu, Sardar Totha Singh, Sardar Hari Singh and Sardar Suchet Singh. The structure of the Gurdwara was quite similar to that of the Gurdwara Sahib Mantin building. This Gurdwara Sahib building was completed in 1915 and officially declared open in 1916. Mr Lemon, the British Resident of Negeri Sembilan, and his wife graced the occasion with their presence.
Subsequently, many additions were made over the years such as rooms for the Granthi, kitchen for the preparation of the Guru ka Langgar, store for the cooking utensils as well as classrooms for the Sikh children.
In the late 19O0’s, Sikh children from the lower income group faced difficulty in getting admission to the three English schools in Seremban. With the initiative of Dr. Tara Singh and Giani Prem Singh, classrooms were built at the rear of the Gurdwara Sahib Seremban. The Khalsa School was started and both English and Gurmukhi were taught in this school.
In 19O4, a crisis developed among the Sikhs in the running of the Gurdwara. Sikh members of the Police force, prison wardens and the Sikh government servants wanted to set up a separate Gurdwara in Seremban. A five-member committee comprising of Sardar Sadhu Singh Tharu, Toki Chet Singh, Dr. Tara Singh, Munshi Nand Singh and Babu Harchand Singh was formed to find an amicable solution to avoid splitting the Sikh community. Finally, for the first time, a constitution for the Seremban Gurdwara Sahib was drawn up. O5 members were proposed to sit on the management committee with 15 members to be elected from the Police and Prison’s department and 20 members from the general Sikh Sangat.
In December 1941 a shop house was purchased in Campbell Road for Malayan $7,500.00 for the Gurdwara Sahib. This shop house still exists and the rental is used to maintain the Gurdwara Sahib.
The Japanese army occupied Seremban on 11`h January 1942. The Sikhs were jolted into facing the many difficulties created by the Japanese. A Sikh lady who was carrying a baby was slapped for not bowing to a Japanese soldier. A committee was formed and met with the Japanese Garrison Commander. The Sikh customs and tenets of Sikhism were explained to him and a cordial relationship was established. The Sikhs were able to obtain bags of wheat flour, sugar, salt etc. for the Guru ka Langgar in the early years of the Japanese occupation. Later, when these were no longer available, substitutes had to be used for the `Karate Parshad’ such as corn flour, ragi flour, and coconut oil or palm oil instead of Ghee. The Sikhs found solace in prayer and the Sikh community became more united and caring. The Japanese occupation of Malaya finally came to an end in September 1945.
In 1947 due to the decrease in the number of Sikhs in the police force and prisons department, the size of the management committee was reduced to 26 members. This comprised of 11 working members, 10 general committee members and 5 ladies who were nominated by the Isteri Satsang.
In 195O, with the assistance of Dato’ T. Mahima Singh, a piece of land was purchased in Rahang for Malayan $25,000.00 to build the Khalsa Punjabi School. However, this project did not materialise. This land still exists and the rental derived therefrom is used to upkeep the Gurdwara.
In 195O, the management committee put up a new school building at the back of the Gurdwara Sahib to cater to the many Sikh children who could not get places in the regular schools. In 1957/58 it became a fully assisted government primary school providing education in English and Punjabi. By the late 1960’s the enrolment fell to less than 10 students and as such the government assistance was withdrawn. After this the school opened kindergarten classes which existed until 1992.
The Isteri Satsang in the Seremban Gurdwara Sahib commenced in 1951 and gained momentum in leaps and bounds. From simple farewell tea party gatherings, it took the role of sewa (service) in preparing the Guru Ka Langgar and cleaning the Gurdwara. It then started to organise weekly prayers where the Sukhmani Sahib, Kirtan and Ardas is done by the ladies followed by the serving of the Degh and sharda poorbak sewa. Some of the ladies render service by holding Paath or participating in the Sri Akhand Paath Sahib on a voluntary basis during Gurpurabs.
In 1959 the Naujawan Satsang was established under the Seremban Gurdwara Sahib. Young Sikh children were thought good moral behavior, doing sewn taught them the Sikh way of life and to remain steadfast in the Sikh religion. One of its chief motivators was the late Sardar Manjit Singh. The Seremban Naujawan Satsang was the first such body to be formed in Malaysia. The Naujawan Satsang organises Sunday programmes for the children as well as visits to welfare homes during Gurpurabs. It also does sewa as well as recites Kiruin during religious programs.
In 196O, a ban was imposed on the taking of photographs during a marriage ceremony in the Darbar Sahib. In addition, flowers or confetti could not be showered on the bride and bridegroom during the lavan ceremony. The ban on taking photographs was lifted only on O0th December 1966 as most other Gurdwaras allowed photography during the marriage.
In 1965, under the chairmanship of Dato’ T. Mahima Singh Dhaliwal, a building committee was formed to build a new Gurdwara Sahib to cater for the growing Sangat. A double storey brick structure was designed for the new Gurdwara Sahib building. The upper floor serves as the Darbar Sahib and the ground floor serves as the langgar hall. The Federal Government gave a donation of RM60,000.00 and the balance was raised from the Sikh sangat. The total cost of the new Gurdwara Sahib building came to RM120,000.00.
The foundation stone of the new Gurdwara Sahib building was laid by the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Tun Haji Abdul Razak bin Dato’ Hussein on 9th December 1965. Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji of Malacca officially opened the new Gurdwara Sahib building on 17th April 1966.
In 1966 the Management Committee set up an Education Aid Fund to provide loans to needy Sikh students to pursue higher education. No interest is charged but the students have to repay the loan once they are employed. A separate three member Education Aid Sub Committee manages this fund with two members nominated from the management committee.
Gurdwara Sahib Seremban was the first and possibly the only Gurdwara Sahib in Malaysia to set up an Education Aid Fund for students of Negeri Sembilan pursuing either Professional Courses or Semi Professional Courses. To date, over 100 students have benefited through its programme. Presently, some 18 students are receiving aid.
In 197O the Management Committee decided that old rumalas could not be taken from the Gurdwara Sahib and offered again as "Chadawa" offerings to Guru Maharaj the Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This was because Ardas had already been performed with them on an earlier occasion and thus it was not proper to offer again a used rumala.
On 21s` February 1987 a new constitution was approved by the Sikh Sangat. A membership fee of RM6.00 per annum was introduced for the first time. Further, no member could serve in the same post in the Management Committee for more than two terms.
A new library located in the Gurdwara premises was declared open by the Panj Piyarae on 19′ September 1990. On this occasion the Dasmesh Band from the Sikh Naujawan Sabha gave a bagpipe display in the Seremban town field before the opening ceremony of the Library.
In late 1992, the Gurdwara Sahib was extensively renovated, air-conditioned and extended at a cost of RM599,982.00. This renovation project was completed in time to celebrate Vesakhi Day in April 199O. In 2001, the kitchen of the Gurdwara Sahib underwent renovations, whereby new gas-pipes and special stoves were installed.
For more than 50 years there was a ban on shabad bheta for the Granthi or visiting ragis. As a result many good ragis preferred to go to other Gurdwaras. Finally in June 1997 the ban on shabad bheta for ragis was lifted in the Seremban Gurdwara.
There is a Sikh Assistant Registrar of Marriages in this Gurdwara Sahib who officiates at marriage ceremonies, if called upon to do so. However, the actual marriage ceremony is conducted by the Granthi in accordance with Sikh rites.
In the Seremban Gurdwara, during the marriage lavan ceremony, only one or two persons are allowed to guide the couple instead of a large number of family members standing around the Palki/Takhat Posh. The throwing of flowers or confetti is strictly banned. The reciting of the sehra is also not allowed. No sagan or gifts are to be given to the newly married couple in the Darbar Sahib. A separate room exists for this purpose on the ground floor at the back of the Gurdwara Sahib building.
To commemorate the O00th Anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa, which fell in 1999, the Gurdwara Sahib Seremban together with the other Gurdwaras set up the O00′ Anniversary Khalsa Welfare Fund. A total of RM210,000.00 was raised to help the residents of Negeri Sembilan in time of need. Gurdwara Sahib Seremban was the largest contributor to this Fund donating a total of RM170,000.00.
Giani Mit Singh Ji served as a Granthi in Gurdwara Sahib Seremban from 1940 to 1957. He was followed by Giani Jang Singh who served for nearly 10 years from 1957 to 1966.
The Management Committee comprises of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and their assistants as well as eleven committee members.
In 1957 three trustees were appointed to the Gurdwara Sahib i.e. Dato T. Mahima Singh Dhaliwal, Sardar C. Joginder Singh and Sardar Amar Singh Gill. Later, on the demise of Sardar Amar Singh Gill, Toki Sardar Santokh Singh filled the vacancy.
There are currently about O5 Sikh students who study Gurmukhi in the Gurdwara Sahib once a week on Saturdays.
There are presently about O00 Sikh families who participate in the religious activities held in this Gurdwara Sahib. The normal weekly prayers are held on Sundays commencing with the Asa di War from 6.O0a.m. to 8.00p.m. Depending upon requests, Jormelas by the Sikh sangat are also sometimes held on Sunday mornings from 10.00a.m. to 11.O0a.m.
The Sikh Naujawan programme is held on Sunday afternoon at O.00p.m. to 4.O0p.m. every fortnight. The Isteri Satsang programme is held every Wednesday afternoon from 2.00p.m. to 4.00p.m.