History and Formation of the Sabha and Katong Gurdwara Sahib:
Before the Second World War, there were several Gurdwara Sahibs in existence in Singapore. These Gurdwara Sahibs were built by Sikhs from the different regions of Punjab such as Majha, Malwa and Doaba. The Sikhs serving in the Police Force had their own Police Gurdwara Sahib in Pearl Hill.
After the partition of India in 1947, many displaced Sikhs from West Punjab (now part of Pakistan) came to Singapore. Most of these Sikhs were from the business community. Sikh businessmen from Thailand and Malaysia also came to Singapore and set up trading companies. These Sikhs used to go to the Wadda Gurdwara (Central Sikh Temple), which was then located in Queen Street.
Sardar Hardial Singh Bajaj, a partner in Gian Singh & Company, was a prominent businessmen and community leader. In 1951, he engaged Giani Gurcharan Singh to teach Punjabi, kirtan and path to his children. His house at No. 5 Crescent Road, where the Granthi stayed, soon became a hive of activity. The sangat was very impressed with the children’s kirtan and many more joined the religious classes. Sunday morning prayers became a regular feature. Several kirtan jathas used to take turns to do kirtan followed by the Ardas and Degh.
Sardar Inder Singh Bajaj had a bungalow in Mountbatten Road. The main hall in this bungalow was converted into a Darbar Sahib in which was placed the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Sunday morning prayers were held here and gradually the Sangat used to come in greater numbers.
In 1953, Sardar Hardial Singh Bajaj, Sardar Surjit Singh Bajaj with the strong support of Sardar Inder Singh Bajaj, Sardar Pritam Singh Bajaj, Sardar Sardul Singh Narula, Seth Narain Singh Narula and a few others decided to establish a new Gurdwara Sahib.
On 26th June 1953, Sri Guru Nanak Sat Sang Sabha was registered. Sardar Hardial Singh Bajaj became the President, Sardar D Labh Singh the Secretary and Sardar Amir Singh the Treasurer. The following were appointed Trustees; Sardar Inder Singh Bajaj, Sardar Pritam Singh Bajaj, Sardar Mahn Singh Bajaj, Sardar Amir Singh and Sardar Kartar Singh Thakral. Some of the other founder members of this Sabha are Sardar Sardul Singh Narula, Sardar Mangal Singh, Seth Jamna Das, Sardar Tara Singh, Sardar Wazir Singh, Mahasha Mohan Lal, Justice (Retired) Choor Singh Sidhu, Bhai Asumal, Seth W. Hassaram, Shree Harbans Lal and a few others. Giani Gurcharan Singh was appointed the first Granthi of this Sabha’s Gurdwara Sahib.
Sri Guru Nanak Sat Sang Sabha had no premises of its own. Sunday Diwans continued to be held in the homes of the Sangat. Sometime later, a bungalow was leased at Number 209 Onan Road, Singapore. It was used as the Granthi’s residence and store for the Gurdwara Sahib kitchen utensils and carpets. The hall was converted into the Darbar Sahib in which was placed the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Many people used to jokingly refer to the Sabha’s Gurdwara Sahib as the “Mobile Gurdwara”. Gradually, the Sangat increased and it was necessary that bigger premises be found to build a Gurdwara Sahib.
In 1962, Sardar Inder Singh Bajaj, on his own initiative purchased an old bungalow at Number 17 Wilkinson Road for M$36,000.00 for the Sabha’s use. In 1963, the adjoining bungalow at Number 11 Wilkinson Road was purchased for M$55,000.00. Initially, one bungalow was used as the Gurdwara Sahib and the second bungalow was used as the Granthi’s residence. This Gurdwara Sahib came to be known as Gurdwara Sahib Katong as it is located in Katong.
In 1969, a new double storey Gurdwara Sahib building was constructed at Number 17 Wilkinson Road at a cost of S$600,000.00. The design of this Gurdwara Sahib reflects traditional Sikh architecture. It has a wide dome, flat roof and a spacious prayer hall with arched windows on the first floor. The ground floor includes the Guru Ka Langgar hall, kitchen, a library, office, Granthi’s quarters and three rooms for visiting ragis and parcharaks. Sardar Sangat Singh Bajaj supervised the construction of this Gurdwara Sahib building.
Shorty after the new Gurdwara Sahib building was completed, the Sangat felt the need to have a marble Paalki built for the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The marble for the Paalki was designed and sculptured in Jaipur, India. Mistri Charan Singh flew down from India to supervise his craftsmen and assemble the Paalki. The new Paalki was completed on 2nd November 1978 at a cost of S$50,000.00, which was donated by the Sangat.
Around 1978, Sardar Harbaksh Singh MA was engaged as a manager. He was a scholar of Gurmukhi, Urdu and Persian and very knowledgeable in Gurbani and Sikh history. On behalf of the Sabha, he sent out cyclostyled pamphlets in Punjabi and English to members of this Gurdwara Sahib as well as Sikhs all over the world.
In 1983, Giani Gurcharan Singh and Sardar Harbaksh Singh both retired from this Sabha’s services. In recognition of their long and dedicated service, the Management Committee gave both of them S$5,000.00 as gratuity and a lifelong pension of S$300.00 a month.
Since 1983, Giani Bikar Singh has been serving as head Granthi of this Gurdwara Sahib.
At the weekend Diwans, emphasis is laid on Gurbani and punctuality. Only Gurbani shabads are recited by the kirtan jathas. Guest speakers may speak only on Sikh religion, Sikh Gurus and Sikh history. Time is not wasted on irrelevant talks about personal matters, praising individuals or drawing comparisons with other religions.
Sri Guru Nanak Sat Sang Sabha is a household name amongst Sikh communities all over the world because of its promotion of Gurbani. The Sabha’s former Secretary, Sardar Amir Singh Devotes his time producing Gurbani kirtan and katha tapes of well-known ragis (musicians) and parcharaks (preachers), which are sold at a subsidised price.
A video of colour slides depicting the history of the Sikhs, with commentary in Punjabi and English was produced by the Sabha and distributed to the Sikh sangat in many countries.
Sardar Gurcharan Singh Narula, a leading textile merchant and former President of this Sabha, has on many occasions undertaken Gurbani parchar sewa. Using his own funds, he publishes and distributes Gutkas to local as well as foreign Sikhs without charge.
Many years ago, translations of Gurbani in English were not available. Sardar Rajinder Singh Vidyarthi translated the Nitnem Banis, Sukhmani Sahib and several other Gurmat articles into English for free distribution, all over the world.
Sardar Sangat Singh Bajaj, who has been the Secretary and President of this Sabha for many years, helped to establish the Dharam Parchar Centre at the Katong Gurdwara Sahib. This centre has a library and a bookshop. He promoted the translation of several books of the well known writer, Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh Ji, from Punjabi into English. These were subsequently published by this Sabha and sold at cost price.
Bhai Atumal wrote Gurbani Shabads (e.g. Salokas of Guru Teg Bahadur) in Sindhi script for the benefit of the Sindhi members of the Sangat. These are available for use whenever required by Sindhi Devotees.
Every year, a substantial proportion of the Gurdwara Sahib’s budget is expended on Dharam Parchar. This Sabha has set up a Dharam Parchar Centre to cater to the needs of local and overseas Sikhs. This centre imports and sells Sri Guru Granth Sahib Birs, Gutkas, English and Punjabi books on Sikh religion, Sikh Gurus, Sikh History, Punjabi language books as well as kangas (combs), karas (iron bangles), kirpans (daggers), Gurbani kirtan and katha cassette tapes and compact disks. All items are sold at subsidised rates and the proceeds of the sales are used for Dharam Parchar
This Sabha has also published pamphlets written by the late Justice (Retired) Choor Singh Ji on the Sikh religion, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Vesakhi etc. for free distribution. His book “Sikh Gurus” published by the Sabha is a textbook for Sikh students. It is sold at a subsidised price of S$5.00. Another one of his popular books “Understanding Sikhism” is sold at a token sum of S$2.00.
In the early days, professional cooks prepared langgar but this was not in accordance with the Sikh tradition of doing sewa. No one who had experience in cooking the Guru Ka Langgar in large quantities. Mr. Ram Nath Sachdev took over the cooking and succeeded by the trial and error method. Soon, a few sewadars mastered the art of bulk cooking for the Guru Ka Langgar.
Bhai Ganga Ram, a former Vice President, was a pioneer sewadar in this Gurdwara. His humility and selfless service had a profound effect in motivating other members of the congregation into performing sewa on a regular basis in this Gurdwara Sahib.
Sponsoring a religious programme at the Katong Gurdwara Sahib has been made relatively simple. At present, the Gurdwara Management purchases all the necessary rations and vegetables at wholesale prices. The sponsor of the Guru Ka Langgar is only charged the actual cost. Cooking and serving of langgar, washing of utensils and cleaning the premises is undertaken by sewadars in the typical Sikh tradition of selfless service.
There are many Punjabi Hindus and Sindhis who are staunch believers of the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Everyone is welcome at this Gurdwara Sahib irrespective of religion, race or language. Many non-Sikhs come and join the prayer services at this Gurdwara Sahib on a regular basis. Members of the Sindhi community support this Gurdwara Sahib and have prayers held here for their birthdays, anniversaries, engagements and marriages.
Racial harmony, tolerance and sewa to mankind have been the fundamental guiding principles of the Gurdwara Sahib Katong. The Sabha has had many well wishers who have in their wisdom, guided the Sabha to greater heights. The late Justice (Retired) Choor Singh Sidhu had assisted the Sabha for nearly forty years, particularly when a serious problem occurred. This Gurdwara Sahib is probably the only one in which there has never been a tussle for leadership. Members have to be persuaded to accept the positions of President and Vice-President. The sangat is well represented on the committee with Sindhis and Sahejdhari Sikhs holding important positions.
The Management Committee comprises of the President, Secretary, Treasurer, their Assistants, a librarian and ten committee members.
The Gurdwara Sahib Katong has an Assistant Registrar of Marriages who officiates at wedding ceremonies when called upon to do so. The weekly prayers are held on Sunday mornings from 7.00a.m. to 9.45a.m for the first program.
The Naujawan Satsang programme is held on every alternate Sundays at 11am led by Sardar Bikramjit Singh Thakral . Kirtan classes are held twice a week for Sikh youths. The Isteri Satsang Sabha programme, a prayer session exclusively for lady members of the sangat, is held on Fridays from 10.000a.m. to 1.00p.m. This programme commences with the Sukhmani Sahib Path, followed by hymns from the Gurbani and concludes with the arDas. Members of the Isteri Satsang are very dedicated; they assist with the preparation of the langgar, wash utensils and render service when needed.