Fri, May 13, 2011
By Surendar Kaur
DON'T be surprised if you don't see too many Sikhs in Singapore next weekend. Most of us will be in Malacca from May 20 to 22 for prayers at the Gurdwara Sahib Malacca.
The weekend of prayers draws thousands of Sikhs and others from Malaysia and Singapore to the Jalan Temenggong gurdwara. They go to pay their respects to the late Baba Sohan Singh who spread the Sikh religion with his inspiring discussions and speeches.
Ever since he died on May 24, 1972, after a short illness, the Gurdwara Sahib Malacca commemorates the date by holding an Akhand Path (continuous recitation of the Sikh sacred religious texts for approximately 21/2 days) and prayers annually. Popularly known as Baba Sohan Singh's Barsi, it is a time to pray for whatever help they seek and also express gratitude for the help received.
I, for one, have been making this annual pilgrimage to Malacca for the past 17 years. The first time, in 1994, I prayed to be blessed with a child. My daughter was born a year later - call it divine or medical intervention, but my husband and I were thrilled - and since then we make sure we are at Gurdwara Sahib Malacca every year.
Apart from the prayers, I also enjoy the social aspect of this pilgrimage. With so many Sikhs descending on Malacca for the weekend - thousands drive up from Singapore or charter buses for the trip while even more arrive from other Malaysian cities and towns - hotels are packed and room reservations have to be made very early.
In the temple, we attend the prayer sessions and do sewa (performing a service) which can include helping to prepare food and serving it to the devotees.
And this is where the weekend takes on a multiracial flavour: Not only does the temple serve free food to anyone who walks in and takes a seat in the dining area, many Chinese volunteers provide items like you tiao (fried crullers) and soya bean drinks while south Indians cook thosais or pratas for breakfast.
In addition, there is a blood donation drive, with medical teams in attendance, while a pasar malam (night market) always springs up outside the temple with stalls selling Punjabi outfits, CDs, Indian sweets and many other items.
While some people shop, others do some sightseeing. A common sight during the weekend is elderly women riding in a cycle rickshaw which has Hindi music blaring from its huge speakers. And once night falls, a bhangra night is also organised for the youngsters to have some fun.
For my family and me, this is a great outing where we combine our religious duties with some shopping and fun. In fact, it even becomes an opportunity to catch up with relatives and friends from the community. So, if you're in Malacca next weekend, come and say hello.