By Parmeet Singh | Kota Bharu
Muslims make up 95% of the population of Kelantan, a state in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Famously known as the Islamic City, many would think that Vaisakhi celebration in the state would be low key affair or even non–existent.
On the contrary. The small Sikh community in Kelantan held a memorable Vaiskahi open house on April 17. The open house is a unique celebration in Malaysia where communities hold religious programmes open to people form all walks of life.
“Thank you so much for inviting us. We felt good seeing so many races under one roof and the food was delicious. Superb,” said Yannisha, a dental student at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), a public university based in Kota Bharu, the state capital of Kelantan.
” I am amazed how the Sikhs have managed to gather such a crowd here today,” commented Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam from Kota Bharu’s Church of Our Lady of Fatima of the Holy Rosary.
Sikhs in Kelantan have seen their numbers dwindle over the years. In the early years, Sikhs were found in the armed forces and the civil service. Today, they are mostly professionals like medical doctors, dentists and police officers. You have retirees, businessmen, teachers and students and lecturers mostly from Universiti Sains Malaysia Health Campus (medicine and dentistry). There also foreign workers from Punjab.
One granthi serves all three gurdwaras in the state: Gurdwara Sahib Kota Bharu, Gurdwara Sahib Tumpat and Gurdwara Sahib Kuala Krai (which was submerged in water for days during the Kelantan floods last year. (See Asia Samachar story here).
The Kelantan Sangat celebrated Vaisakhi in a beautiful manner over two days. The night diwan (April 16) began with sewa by the locals at 2pm. The diwan started off with Raheras prayers and continued with kirtan and semaphti after on. Kirtan was performed by a raagi jatha (kirtan group) from India. Guru Ka Langgar was served after the programme attended by 50 people.
The next day was a milestone for the sikh community in Kelantan. Sewa started at 4am and lasted till 7.30am. Thereafter was the nishan salami with kirtan and ardaas followed by breakfast. Then, some members of the sanggat were in the darbar while others were busy with the preparation for the Vaisakhi Open House scheduled at 12pm.
USM medical student Gurpreet Kaur and the raagi jatha did kirtan. The sangat sang together in pure bliss followed by sehaj path da bhog and ardaas.
As 12pm, people of all walks and religion started to fill the gurdwara compound. It marked the official beginning of Kelantan Vaisakhi Open House. The guests were from various communities: Chrisrtian, Buddhist, Siamese, Hindu and Muslims. It was a perfect blend of Malaysians that have always held the local Sikh community in high regards due to their previous contributions. As the crowd grew, more and more sewadaars (volunteer workers, usually called premi in India) started to serve food. The Punjabi chaa (tea) was a big hit. Not forgetting the rotiyan (chappati) and all the lentils (sholah and dal) and vegetables. Ice-cream was freely distributed from a lorry parked in front of the gurdwara.
It is estimate some 350 people attended the open house. No mean feat for a small Sikh community. Looks like they kept try to the words of Guru Gobind Singh: Savah Laakh Say Aik Laraoun, Tabai Gobind Singh Naam Kahaoun (I will make 1 fight 125,000, Only then my name shall be Gobind Singh). The numbers don’t count, but the Sikhi spirit within.
Parmeet Singh is a dental student at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Kelantan.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com] 18553
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