Malacca, Malaysia | Asia Samachar | 17 May 2015
“No barsi, please. Let’s call it the salaana yaadgar semagam,” quipped the man in charge of the what is certainly the largest gathering of Sikhs in Southeast Asia.
We are sitting in the Gurdwara Sahib Malacca management office. It’s a hive of activity on the Saturday afternoon of May 9, with people moving in and out of the small office room. There is a Mother’s Day function involving the Punjabi Education Centre (PEC) students going on outside.
Aside from the children’s tea party, the gurdwara sevadars (volunteers) have also gathered for the on-going preparation for their biggest duo, the Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji Salaana Yaadgar Semagam 2015, which starts on May 21.
The annual function is organised to honour the memory of Baba Sohan Singh, the former granthi of Malacca gurdwara, and probably one of the most respected Sikhs in the region.
For the last few years, the organisers of the annual Malacca programme in the memory of Baba Sohan Singh have been trying to move away from the term ‘barsi’.
The idea of ‘Barsi’ (literally death anniversary) has always been keenly debate among Sikhs, whether or not it should be celebrated. Hence, the ‘no barsi’ reminder.
“We try not to refer to it as the barsi,” GS Malacca committee president Karam Singh tells Asia Samachar when asked on the preparations for the programme.
“Ok, ji, So, how’s the preparation for the selaana yaadgar semagam coming along,” I reworded the question.
It’s a challenging task, though. The thousands who come from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia, simply badge it as the ‘Malacca barsi programme’. It may take a while before the new lingo comes into vogue.
But that does take away the magnitude of the programme, the sheer potential of reaching out to the Sikh community that it carries every year, as it returns every year.
It is held in memory of Sohan Singh (1901-1972), a well-respected Sikh missionary, who have touched many hearts in Malaysia and Singapore. Many a family will regale with stories of how Baba Ji had visited their homes or their local gurdwaras.
“We expect some 65,000 people to attend the function. Last year, we even had Sikhs from Zimbabwe and Hong Kong. There were 12 to 13 buses from Singapore,” said Karam.
With such a crowd, there is massive job ahead of the organisers. There will kirtan and katha (talks). There will round the clock reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and Guru ka Langgar (free food kitchen). And much more.
“Making of Sukha Prasad, mathiyaan & sakarpare will held on 10th May 2015 at 8 a.m,” announced the event’s Facebook page. That was the day after the interview.
At the semagam (function), some of the tasks include crowd management, security, arranging for paathis, raagis and path dha bhogs.
“We are also trying to keep the cost in check and not spend unnessarily,” he said.
But that is quite a task with the numbers swelling over the years. Of course, at the same time, a bigger crowd could lead to more donations for the gurdwara.
“The crowd has been getting bigger over the years. We expect a bigger crowd this year. Nowadays, they put it on the internet,” Meher Singh, the immediate past president of the Gurdwara’s commitee, told Asia Samachar, when met after finishing his seva of the day at the gurdwara.
“This is like a tirath for the some in Malaysia and Singapore. Some take one-week leave to do seva here,” he said. “Most of the seva is done by outsiders. We [Malacca] only have a small force.”
A new addition this year’s is the dental screening on 23 May to be led by Dr Anishya Kaur from the Klinik Pergigian Kelebang Besar, Malacca.
Asia Samachar will also be opening a booth at the Malacca function. Those interested to talk to the editorial team are most welcome to drop by its booth.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
Malacca PEC celebrates Mother’s Day (Asia Samachar, 10 May 2015)
Major changes in Malacca gurdwara leadership (Asia Samachar, 9 Mar 2015)
Malacca’s Giani Ran dies of cancer (Asia Samachar, 22 Jan 2015)
Malacca-Singapore cycling to raise funds for Siwec (Asia Samachar, 5 Dec 2014)