Capturing stories of Singapore’s early Sikh pioneers

CSGB releases ‘Singapore’s Early Sikh Pioneers: Origins, Settlement, Contributions and Institutions’ edited by Rishpal Singh Sidhu. It carries no less than 120 photographs to provide the younger generation a glimpse into their past.

| Singapore | 30 April 2017 Asia Samachar |
SIRAPAO: Naranjan Singh Brahmpura (seated) receiving the sirapao from CSGB president Gurcharan Singh Kesail (standing, right) for sponsoring the production cost of just-launched book Singapore’s Early Sikh Pioneers: Origins, Settlement, Contributions and Institutions. With them are CSGB vice president Gurdip Singh Usma (middle) and Naranjan’s son Harjinder Singh. The book was edited and compiled by Rishpal Singh Sidhu – PHOTO / SUPPLIED

A 174-page book on the early Sikh pioneers in Singapore was released in conjunction with the Vaiskahi 2017 celebrations.

Compiled and edited by Rishpal Singh Sidhu, Singapore’s Early Sikh Pioneers: Origins, Settlement, Contributions and Institutions carrying no less than 120 photographs provides the younger generation a glimpse into their past.

“The whole thrust of the book is to inform the younger generation – this is how your forefathers came to Singapore, this is what they did, and this is their contribution. Their contribution bit, you will see, is outstanding,” Rishpal tells Asia Samachar in a telephone conversation.

The book was commissioned by Central Sikh Gurdwara Board Singapore (CSGB) to chronicle the Sikh community’s contribution to Singapore.

Rishpal, a retired Singapore civil servant, had served as a director for Government Library Services between 1996-2000. He served as Manager of the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board Singapore (CSGB) from March 2011 to October 2015.

“For me, this was a labour of love,” he said.


The book was officially launched at a Vaisakhi event in Singapore on 13 April 2017 where CSGB patron and past president Naranjan Singh Brahmpura was presented with a sirapoa for sponsoring the book. Naranjan is also patron of the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA) and trustee of Singapore Sikh Education Foundation (SSEF) and Sikh Welfare Council (SIWEC).

The book begins with an account of Singapore’s first Sikh resident who arrived here in 1850 as a prisoner of British India and died in prison in 1856.

Phases and patterns of Sikh migration to Singapore are described, together with brief accounts of the lives and activities of these early settlers. It also traces the establishment of gurdwaras (Sikh temples) as focal points of community gatherings and involvement, according to the preface in the book.

‘Singapore’s Early Sikh Pioneers: Origins, Settlement, Contributions and Institutions’ front and back cover. Right: Rishpal Singh Sidhu

“Sikh presence as sepoys (policemen) in the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Harbour Board Police, and the Naval Base Police was very much a part of civil administration in Singapore’s early history, and the advent of the Second World War saw Sikh soldiers actively involved in the defence of Singapore.

“The concluding chapters of this book are a narration of Sikh settlers and pioneers who made Singapore their home. It recounts their noteworthy contributions to Singapore’s development in diverse fields of endeavor from its early years through to the 1990s,” it says.

The book contains 10 chapters starting with Singapore’s first Sikh and Sikh migration to Singapore: Phases and patterns. The other chapters are: Early Sikh settlers in Singapore; Sikhs in the British Naval Base; Establishment of Gurdwaras, Sikh Advisory Board and other Sikh institutions; Sikh soldiers involvement in the defense of Singapore in World War II and civilian life during the Japanese Occupation; Early Sikh pioneers and their contributions to nation building; Colonial Singapore’s first Sikh politician; and the concluding chapter.

When asked about the challenges to produce the book, Rishpal said people were generally slow when giving information.

“People were generally forthcoming. Some were goldmines pieces of information,” he said.

In the preface of the book, the publisher noted that many members of the sangat contributed historical records and pictures without which this book could not have been completed.

Rishpal, now 71 years old, spends most of his time now in Australia.

He has been involved in library and information services management in Singapore, New Zealand and Australia over the last four decades. Over the same period, he has also been actively involved in part-time teaching/tutoring at universities in New South Wales and South Australia in library and information studies; academic and business communication skills; communication, rhetoric and reasoning; and English language teaching to international students.


[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:]


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Teja – A life devoted to Malaysian sports and history (Asia Samachar, 16 Sept 2016)

Sikhs big in road transport in early Malayan history (Asia Samachar, 3 Sept 2015)

BBC’s Sharanjit captures family history (Asia Samachar, 2 Aug 2015)


  1. The least the committee could have done is to give Rishpal Singh the honour of giving the saropa to Bhai Narajan Singh.

  2. Does anyone know if this Naranjan Singh Brahmpura is the same person as one Cadet Officer Naranjan Singh who was in Cadet Wing of RMC (then FMC) when Singapore was still a part of Malaysia?

  3. Well done CSGB and Sardar Rishpal Singh Sidhu. This book has captured the essence of the colourful history of the dynamic Sikhs of Singapore. From being principally policemen and jagas, the community had transformed itself within one generation into being part of Singapore’s leading professionals and successful businessmen today.