By Dya Singh | OPINION |
Very recently, aspiring futuristic architect Vishal Singh explained with models, the design of a gurdwara of the future. He incorporated all aspects of the spirit of a Sikh gurdwara different from halls of prayer of other religions. In other words, different from the looks of a church, mosque, Chinese temple or a mandir.
I did comment quickly under his column about a thoughtful exteriorisation of such a unique building. While he has gone to the lengths of even recommending what kind of material could be used, the one aspect which started me thinking was the exterior. What does it look like from the outside? What image does it reflect? How does it represent us Sikhs? I suggested a Malaysian style (Minangkabau, Malay house roof type, etc.).
I felt the impulse to elaborate a little further.
Sikhism, or rather the Sikh Quom (nation), is an emerging global socio/theosophical community. I will say unflinchingly that we do not have a geographical, physical ‘country’ any longer. It has been proven that almost 80 percent of our ‘heritage’ is now in Pakistan with the remains in Indian Punjab.
But, I find this a cause of celebration, not a thought for any anguished breast-beating. We thrive as a global community. Indian Punjab, and especially the continuing political climate therein, has proved, even after the fateful 1984 that we Sikhs are not really made out for governing ourselves. (Our gurdwara politics too appears to suggest that!) But we prosper and add value to any country we migrate to.
At times gone by every Sikh outside Punjab thought of ‘making money’ and retiring in Punjab. A great portion of their pay or moneys earned was sent back to Punjab. Overseas Sikhs have built huge houses in their villages – lying empty because they are still overseas or have died overseas! Hopefully we have now outgrown that. I believe Malaysian Sikhs truly have. We Sikhs generally are a creditable global community. Any country is proud to have us.
Our integration into any country is that we retain our Sikhi and hopefully Sikhi-seroop too and, within reason, we take on the ‘culture’ of the country we start staying in.
Under British Law we have also been accepted as an ‘ethnic’ community. That means, as long as we follow Sikhi, we are considered one ‘community’ with the same ethnic background. The Mandla Case comes to mind.
British Sikhs are now pushing to be considered ‘Sikh’ when it comes to stating ones ‘background’. We used to say ‘Indian’, but now we will be able to say ‘Sikh’ as our background.
We thrive and celebrate that we are now a genuine global community based on Sikh values. If we are born and brought up in India, we are Indian Sikhs. If we are born and brought up in Malaysia we are Malaysian Sikhs and so on.
I have a problem because I was born and brought up in Malaysia but for the last 40-odd years I have been living in Australia – am I a Malaysian Sikh or an Australian Sikh? I guess I too celebrate that fact and it does not matter because I am … first and foremost, a ‘SIKH’.
So, coming back to the exterior of a future Malaysian gurdwara, what about the National Gurdwara itself? Of which by the way, I have been accepted as a member (an NRM – Non-Residential Malaysian, just like NRI means Non-Residential Indian) member!
By the way, I have been told by some Malaysians that – “Ki lod hai, ek hor gurdwaray dhi, aje bas neheen?” Negative thinkers!
I believe that the Malaysian government has granted this land in Putrajaya especially for the Sikhs mainly to showcase the multicultural, multi-religious mix of Malaysian residents and it is our duty to build this gurdwara, as a showpiece of Sikhism in Malaysia and what Sikhs represent.
Sikhism is about inter-religious dialogue and harmony. We have so many aspects to suggest that we are welcoming of all peoples of all castes, all religions or ways of life – as long as they do not interfere in our way of living.
I will suggest that the exterior of this gurdwara should have a ‘Malaysian’ feel to it. A building showing that we are part and parcel of this country. What better way than to have a building which reflects Malaysian culture like a Minangkabau type of any high roof with steep inclines and curves at the ends – think Malaysian, building. Or think genuine, traditional Malay house in a kampong! I am certain someone like Vishal can visualise and design something along those lines.
Such a building will become a talking point not only nationally but internationally and hence a tourist destination. Just like the gurdwara in Dubai is a talking point globally, so will such a gurdwara in Malaysia.
And what will say that it is a Sikh place of worship? A Nishan Sahib in front does that.
Malaysian-born Dya Singh, who now resides in Australia, is an accomplished musician and a roving Sikh preacher. The Dya Singh World Music Group performs full scale concerts on ‘music for the soul’ based on North Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music with hymns from mainly the Sikh, Hindu and Sufi ‘faiths’. He is also the author of SIKH-ING: Success and Happiness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Dya Singh revisits Kerala ayurveda journey – Part III (Asia Samachar, 13 June 2019)
The communal spirit that binds us all – Bringing everyone from everywhere together (Asia Samachar, 6 June 2019)
Putrajaya gurdwara in the making (Asia Samachar, 20 March 2019)
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