By Asia Samachar Team | SINGAPORE |
The art of tying turban and the soothing touch of Sikh music were at full display over the weekend as Sikhs reached out to their fellow Singaporeans on their identify and contribution.
The small but dynamic Sikh community took it upon itself to showcase their history and heritage at a two-day Sikh Heritage Day which began on June 8.
The estimated 5,000 people of all faiths who attended the event also had a chance to taste Guru Ka Langgar, the vegetarian meal usually served at Sikh gurdwaras.
No less than the Singapore President Halimah Yacob was at hand to do the launching, a fitting gesture to the community that have contributed to the nation on many fronts.
In a Facebook entry, Halimah said that religious diversity was Singapore’s strength.
“Though the Sikh community is a small ethnic group in Singapore, the Sikhs have added much vitality to our social fabric. Through this celebration, I hope it will promote greater interfaith understanding among Singaporeans of different races and religions,” she added.
The event is held as part of the year-long celebrations to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith (Sikhi or Sikhism).
In a statement, the organisers said the inaugural event aimed at improving the understanding among the Singapore societies of Sikhs, the values they stand for and how these are aligned with that of the wider society.
“The messages and teachings of Guru Nanak form the bedrock of the Sikh faith and are widely recognised as congruent to the principles of an open, inclusive and diverse society,” said project lead Malminderjit Singh in his opening remarks at the event.
“Thus, as the Sikhs around the world celebrate, just as we are doing so in Singapore, we not only commemorate a milestone year for our faith group, but it is also a chance for us to remind ourselves and highlight the important roles we play in the societies we live in. Because it is in the Sikh ethos to make sure that we work towards the purpose of the betterment of all mankind.”
The exhibition focused on several key themes – Sikh tenets, history, identity, heritage and how the community has contributed to Singapore as several prominent and successful members of the community were highlighted.
Sikh Heritage Day also contributed to the national conversation as 2019 also marks the bicentennial year of Singapore.
One of the highlights of Sikh Heritage Day was the turban tying booth as snaking queues of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds waited excitedly to have their turbans tied by Sikh volunteers.
One of the first to get his turban tied was Mayor of North East District and Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Desmond Choo.
Former Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Coordinating Council of Sikh Institutions Inderjit Singh, shared: “It was truly amazing to see the beauty and openness of Singapore society as people from all walks of life transcended boundaries and inhibitions to tie the turban on and experience what it meant to be a Sikh. To me, it exemplified the spirit of One Humanity, which is also the tagline for our year-long celebrations.”
Tributes for the local Sikh community poured in from members and leaders from other communities who were present at Sikh Heritage Day. Ustaz Muslim Amad, Community Engagement and Religious Classes Executive of Al-Muttaqin Mosque, who provided his reflections at the launch event, said: “I started to learn more about Sikhism when I attended the Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar in 2016 and as I exposed myself to the learning of others. What I see in them is a community that cares for others, selfless in their service for others without any discrimination.”
They included ISEAS former director Prof Kernail Singh Sandhu, national hockey icon Harbhajan Singh Loombha, mathematics education doyenne Prof Berinderjeet Kaur, businessman Kartar Singh Thakral and Jagjit Singh Sekhon who set up Nightingale Nursing Home in 1980 as Singapore’s ﬁrst professionally operated nursing home with emphasis on care of the aged, chronic sick and convalescing.
Singapore president to launch maiden Sikh Heritage Day (Asia Samachar, 31 May 2019)
Ontario introduces Sikh heritage learning tools (Asia Samachar, 23 Feb 2019)