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Senior minister praises Sikh community’s contribution to Singapore

He opened the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Sikh heritage in the country, which gives a deeper understanding of this small but prominent Singapore Indian community.

Written by GURDIP SINGH | Singapore |
March 27, 2021 10:48:20 am
punjab news, sikh community, Singapore sikh community, Singapore minister on Sikhs, india news, indian expressThe minister noted that women have played a central role in the Sikh community, and made significant contributions.

A senior Singaporean minister on Friday highlighted the Sikh community’s contribution to all fields of life in Singapore and appreciated their serving spirit by stepping forward to help others during the Covid-19 peak, as he opened the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Sikh heritage in the country.

The exhibition titled ‘Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold’ features more than 450 artefacts from over 50 local and international private collections, institutional collections of 17 Sikh organisations in Singapore, as well as Singapore’s National Collection and some from the United States.

“The Sikh community has always practised that ‘Seva spirit’. Seva is, of course, part of Indian tradition, but the Sikhs elevated it to a central tenet – contributing without any expectation of personal reward, to the community, to society,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam, senior minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, said at the exhibition organised by the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC).

“We saw it last year during Covid as well, when the Sikh community stepped up in its efforts to help everyone in need. The Langar initiative, in particular, was an outreach initiative providing free food – in fact, at its peak during Covid-19, more than 10,000 meals a week were being provided. That is a very meaningful initiative as well,” Tharman said at the event held virtually.

The minister noted that women have played a central role in the Sikh community, and made significant contributions – initially in Punjabi education, in passing on the craft and oral traditions, but over time, just like the men in their professions and in other areas, they too have played a very important role.

“If we look at the Sikh community and its contributions across a whole range of activities and vocations in Singapore, it is that story of Chardi Kala,” he said.

Chardi Kala is an important expression used in Sikhism for a mind-frame that a Sikh has to accept and practice. It loosely means a “positive, buoyant and optimistic” attitude to life and the future.

“Their contributions, of course in the military and the police, and in the professions, in sports and the arts, in all fields of life, have epitomised that spirit. And it has been both the women and the men,” he said.

“When we talk about Chardi Kala…it has not just been about individuals showing their resilience, it is also about how people support each other.”

The Sikh community’s long history in Singapore can be traced back to the late 19th century, with their arrival here from Punjab, via the port of Calcutta, to join the Sikh Police Contingent under the British colonial administration at the time.

The community firmly established itself here over the years, and its members have long been recognised for their societal contributions as soldiers, policemen, volunteers, athletes and more.

These identities only scratch the surface of deep, rich history and culture, which will be expounded and celebrated in Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold, the Indian Heritage Centre’s (IHC) first-ever exhibition dedicated to the Sikh heritage, said the IHC.

The exhibition, being held March 27 to Sept 30, 2021, gives a deeper understanding of this small, about 15,000, but prominent Singapore Indian community by telling its lesser-known stories.

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