Silat Road Sikh Temple
On Jalan Bukit Merah lies a place of historic value. It is the Silat Road Sikh Temple and it holds the tombstone of Bhai Maharaj Singh, described as the first Sikh to have arrived in Singapore.
Bhai Maharaj Singh was brought here in 1850 as a prisoner of the British colonial government for leading a movement against British occupation in Punjab, India. Singapore was a penal colony then. Bhai Maharaj was held in Pearl’s Hill Prison, where he eventually died of cancer in 1856, and his body cremated outside the prison complex. His tombstone, which was located within the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital, drew many visitors.
In 1966, his tombstone was moved from the hospital grounds to the Silat Road Temple, drawing followers that included people of different races and faiths. In 1995, the Sikh community funded a S$8.3-million facelift for the temple as it grew in popularity - the front facade was retained for its historical heritage and the Bhai Maharaj Singh memorial was built on the side of the temple, a striking feature as a seven-storey shrine.
The Silat Road Temple has its roots as one of the first Sikh temples to be built in Singapore. At first, it was located at Pearl’s Hill, where the barracks of the Sikh Police Contingent were situated. When the temple at Pearl’s Hill was demolished in 1912, the Sikh Police Contingent raised funds for the construction of the temple in 1924 at its present location.
During the Japanese Occupation, the temple sheltered vulnerable members of the Sikh community. Many Sikhs had died defending Singapore and Malaya as soldiers in the British military. The temple provided housing and welfare for the widows and orphans of the fallen men. After the war, the widows who chose to return to Punjab were given free sea passage home. The temple also provided accommodation to new immigrants. Many Sikhs who chose to remain in Singapore after the World War II subsequently made the decision to take up Singapore citizenship in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1999, the temple was designated a historic site by the National Heritage Board. With its rich history and heritage, the Silat Road Sikh temple continues to play an important social and religious function for the Sikh community, ensuring their cultural and religious roots are preserved in this multi-cultural, multi-racial country. #HEREitage