Sikh warrior Bhai Maharaj Singh refused to surrender to the British even after British taking over Punjab.
The Singapore Sikh community is showcasing the artefacts belonging to the saint-soldier Bhai Maharaj Singh who was a freedom fighter and died here in 1856 in British captivity.
The two-day exhibition at a local Gurdwara, put up by the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board as part of a month-long festival to honour Bhai Maharaj Singh, features some of his personal items such as a salottar (wooden stick used as a support and weapon), dastaar chakkar (turban steel quoits used to retain the shape of a turban) and a mala (rosary) belonging to the late spiritual leader and freedom fighter.
Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and three of Bhai Maharaj Singh’s descendants from India visited the Saint-Soldier’s memorial at the Silat Road Sikh Temple today, on the outskirt of the central business district.
The items on display are on loan until July 5 from his descendents in India. The temple committee has also put up information panels on the history of the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) and Bhai Maharaj Singh memorial within the temple complex.
Bhai Maharaj is believed to be the first Sikh in Singapore who arrived in 1850 in chains, after he was arrested by the then British colonial government out of fear that his being detained in India may cause unrest there.
At that time, during the 19th century, Bhai Maharaj was revered by the Sikh community in India for his spirituality, patriotic fervour and for standing up against British dominion. He also led the movement against the British occupation of the Indian state of Punjab.
But Bhai Maharaj was arrested when a tip-off led the British to a meeting he had organised with his compatriots. Due to his popularity in India, the British decided to detain him in Singapore – far from his loyal followers.
Bhai Maharaj was thrown in Outram Prison, one of the toughest cells in Singapore, in a bricked up cell where no light or fresh air could enter. Six years later, after he lost his eyesight and developed throat cancer, Bhai Maharaj passed away on July 5, 1856. This year marks the 159th year of his death.
Temple committee chairman Baljit Singh said: “We are very privileged to be able to exhibit some of Bhai Maharaj Singh’s personal artifacts this year, so that people can learn even more about this great Saint-Soldier.
“Having served the community and having endeavoured to be a good human being through the attainment of high spirituality, Bhai Maharaj Singh is an embodiment of the concept of Miri Piri (spirituality and community service),” said Singh.
As part of the annual celebrations and to commemorate Bhai Majarah’s values, the Sikhs here continue to serve the Singapore community and make donations to the local communities every year.