When the British in India brought the first Sikhs to Singapore to serve the Sikh Police Contingent in 1881, the pioneer Sikhs set up the first Sikh temple in Singapore within the police compound at Pearl’s Hill. The temple served the spiritual needs of the Sikh police contingent.
To accommodate the arrival of immigrants in other professions, Wassiamull, a Sindhi merchant, assisted a group of Sikhs in purchasing a bungalow with a large compound at Queen Street, eventually turning it into a gurdwara. They then established the building as the Central Sikh Temple, or Wadda Gurdwara, which meant “The Big Temple”. During the temple’s time at Queen Street, the government decided to set up a corporate board of trustees for the temple called the Queen Street Gurdwara Ordinance. The board was made up of equal numbers of nominees from the Majha, Malwa and Doabha factions of the congregation.
The Move to Towner Road
In 1959, plans for a new temple and a move from Queen Street to Newton were proposed. Despite purchasing an adjoining plot of land for $100,000 and obtaining government approval in 1963, the Newton site was never built.
After the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) acquired the Queen Street temple site and its adjoining land, the temple was temporarily housed in the former Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre at Seng Poh Road from December 1979.
Plans for a new temple at Towner Road were conceived in 1983 and construction began a year later. Central Sikh Temple at Towner Road was officially opened by the former President Wee Kim Wee on 16 November 1986.
Traditional Meets Contemporary
The new temple’s exterior features primarily Sardinian pink granite with the exterior of the dome covered in plain, white mosaic. Its interior is constructed with a variety of marble. The main dome is adorned with white, grey and gold mosaic. The main building is a double-storey modern, reinforced concrete building with classical features.
Adjoining the temple is a seven-storey annex building that serves as a community facility. Classical architectural elements enhance the existing features. This includes multifoil parapet walls, canopies and window frames. A primary dome and multiple secondary domes of various sizes on the roof as well as feature ornamented bay windows reinforce the traditional elements of the building.
Strengthening the Sikh Spirit
The Central Sikh Gurdwara Board (CSGB) was formalised through the enactment of the CSGB Act of the Singapore Parliament. Both the board and temple’s mission encompass the spirit of community. Through the temple, they aim to propagate Sikh teachings and values, strengthen the Chardhi Kala spirit of community and raise awareness about Sikhs to others.
The temple also conducts religious programmes for the Sikh community and serves the communal needs of Sikhs living in Singapore. It houses an office, dormitory, library and museum, several rooms for visitors, classrooms for conducting religious classes as well as Granthi’s quarters (equivalent to a priest). To serve the community better, the temple is also home to the Dr Amar Kau Memorial Clinic, several Sikh organisations such as the CSGB, Singapore Sikh Education Foundation and the Sikh Youth Centre.
With all these facilities at their doorstep, the CSGB is one step closer to their vision—a vibrant and inclusive community that practices the Sikh way of life.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of July 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.