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Heritage Pahang Sikhs celebrate Gurdwara Sahib Bentong centenary and host annual youth cam

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by spnadmin, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    1947-2014 (Archived)
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    IT WAS double joy for Pahang Sikhs recently as they celebrated the centenary of Gurdwara Sahib Bentong and simultaneously hosted the 46th edition of the International Gurmat Parchaar Samelan, or the annual Sikh youth camp.

    Sikhs from all over the country converged on the town, famous for its hotsprings and ginger plantations, to celebrate the two events with much pomp and splendour and to give an insight into their religion, culture and traditions to their non-Sikh brethren.

    The celebrations began at the century-old Gurdwara Sahib Bentong, where the Guru Granth Sahib Ji — the Sikh holy book — was carried in a procession on a beautifully decorated lorry through the streets of the rustic town. (The Sikhs regard Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru.)

    The convoy was led by several hundred flag-waving youth and the KL Highlanders bagpipe troupe. Also in the procession were turbaned men on mean machines and a group of dhol (Punjabi drums) players.

    A light morning drizzle did not deter the youth, who were clad in their striking bana (traditional outfits), as they made their way to the samelan grounds. Leading the youth were the Panj Pyare (five baptised Sikhs).
    Motorists and townsfolk stopped to watch as the procession made its way to Sekolah Menengah Teknik Tengku Ampuan Afzan some six kilometres away, where the week-long annual camp was held.

    And, waiting at the camp grounds were some 900 youth, 400 volunteers and nearly 1,000 visitors, most of whom wore traditional Punjabi attire.

    The Jalur Gemilang was then hoisted in the school’s courtyard as the youth proudly sang Negaraku. Soon after, the Granth Sahib was carried into the school’s main hall.

    Organised by the National Sikh Youth Organisation (SNSM), the camp drew participants and visitors from as far as the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.

    Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who is also Bentong MP, also visited the youth at the camp, touted to be the biggest Sikh youth gathering in the world.

    “I am surprised to learn that this camp has been held annually in other parts of the country since 1963. I must commend the SNSM for this noble effort to inculcate good values in the minds of the young,” he said.

    Liow was later taken on a tour of the school and briefed on the programmes organised for the youth.

    SNSM president Malkith Singh said the aim of these Rakan Muda- sanctioned camps, which only took in male youth during the early years, were to educate Sikh youth on their religion, traditions and culture.

    “We also help them plan their career paths and to network. We bring in motivational speakers to talk to the youths on various matters,” he said.
    Malkith said the participants were divided into four age groups, known as Nikey Khalse (five years and below), Mighty Khalse (six to 12), Cool Khalse (13 and 14 years) and Senior Khalse (15-17 years).

    “Their day begins as early as 5am with morning prayers, followed by the singing of Negaraku. After breakfast, the youth are divided into teams for group dynamics and projects,” he said, adding that they were given different modules to work on every day.

    Malkith said the youth were also taught the Gurmukhi (Sikh script) to allow them to recite the Granth Sahib.

    “We try to give them crash courses so that they have a basic understanding of the script. This is important as it is a must for us to be able to correctly recite and pronounce verses from the Granth Sahib,” he said, adding that the youth were also told of the adverse effects of intoxicants, such as tobacco and alcohol, which were strictly prohibited in Sikhism.

    Malkith said among the more important aspects imparted to the young minds was the need to respect every individual, regardless of their race or religion, and to be fair and just in whatever they did.

    “We stress on humility all the time. That forms the core of the Sikh religion,” he said.

    He said that, on a lighter note, the organisers also held Amazing Race and Samelan Idol competitions for the participants. There were also “turban tying” contests in which prizes were given to participants who tied the most beautiful headgear within a given time.

    Malkith said the youth also took turns to prepare three vegetarian meals a day and to clean the school.

    “Apart from the 1,300 participants and volunteers, we have a few hundred visitors to the camp every day. Participants are given daily tasks to inculcate our motto of “Service to All” in their young minds,” he said.

    Malkith thanked donors, including Liow, for their contributions and the volunteers for their time in ensuring the event was hitch-free.

    “We need at least RM150,000 to organise the week-long event. It is also a logistical nightmare but we have been able to do it as we want our young to know their identity and to become good citizens,” he added.

    Liow said he would look into a request from the Sikh community in Bentong for a parcel of land adjacent to the existing gurdwara.
    He also pledged a RM10,000 donation each for the SNSM and the gurdwara sahib committee.
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