All races had a gala time at the state-level Vasakhi celebration
MEMBERS of the six gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Johor thronged the Grand Straits Garden ballroom for a colourful evening of song and dance during the recent harvest festival, or Vasakhi, in Johor Baru.
The celebration, organised by the Malaysian Sikh Union, had the the "Happy Vasakhi 1Malaysia" and was attended by members of other races.
Assorted Sikh dishes such as dahl tarka, aloo gobi, channa masala, bhindi masala and fulka were served to the guests.
The event was graced by the presence of Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman and Johor Baru member of parliament Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, as well as other state assemblymen.
Johor Baru Gurdwara Sahib president Datuk Mokkam Singh, in his opening speech, thanked the Johor government for helping to finance the construction of the gurdwara in Jalan Trus in Johor Baru several years ago.
"Gurdwara Johor Baru would like to thank the Johor government for contributing RM150,000 in aid of our temple," he said.
Mokkam also thanked the state government for encouraging the Johor Baru gurdwara to build a sports complex called Kelab Aman Johor on four-hectare piece of land in Kulaijaya.
"Ten months ago we went to view the land in Kulaijaya. Its evaluation will soon be concluded," he said.
Mokkam said the Punjabi community also needed aid from the state government to preserve its language.
Malaysian Sikh Union chairman Ranjeet Singh Bhaullar said the union had been active in helping the needy.
"At present we are financially helping 16 Sikh families," said Ranjeet.
Johor has six gurdwara in Muar, Segamat, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Pontian and Johor Baru, respectively.
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Kulwant Singh, 55, shared an unfortunate incident that happened five years ago to the Pontian gurdwara, which was built in 1968.
"The temple went up in flames. We could not ascertain how it happened, but the repairs cost about RM500,000," said the former president of the temple.
Meanwhile, at the celebration, people from all walks of life, with some in traditional Punjabi outfits, mingled with one another in the ballroom.
Johor Baru Special Persons Welfare Association caregiver, R. Chitra, 48, said, all 17 inmates aged 13 to 40, were having a wonderful time.
"The inmates do not often go out of the home but when they get the chance, they really let loose," said Chitra with a laugh.
A pair of singers from Kuala Lumpur entertained the guests with popular Hindi songs.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism member Peter Masilamany, 69, said he had celebrated many cultural events.
"I'm happy to be part of this, which I call a 1Malaysia gathering among our Sikh brethren," said Peter, adding he earnestly supported the Prime Minister's 1Malaysia concept.
A guest, Nora Shikin Rahmatdi, 26, was joining in the celebration for the first time.
"I hope to see more of other races in such celebrations the next time round," said Nora Shikin.
She added that although she was not familiar with the Sikh culture prior to the celebration, it was never to late to learn.
Malaysian Buddhist Association member Tony Tee, meanwhile, was a regular at such events.
"I've been doing this since I was a little boy. I believe that if we want a united Malaysia, we should learn about other races starting with their festivals," said Tee.
Tokens of appreciation were handed over to the menteri besar and MP, as well as those who had helped in cash and in kind in the development of the Sikh community in the state.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/jpcsmay102/Article/#ixzz1LxdYN2WW