Thursday, December 29, 2016

Malaysia : 3rd Country in the world to commemorate a Sikh Temple on a Stamp

History of Gurdwara's on Stamps 
by Saran Singh AMN, AMP (PNM, TNM)

The Malaysian Government and the Postal Department has gratefully honored the Sikh community by depicting Gurdwara Sahib Shapha on the RM 0.60 postage stamp. It was officially launched on the 21st November 2016 at Masjid Kapitan Kling, Penang. A First Day Cover (FDC) depicting the five major places of worship namely Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism was released on the same date.

It is of historic interest that Malaysia is the third country in the world (outside of India) to depict the Gurdwara Sahib on a postal stamp. The first country was Pakistan which issued Rupees 5 postage stamp of Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore in 2006 to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the Martyrdome of Sri Guru Arjun dev Ji (1606 - 2006). The second country was Uganda which issued the 3,400 shillings postage stamp in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha (1913 - 2013) in Kampala.

In the last 80 years, India has only issued postage stamps depicting five (5) Gurdwara's in India and one (1) in Pakistan.

Gurdwara Sahib Shapha was built in the early 1930s in Jalan Chan Sow Lin to serve the religious needs of the Sikh community in this area. Most of the Sikhs were employed in the engineering workshops (known as Shapha in Punjabi)

This Gurdwara Sahib was relocated by the Government to its present site in Jalan Sungai Besi in the year 1987. The building was extensively renovated between 2009 to 2011. The facade of the Gurdwara Sahib is based on traditional Sikh architecture which is reminiscent of the Gurdwaras in Punjab, India.

The Sikh Holy Scripture , Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is enshrined in the Darber Sahib (prayer hall) of this Gurdwara Sahib. The xantic (Besanti) colored Nishan Sahib (Flag) in the compound of the Gurdwara signifies that this is a place of worship and becons as a sign of welcome.

The Malaysian Governments depiction of the Gurdwara Sahib Shapha on a postage stamp is a testimony of its tolerance of the freedom of worship of not only Islam but all other religions as well.

The Sikh community, though a small number, has always served this country with distinction. The writer, Saran Singh, is honored to have played a role in this important event on behalf of the Sikh community in Malaysia. He was approached by the postal services to help identify Gurdwaras that would fit the tough selection criteria set by the government and postal services. Various Gurdwaras were selected and submitted. The final decision of course lay in the hands of the Malaysian Postal Services. Saran Singh was recognized by the Sikh Community in December' 2016 for this very special service to the community.

Saran Singh previously had written a book titled "Sikh Gurdwaras in Malaysia & Singapore - An Illustrated History 1873 - 2003" which is available for sale through the Sikh Naujawan Malaysia Organization.

Here are sample pictures of this historic event for Sikhs all around the world, and not just Malaysia.
All the Sikh stamps and FDC were sold out within the very first day.

Front of the FDC

Back of the FDC

Pamphlet in the FDC

Write Up on Gurdwara Sahib Shapha in the Pamphlet

RM 0.60 cents Stamp with the Gurdwara Sahib Shapha

Zoomed view of the key structural designs of places of worship

Saran Singh getting the award in Penang, Malaysia
from the Malaysian Postal Services

Saran Singh and the inside of the Durbar of Gurdwara Sahib Shapha

Saran Singh being recognized by the Sikh Community, Malaysia