Four-day Sikh festival opens its doors to all

Above: Artist Gurpreet Singh, who is from India, putting the final touches to a paper model of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Left: Volunteers getting ready for the four-day Sikh festival at the Singapore Expo, which opens today.
Artist Gurpreet Singh, who is from India, putting the final touches to a paper model of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO
Above: Artist Gurpreet Singh, who is from India, putting the final touches to a paper model of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Left: Volunteers getting ready for the four-day Sikh festival at the Singapore Expo, which opens today.
Volunteers getting ready for the four-day Sikh festival at the Singapore Expo, which opens today.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

Thousands of Sikhs from around the region will gather at the Singapore Expo for the local community's largest event of the year - Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar.

Many Singaporeans who live abroad, like Mr Ashmit Singh, have taken time off work to travel here to help organise and attend the event. Its name loosely translates to "Festival of Sikh Music" but the event also features religious teachings.

For Mr Singh, 27, who lives in Shanghai, the festival will be where members of his extended family - from countries such as Japan, Thailand and India - gather this year.

"Singapore has always been our home base. It is a good chance to come back home, see each other and be part of the community again," said Mr Singh, who works at a mobile app start-up.

The biennial event started in 2002 and this year's celebration will be a culmination of eight months of hard work by more than 200 volunteers.

The doors will be open to the public, who will get a taste of Sikh culture and heritage.

The four-day free event, which begins today, will feature music performances and an exhibition on the history of Sikhism, as well as free vegetarian food cooked by temple volunteers.

Organisers expect more than 20,000 people to attend the festival, which will run from 5.30pm to 10pm each day.

A live feed will be streamed on Facebook for people who are unable to attend.

A mobile app, containing information like hymn lyrics, has also been developed.

This year's event will mark the 350th birthday of the 10th Sikh guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who was known as a literary genius.

The pitcher he drank milk from - a sacred relic more than 300 years old - will be on display as well.

Another highlight is a miniature paper replica of the Golden Temple, Sri Harimandir Sahib - the spiritual and cultural centre for the Sikh religion - in Amritsar in north-western India.

Mr Guramrit Singh, 30, an IT designer, said that apart from learning more about the religion, he enjoys the sense of community that the event provides.

"Being here with people I grew up with - that is the most fun part."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline 'Four-day Sikh festival opens its doors to all'. Print Edition | Subscribe