The following is a letter written by an Indian Station Master to his boss. The language used by the Station Master shows his utmost loyalty to his employers plus his contemporary Indian ability to use flowery language.
"STATION MASTER'S OFFICE,
April 4, 1905
The Traffic Manager,
Most Honoured and Respected Sir,
I have the honour to humbly and urgently require
your Honour's to relieve me of my onerous duties at Londiani so as to enable me
to visit the land of my nativity, to wit, India forsooth.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
GURDWARAS IN EAST AFRICA
Laying of the foundation stone of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Nairobi. The foundation stone of the New Gurdwara (below) was laid by S. Mohan Singh, S. S.S.Mehta, S.Kartar Singh [on behalf of his father S. Atma Ram Singh] , S. Jaswant Singh Bilkhu and S. Labh Singh Sagoo.
Gurdwara Singh Sabha Nairobi (Foundation of which being laid - above- read brief history below)
SIRI GURU GURDWARA SINGH SABHA NAIROBI - KENYA
Sikh pioneers against the Gurdwara under construction - 1910
Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara(above) has right through held its weekly diwans on Sundays, Istri Sabha, the ladies wing in Racecourse Road on Fridays and the Istri Sabha, South 'C' on Thursday's. The Istri Sabha's always have been stout pillars of the Sabha. They have always assisted in the organisation of Guru ka Langar.
Foundation Stone being laid by S. Gujjar Singh Ghataore of the Gurdwara Bazaar, Nairobi in 1940. (Photo courtesy Amarjit Chandan - photo taken by his father S. Gopal Singh Chandan of Star Studio)
Gurdwara Bazaar Nairobi during the Forties - See the present building down (photo courtesy Amarjit Chandan)
Gurdwara Bazaar, Nairobi
Gurdwara Balmik - Nairobi
originally came to Tanganyika from pre-Partition Lahore and Gujranwala.
SEE & READ PDF FILE FOR HISTORY & PHOTOS OF CHOPRA FAMILY DURING THE VISIT OF PRINCESS MARGARET IN 1956 ..CLICK HERE TO READ Article courtesy OLD AFRICA mag. (Thanks- Harjinder)
For more history of the Chopras please click to read pdf sent courtesy Jarat Chopra
Ramgarhia Gurdwara Kitale
During the construction of Sikh Temple makindu - 1972
I can't resist giving my own witness. I always stop at the Makindu Gurudwara. Typically, when the generator blew up, someone brought a new one overnight and installed it. No one knew who did it. Such is the power of the Sikh concept of KARSEVA -- the pure act: nishkaama bhava, without a calculus of a karmic reward.
Sikh Temple MAKINDU, on the main road from Nairobi to Mombasa
Sikh Temple Makindu
Above photos sent by Dhanwant Mundae (thanks)
PROFILE OF WARYAM SINGH DHESI (KHALIFA) One of the pioneer founders of Makindu Gurdwara. (sent by Gurrbaksh Singh Dhesi (Bakshi) Bakersfield, California)
My father Waryam Singh was born in 1886 in the village of Sang Dhesian in the Punjab. He was youngest of seven children: two girls and five boys. His father passed away when he was nine years old. His sisters were married off. One brother became a Sant (holy man) and became a wanderer. One brother, the father of Buta Singh. passed away. Two brothers died in the Plague of 1892 at Lyalpur and his ancestral farming land at Sang Dhesian was wrested from him by the village Zaildar. He was raised by our grandmother in utter poverty, most of the times he was physically abused and made to work for food. As a child he was befriended by one Karam Singh Dhesi, nicknamed Madhoo, who became his mentor. Time went by and he grew up to be a tall strong young man and decided to find his fortune overseas. At that time people from the Punjab were migrating to other parts of the British Empire and the Americas. The main port and the labour recruiters for the colonies were based at Bombay. In 1902 our father left his village in the Punjab and made his way to Bombay. He was sixteen years old. Being a tall Sikh young man he managed to get a job as a security guard at a Bank on Marine Drive in Bombay. At the same time East African Railways were recruiting artisans and labourers to work on the construction of the Railways in Kenya. Some five or six Ramgharia Sikhs named Kalsi from his village of Sang Dhesian had been recruited as artisans by the East African Railways, and had made their way to Bombay for embarkation to Kenya. As he was on guard duty one day, he recognised the Kalsis, who were out for a walk on Marine Drive. He approached them and they suggested to him that the best way for him was to pretend to be a Kalsi and join them on the trip to Kenya, which he did. In 1903 my father with the Kalsis travelled from Bombay to Mombasa in what I believe was a dhow, which took about forty five days. He was seventeen years old. On their journey there were some Ramgharia Sikhs, a few Jatt Sikhs and the rest of the group was made of Harijans. The Ramgharias and Jatts had segregated themselves from the Harijans with separate kitchens. It was quite a long journey during which the Ramgharia and Jatt food ran out. They had to join the Harijans in sharing their food, and the caste barriers of the group were shattered. From Mombasa my father ended up in Nairobi where he was employed in the Railway workshops as a rivet banger on the railway cars. After some time he graduated to be a steel fitter in the local shed. As the farming was still in his blood, while at Nairobi, he acquired a small farm outskirts of the town on River Road and also set up a gym to teach fellow Sikhs wrestling, as he had become an expert wrestler. Apart from Kenyan wrestlers, many wrestlers visiting Kenya came to wrestle there. However, none of them could defeat our father in wrestling, so the people gave him the title of Khalifa. Years passed in continuous employment. Eventually our father travelled back to India in 1925. He made his way to Sang Dhesian, where he built a house for himself in the village behind Kehar Singh Kalsi’s house. In due course he got married to our mother Gurbachan Kaur. New religious ideologies in the 20th century had caused tensions in the Sikh religion. The Akali Dal (Army of the Immortals), a political-religious movement founded in 1920, preached a return to the roots of the Sikh religion. The Akali Dal became the political party which would articulate Sikh claims and lead the independence movement.
‘Sikh Temple Makindu is located about 100 miles (160km) from Nairobi on the main Nairobi to Mombasa Road. It was built in 1926 by the Sikhs who were working on the construction of the railway line from the coast (Mombasa) inland to Lake Victoria and beyond to Uganda. Today, all types of people visit this Gurdwara everyday and it is a 'must-see' Gurdwara for any Sikh travelling to Kenya and East Africa. It provides a peaceful atmosphere where one can meditate and calm ones mind before proceeding to join the "rat-race" again. The Gurdwara complex is very large and has facilities for langar around the clock and living accommodation for travellers. Set in the forest off the main road, the Makindu Gurdwara is the only convenient rest stop for weary motorists on this busy and long road to and from Mombasa. So the Sikh community of Kenya has done something special by building such a beautiful edifice and campus where anyone of any religion or of no religion can withdraw from the mundane and reflect on the spiritual. This large complex houses a huge dining facility which provides free langar 24 hours a day as determined by their founder Guru, Guru Nanak Dev. Rooms with beds - several with attached bathrooms - are available for tourists to stay for up to two nights. Everyone in Kenya seems to know of it and most tourists stay to rest and eat. Most are non-Sikhs. There is no charge for this service, but most people donate to the Gurdwara. Apparently it is run by a consortium of the Nairobi Gurdwaras. The aura at Makindu would calm the most tormented mind; one automatically drifts away from the mundane and towards the spiritual and peaceful.’(Extract taken from the website Sikhi Wiki, in the article Makindu Sikh Temple)
As my older brother Jass was afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy my father thought that the climate in Mombasa might help and he got transferred to Mombasa in 1942, which of course did not help. In 1945, with the shortage of technicians in Uganda, he was transferred to Jinja to work for Uganda Electricity Board. My elder brother Jass passed away in 1949 in Jinja. The rest of us had an ideal upbringing and schooling in Jinja. As his passion was for farming, he also acquired a small farm by Lake Victoria at Jinja. In 1956 while our father was working for Uganda Electricity Board at Owen falls hydraulic dam at Jinja, the Queen Mother performed the opening ceremony of the dam and the Power Station. During the ceremony our father Waryam Singh Dhesi and one of his Sikh colleagues Harjodh Singh were presented to the Queen Mother.
Our father being presented to the Queen mother at Jinja in Uganda.1956
They were the only two Asians presented to her. Our father retired in 1963 and went back to his village in the Punjab, where he built a large house for his retirement. Our brother Kulwant passed away at Sang Dhesian in the same year. Our father felt nostalgic for Africa and came back to Uganda in 1966 and stayed with me for a year. Meanwhile I started working for Uganda Electricity Board, and became a regional trouble shooter and was responsible for taking electricity to the unlighted regions. When Uganda gained Independence from Great Britain in 1962, I renounced my British Nationality and became a Ugandan citizen. During my employment in the high echelon of the Uganda Electricity Board I became quite close to the President Milton Obote. I had to flee Uganda in 1971 when Idi Amin seized power and was eliminating the people who had been close to Milton Obote. However, through the offices of Mr Kironde I returned to Uganda and back to my employment with the Uganda Electricity Board. On 4Th August 1972, the then President of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country's Indian minority, giving them 90 days to leave Uganda. Amin said that he had had a dream in which God told him to order the expulsion. The Uganda authorities revoked my citizenship and consequently I became a stateless person. Canada was gracious enough to offer me refuge. Surindar and Narindar had migrated to England. After few years I sponsored Surindar, who joined me in Canada. Our father had an ideal retirement and died peacefully at Sang Dhesian in 1978. Narindar and I went to Sang Dhesian to do the funeral rites and brought our mother back with us. She went to Calgary in Canada with me and eventually stayed with Surindar, while I migrated again, this time to the United States. Our mother passed away in Calgary in 2008. She is survived by her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in England, Canada and United States.
THE SIKH LANDMARK IN KENYA – MAKINDU
(By Avtar Singh Matharu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) [sent by Rohina Grewal]
At some KPA meetings, when reminiscing with my colleagues about Kenya, the above landmark of the Sikhs is often inquisitively mentioned. It is a Sikh Temple which has historical links with the arrival of The British East Africa Company, and construction of the Uganda Railway. I thought I should relate the background of this Temple as, it seems, little is known about it in some quarters.
1. The construction of the 582 miles of the Uganda Railway was commenced on 5 August 1896 by the British East Africa Company. The skilled and unskilled labour in those days could not be better sourced from anywhere other than from British India, by which time the Indian Railways system in many parts of the country was well established by The British East India Company. It reached Kisumu (initially named Port Florence) on Lake Victoria on 19th December 1901. Florence was the wife of the engineer Preston. She had the honour of hammering in the last fish plate of the railway track
2. Amongst the work force were many Indians of the Punjab Province. They were the ideal community to be able to face the harsh climate and wild conditions of East Africa. The Punjabis were composed of the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. It has been customary for the Sikhs, when undertaking major events e.g. going to war, they would carry with them their religious Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib (see below)and prayed, by holding congregation, as they advanced.
Therefore, their undertaking in building the Uganda Railway was not going to be an exception. The BEAC officials recognised this strength of the Sikh work force. So they happily facilitated this religious practice recognising that it could only be good for morale of the Sikhs.
3. When the railhead reached Makindu, a Uganda Railway Depot was established there. A loco shed and other ancillary services were set up, and the small town began to grow. The Indian ‘duka-wallahas’ were quick enough also to set up their shops. The town had a sizeable Sikh community working for the Uganda Railways. A request by the Railway Sikhs for building a temple was accepted by the Railway officials, and a sizeable plot of land was granted. In keeping with the spirit of self-help of the Sikhs, it was not long before a simple structure of corrugated iron sheets was built in the form of a temple. In keeping with the tradition of Sikhism, the temple building had four doors on either side of the approximately 30 feet square hall. The significance of the four doors is to welcome all mankind, irrespective of race, caste, creed, colour etc from all four directions of the compass. The temple stood on a stone plinth with a veranda about eight feet wide which formed the perimeter. The other facilities of the temple consisted of a kitchen, living quarters and stores. It was surrounded by a fence of corrugated iron sheets with one gate at the rear, and stood on the main Nairobi/Mombasa road, then no more than a dust track. In due course, larger railway steam engines came into service which did not necessitate engine changeover at Makindu. Hence, Makindu lost its key position, and the railway depot town declined. The Sikh Temple also shut down.
4. I am able to give a vivid description of the Makindu Sikh temple, as I had been there twice in the early 1940s at the age of nine and ten. We then lived in Nairobi. My father also worked in the civil engineering department of the Kenya Uganda Railways and Harbours, as it was known then. Previously, of course, it was only Uganda Railways, when he joined it in 1920 from the Indian Railways at Amritsar in Punjab where he worked as an apprentice under the tutelage of his grandfather. The service later became East African Railways and Harbours in 1947/48, when Tanganyika Railways (built by the British competitors – the Germans) joined the East African Community. In 1944/45 in Makindu there also used to be a Greek POW camp, albeit moribund. Also nearby there were two grave tomb stones of the Europeans who had died at Makindu, presumably railwaymen. The reason of our childhood visits to Makindu was school holidays. In those humble days it was customary for one railways family to visit another at different destinations. We joke with our children, and grandchildren, that the kind of holidays they enjoy today, were unknown in our childhood!! In the course of such holidays, in the early forties, I visited Menengai (near Nakuru) and Samburu (next to McKinnon Road Station, which became Mau Mau detainee centre in the 1950s) from Kampala, and Fort Ternen Station from Kisumu!! Those much coveted train journeys were part of the holiday fun.
The Sikh Temple at Makindu continued to suffer neglect from its erstwhile regular function till late 1950s, although, the Nairobi Sikhs used to visit on a particular day of the month in the Sikh calendar for the essential rituals. The temple, when shut, was looked after by a Mkamba caretaker-cum-watchman. The original Holy Book from India, which the pioneer Uganda Railway workers had carried with them during the advancing construction, and installed at Makindu Sikh temple, was moved to the family home of a pioneer devout Sikh resident of Kericho. In his memory, the Kenya ‘Kalasingas’ and ex-Kenya ‘Kalasingas’ in the United Kingdom, have recently built a fine establishment, “Nishkam Saint Puran Singh Institute”, at Kericho. Late Mr Puran Singh, a notable pioneer personality amongst the Sikhs, had a motor workshop in Kericho. This particular copy of the Holy Granth Sahib was ceremoniously returned from Kericho to Makindu Sikh temple in 2010 (see under).
5. Having suffered a period of neglect, Makindu Gurudwara began to flourish once again and gained its prominence, starting from early 1960s, to become today’s religious edifice of the Sikh faith in Kenya. Legend has it that in late 1950s, the Mkamba caretaker/watchman saw many times a ‘Kalasinga’ coming to the temple on a blue horse, and that he also heard the noise of hoofs of a horse. This phenomenon was reported by the watchman to the Nairobi Sikhs who used to visit the temple once a month for perfunctory ceremony. The Sikhs interpreted the watchman’s experience as a wake up call for serious contemplation; because the “visitor on a blue horse” in their view could be none other than the 10th Guru of the Sikhs (Guru Gobind Singh), for this is the imagery of the Guru in the Sikh psyche. Guru Gobind Singh, .along with his father, the 9th Sikh Guru (Guru Tegh Bahadur), gave his life opposing and fighting the injustices of the Mogul rulers, and also defending and preserving Hinduism. Hence, it was decided to revive the Makindu Sikh Temple. So, the development work commenced in earnest, albeit in stages, as the entire project was donation and self-help dependent, mainly from the Sikh community in East Africa.
6. Today, on the Nairobi/Mombasa highway, stands a Sikh Temple with its white prominent domes, and flies a yellow triangular flag on a high mast with the Sikh religion symbol (see picture below) high up in the sky, which are visible from a very long distance whichever direction one drives from.
The temple complex consists for a two storey large building on the site where once stood the humble corrugated iron sheets structure. On the top floor is the Temple Sanctum. Adjacent to this magnificent building is the large dining hall and a large kitchen, which is an essential aspect of any Gurudwara, where free meals are served. Normally, the kitchen would be staffed by volunteers as a self-help aspect of Sikh principles, but as there are hardly any permanent resident Sikhs in Makindu, the temple employs a team of locals for this purpose. However, when the Sikhs visit the temple they invariably participate in this essential activity as well. The food is exclusively vegetarian and wholesome Punjabi diet. The dining facilities are open to all, irrespective of race, caste, creed, colour or status in keeping with the Sikhism edict: that mankind is one. No donation is asked for, and should one want to make, he is directed to the Temple Sanctum in order to pay their respect and insert the donation in the box, or the office where a receipt is issued. This would apply to a non-Sikh visitor who is not conversant with the Sikh custom. The Sikhs, however, as a rule, would first go to the Temple Sanctum. The kitchen normally functions 24/7, but due to security situation, on occasions this may vary after dinner time. The kitchen cleanliness standard is high.
7. The complex also has facilities for overnight stay for the visitors. This is in form of self contained apartments with on-suite bath and toilet, plus supply of hot and cold water. They are fully furnished. The bed linen is supplied. The accommodation caters for about one hundred visitors, if not more, as they have recently been converted into two storey units. A team of local women is employed for cleaning and servicing this facility, and the gardens. I would equate this accommodation to a three star facility. Many tourists, especially European back packers, often stay there. At lunch time generally the dining hall is busy as most travellers, driving either from Nairobi or Mombasa, arrive at Makindu at that time. At the time of Sikh festivals, however, the place it very busy as many Kenya Sikhs, and from abroad, converge there. I suggest any KPA members, when visiting Kenya and travelling to or from the coast, do stop here. You would be most welcome there.
8. Opposite the Temple complex is located a small hospital-cum-dispensary for the benefit of the locals. Mombasa road being what it is, it is often the first point of medical assistance for the road accident victims. The function of this medical unit is fully donation based, primarily by the Kenya Sikh community.
9. Legend also has it that one’s supplications at the Makindu Sikh Gurudwara are rewarded. It reminds me of a Church on the tourist route along St Laurence River in eastern Canada, which we stopped at whilst on holidays there in 2001. The priest read his prayer to the tourist party, in which my wife and I also participated. He said the same of this Church, and showed us walking sticks and crutches of those who brought them back after recovery!
10. The Kenya Sikhs, and ex-Kenya Sikhs in the UK with their major Gurudwara establishment in Birmingham, were anxious to return the original Guru Granth Sahib, which had been installed by the Sikh Uganda Railway pioneers at Makindu, from Kericho to Makindu. This was done in 2010 very ceremoniously. It was carried from Kericho to Kisumu by road.
A special railway train (above), bearing the Kenya National and the Sikh emblem flags, was arranged for the onwards journey from Kisumu to Makindu. The Holy Train stopped at Nakuru, Nairobi and finally steamed to Makindu. The Sikh ceremonies were performed en-route at each stop, with free meal service to the populace who came to witness the event. This journey was undertaken from 31 January to 7 February. The original Guru Granth Sahib was installed in a new building at Makindu. It was a well publicised event in Kenya. The Sikhs of Kenya continue to live harmoniously, happily and participate in all aspects of the country’s economy and development.
Sikh Temple Makindu
The tale of electrification of Makindu Temple, 1967. (sent by Parmjit Mangat)
"With a little help from our neighbours from Tanganyika"
In July 1967, a wedding party of Ismaili Khojas from Mwanza travelled by road to Mombasa to attend a marriage. Mr. Harjit Singh, s/o Sardar Prem Singh of Tanganyika Bus Services, Mwanza, and his wife, Mrs. Amrit Kaur were in that party.
On their way back to Mwanza, the party stopped at the Mackinnon Road mosque and subsequently Makindu Sikh temple. As it was night time, the contrast between a well lit mosque and a pitch dark temple was so stark that it inevitably, drew some less than favourable, comments from the Ismailies.
Stung by these well founded and well intended remarks, Mr Harjit Singh felt so humbled, that he immediately got in touch with his contacts to inform them of the dire need to provide electricity to the temple and took upon himself to fund the entire project.
Consequently, Mr. Kaushal, the then Chief Electrical Engineer, Nairobi city Council, assisted in the purchase of a generator from a Sikh gentleman, who owned an Electrical shop near the City Hall. However, when Mr. Singh became aware of the intended recipient of this generator, he refused point blank, to take any payment for such a noble cause, and it was only after considerable pressure that he accepted a highly discounted price, just to cover costs. Kaushal Brothers, Electrical contractors, Limuru, provided all the materials and four of their Sikh employees to carry out the work, all this free of charge. SEVA.
So one fine Saturday morning in September 1967, a convoy of 4 vehicles, laden with materials, men and a few Sikh ladies left for Makindu and by nightfall the lights were switched on. "Jungle mein Mungle"
In November 1967, on Puranmashi Gurpurb, the secretary of the Sikh Sabha Gurdwara, Nairobi, chided his fellow Nairobi Sikhs for letting their country cousins from Tanganyika, who did not even use that route, take this initiative. Once this word got around, donations poured in, extra rooms were built and Akhand Path was organised. All within two months. At the Bhog ceremony at the beginning of 1968, all the top raggis of Kenya were there to do justice to the occasion.
The desecration of the Sikh Temple Makindu (by Harjinder Kanwal)
A very rare picture of the Main gate of the Gurdwara (sent by Sati Bassan)
Their selfless efforts were not to get any monetary gains but their love for their religion and love for their Guru.
Gurdwara Railway Landhies preserved with original corrugated sheets still intact. Bravo.
I am sorry to say that Makindu gurdwara is nothing more than a 2 star hotel without any regard for the sentiments and homage to hundreds of the Sikhs who gave their lives to build the railway line and lost their lives to lions and killer diseases.
SEE THE ROLE OF SIKH WOMEN IN KENYA Click on this pdf file (sent by Desraj Dahele)
Maharaja Of Patiala Yadvendra Singh being flanked by S. Labh Singh and S. Kirpal Singh Sagoo, who was the first Sikh to receive the OBE in Colonial Kenya.
Kirpal Singh Sagoo meets the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Indian High Commissioner and the late MP Tom Mboya are also in the picture
The Patiala Pavilion of the Nairobi Sikh Union Club was officially opened by the Maharaja of Patiala, Yadvendra Singh on his visit to Nairobi during the 60's. Below is a photo of him receiving a 'Saropa' from Sri P.S.Kanwal during his visit to the East African Ramgarhia Board. Secretary H.S.Sahota is on the mike.
IN EAST AFRICA:
As East Africa advanced economically, the Ramgarhias were rolling in money and became owners of colossal buildings and businesses. Their children had all the facilities for a sound education. Most of them went overseas and returned as doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals.
NAIROBI - KENYA:
The Ramgharias in Nairobi achieved prominence by assisting in the erecting of Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Gurdwara Bazaar, Gurdwara Landhian and other Sikh temples. Before long there emerged other small Sikh sects and each sect began to work for its own people. Sardar Hem Singb Ji Amritsari and Sardar Kehar Singh Ji Kalsi, the then leading contractors in Nairobi thought of forming an organisation of the Ramgharias and in 1934 the "Ramgharia Board" came into being.
The East African Ramgarhia Board, Nairobi
The Ramgharia Board soon began to function and some leading figures began to preach the aims and objects of Sikhism. Various religious ceremonies were regularly celebrated and with assistance of hard working and- religious minded volunteers the Board was able to complete 101 "Paths".
The keen interest
and the co-operation of the public enabled the Board to organise and successfully
carry out 17 conferences. Leading Ramgharias from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania took
part in these conferences. The 18th conference was held in 1960 under the Presidentship
of Sardar Tara Singh Ji Dogra at Eldoret. In this conference some new rules and
regulations for the improvement of Sikh temples were passed and after the conference
great steps were taken to foster unity amongst the Sikhs.
A very unique photo taken in 1947 (courtesy Meharban Singh Juttla)
Some members of the Ramgarhia Board being honoured around 1950
Facing the Ramgharia Gurdwara was an empty space. Many suggestions for making something on this plot were considered and it was finally decided that a beautiful social hall be built. With donations from various people in the form of cement, sands, wood, etc., a beautiful hall was built. A substantial donation towards the building of this was from Sardar Hardial Singh Ji, (Directorate Hardial Singh and Bros. Ltd.). Sardar Kartar Singh Ji Shankar Wallah laid the foundation stone of the building. The hall had a 3-feet high stage with a beautiful curtain. At the back was a gallery. The Hall, which was soundproof, had a capacity of 2,000. 'Gurpurb" functions, marriages and other social and religious occasions were celebrated in this Hall. The Hall was one of the few good Halls in Nairobi.
From the above achievements it was obvious that the Ramgharia Board had been very active and helpful. Apart from building dispensaries and libraries the Board had been and is giving scholarships to intelligent students who cannot pursue their studies due to lack of finance. The Board is proud of having helped to make quite a few doctors, engineers and lawyers, now playing a very important role in the development of this country. The Board has been assisting widows and orphans by providing them with accommodation and other necessary requirements.
SOME PROMINENT RAMGARHIA ELDERS
Councillor Bakshish Singh Sian, past President Ramgarhia Board, Nairobi
Mistry Santa Singh Road Contractor - member Ramgarhia Supreme Council
S.Tarlok Singh Nandhra, a renowned architect and past President Ramgaria Board
The following article has been taken out from a magazine printed in 1982.
MEMOIRS OF SARDAR HEM SINGH BHANGRA
A Fund Raising Raffle in aid of Ramgarhia Health Centre was Organised, the Draw of which took place on 25th February, 1982 when Sardar Hem Singh Bhangra presided over the Function along with the Guest of Honour, the Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Honourable Charles Njonjo, M.P. and gave generous donation for this worthy Cause. (see above photo)
Ramgarhia Sikh Leaders with the President of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moi (1982)
Indian Speaker of Parliament S. Hukam Singh being introduced to S.Narain Singh and other prominent members of the Sikh Community by S. Mohan Singh & S.Sardar Singh Vohra. Principal Gurbaksh can be seen on the extreme left. Photo taken at Khalsa Boys & Girls School, Nairobi. (photo courtesy G.Bhari)
An Historic photo of the opening of Gurdwara Ramgarhia Railway in 1903, and the photo below of the committee who celebrated 100 years of the Gurdwara, (photos -courtesy of S. Balbir Singh Kalsi, ex treasurer Ramgarhia Board Nairobi)
Landhies: Journey into time
As the Sikh community grew in the country, so did their needs for a spiritual and social gathering place, The first Gurdwara in Kenya - in fact, in all Africa was opened in Kilindmi literally within weeks of the arrival of the first shipload of indentured labourers in 1898, The original iron and wood building was soon replaced by a more substantial edifice.
1920 witnessed the birth of another Landhies Gurdwara, this time in Kisumu. It's only remnants today are the original floor and a stone pillar that once held the Nishaan Sahib, The ever growing Sikh, community of Kisumu made it inevitable for the Landhies Gurdwara to be replaced by a bigger one, which is today's Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara Kisumu which
was built in 1949. The old site of the Landhies Gurdwara is now occupied by indigenous charcoal sellers.
The Gurdwara has been, still is, and will always be the humble abode of the Guru, where the heart's wishes are granted and prayers answered because this is where countless Sikhs have given their body, mind and spirit in the growth of a place every Sikh finds peace and union with their Immortal Lord God. It is a. unique reminder, too, of a beautiful landmark that testifies the coming of the Sikhs and how they made Kenya their home and brought their love for their religion along with them - and indeed the very reason we are grateful today to find a sense of belonging a century later.
THE ATROCITIES OF DICTATOR AMIN IN UGANDA
It was during the 1950's that the British Royal family members started visiting East Africa, and in this repect Princess Margaret, the Queen sister visited Nairobi. The people were very enthusiastic and gave this beautiful Princess a resounding welcome. All the Asian communities built gates on the nearly 2 mile long Government Road to bid welcome to the Princess. Here we show some of those gates built by the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. But the best gate was built by the Sikhs as can be seen. The artist Hari Singh Bansal was responsible for this masterpiece. He also built another gate for the Namdhari Singhs in 1959, which is also shown. He was also responsible for building the Gurdwara at Makindu and some Mosques and Mandirs in Nairobi and in other parts of East Africa.
Sikhs pose in front of the Muslim gate with the Khoja Mosque in the background.
The Gate of the Ismailia Community - a very prosperous community with the blessing and leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan.
Mistry Lal Singh Panesar meeting HRH Princess Margaret (photo courtesy Dhanwant Mundae)
Mistry Lal Singh Panesar meeting the Queen Mother in Nairobi (Photo courtesy Dhanwant Mundae) (also below)
THE PINK DIAMOND
IC Chopra Presents Pink Diamond to H R H Princess Elizabeth . Read full story below:-
The above photograph was taken in 1948 by The Topical Press Agency Ltd.
The story by Jarat Chopra about the "PINK DIAMOND":-
Article & photo courtesy Jarat Chopra (also appeared in Old Africa)
This gate was built and decorated with paintings by S. Hari Singh Bansal (seen here between the ladies). This gate was built in 1959 to welcome Satguru Partap Singh Ji to East Africa. Hari Singh Bansal was also responsible for the building of the above Sikh gate to welcome Princess Margaret.
A huge African tree somewhere near Arusha with a Sikh pioneer.
A fall near Moshi (Tanzania) - one of the spectacular scenes in Africa. There is a saying that if 'you have not seen Africa - you have not seen anything!'
Nearly two tons of dead rhino lie in the foreground of this picture as mute evidence of the car's encounter on the Nairobi-Mombasa road.
Another scene on the Nairobi-Mombasa road
An international sign post at the old Nairobi Airport
The following story has been sent by Dr. Gurjinder Singh Bhari (living in U.K) about his great grand-dad Bhaia Ji Narain Singh who emigrated to Kenya in 1898 AD. We thank him for the information.
Narain Singh Bhari (well
known as Mistri ji)
He initially lived and worked in Lahore at his Massr's furniture shop. While working at the shop he was taught carpentry and joinery. He later signed up to go to East Africa to build the Uganda Railway.
He came to Mombasa, Kenya in 1898 on a two-year contract with the British Government and commenced work as a carpenter at the Makupa Railway Bridge. Makupa was also the site of the first Sikh Gurudwara in East Africa.
His colleagues were his elder brother Mr.Prem Singh and three others.
finishing his contract while working with railways on the main line which was
running from Mombasa to Kisumu, he boarded the train back at Fort Ternan, which
is halfway between Nauru and Kisumu. He was offered an extension of his contract,
but seeing his colleagues depart at the railway station, he joined them and returned
to India. While working on the main line they had a tough life because fear of
wild life, sickness, jiggers in their feet and had to live in tents.
On his return, Bhaia ji (as the family lovingly calls
him) started working in Limuru for British East Africa Saw Mill (popularly known
as BEA Saw Mills) and worked for three years. While working at B.E.A. Saw Mills
he was taught
After working with Equator Saw Mill he worked with various small-building contractors. Eventually in 1929 he opened his own construction company.
By this time he was already a grandfather to Manmohan Kaur who would be affectionately known as` Mohni Panji' among the ladies because of her satsang every week in Pangani for Babe Nanki and was very close to Bibiji ( Bibi Balwant Kaur) who is the head of Bebe Nanki movement. His son Piara Singh was an ardent sportsman and won many trophies for motorbike races. His elder son Gurbux Singh later joined him in his construction company.
The cutting from E.A. Standard newspaper dated 2nd. November 2000 shows the corner of the building now Commonwealth House on Moi Avenue (formerly Government Road near Harding Street), which had offices (around 1950) of Narain Singh Gurbux Singh Ltd. (Below)
Enclosed is also a photograph showing Chevrolet model 1940 belonging to the family all equipped for a "Safari" journey either to Mombasa or Kisumu. In 1950 most of the roads were dirt roads and it was very easy for somebody to get bogged in mud. (Below)
ji was involved in the building of projects in Kariokor, and Kaloleni African
Housing Estates (for Nairobi City Council), and extensions to the National Museum
and Nairobi Club. In 1932 he constructed the General
beautiful houses apart from others were built in Nairobi one for Mr.Erskine on
Riverside Drive and the other was for the Official Residence of the South African
High Commissioner on Nairobi Hill (now Kibera). Well
had a quarry near the present Mater Hospital in South 'B'. He used to supply ballast
to the Nairobi City Council and also to the Uganda Railways at Voi and Taru. At
the quarry he had a workshop where he made his
Narain Singh was very respectable person among the Sikh Community in Nairobi.
He was Chairman and a trustee of Siri Guru Singh Sabha Nairobi for many years.
He used to arbitrate in feuds between families and friends
In 1948 he moved to
the house constructed by him and his sons in Parklands.
Bhaia ji had seen some of his great grand children before he passed away in 1963 at the age of nearly 100years and left the family with pleasant memories and rich teachings. His great- and great-great- grandchildren live in Kenya, the US, Canada, the UK and India.
Prominent Sikh leaders with President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya.On left of the President is S.Sardar Singh Vohra and on his right is S.Balwant Singh Panesar. Behind the President is S. Sampuran Singh Bassan (black specs) on whose right is S. Didar Singh. And on his left near the African guard is S.Mangal Singh Bansal (watchmaker) and S. Gian Singh Jandu. Left of S.Sardar Singh Vohra, S.Narinder Singh & S. Gurdev Singh Sagoo. (Some names are forgotten or not known - kanwal)
The members of the Sikh Community present Gutundu Hospital with a TV set. S. Sardar Singh Vohra and S. Sampuran Singh Bassan can be seen on each side of the President.
A scene of National & Grindlays Bank opposite the Bus Station in Government Road during the 50's
Another view of the above with the Capitol Cinema next to it.
A scene of Government Road with the Kenya Cinema on the right 60's
The New Stanley Hotel on Delamere Avenue. The building on the left was occupied by David Lyall Ltd. -The Omega people.
Delamere Avenue with the statue of Lord Delamere opposite David Lyall Ltd, the Omega people. The building on its left was demolished for the new Barclays Bank Government Road branch. This photo was taken before UHURU.
This photo taken in 1985 shows the Barclays bank building and a new building next to it. A complete contrast from the top picture.
Another view of the above pictures with the New Stanley Hotel on the right.
Delamere Avenue during the 50's
The picturesque Nairobi with the Parliament House, Kenyatta Conference Centre in the background against the Uhuru Park.
A citroen car crossing a ferry at Kagera in Uganda
A train winding through the great Rift Valley of Kenya
An Italian built church in the escarpment (rift valley) between Nairobi and Nakuru
A photograph taken in 1949 of the main street Nakuru
The car! - the road! tell the full story
The Jinja Bridge on the Nile
Title of a book written by Vanoo Jivraj Somia about Indians of East Africa
of Kenya's Sikhs
Most of the Sikhs in Kenya are descendants
of the artisans and labourers who came to build the Uganda Railway for the British
colonialists. These hardy workers were physically strong and highly skilled and
most belonged to the Ramgharia sect. In 1908 when Churchill praised the Sikh soldier
in his book, African Journey, he was referring to the smaller section of Sikh
Jats. Both groups came from what was then the Punjab in northwestern India.
Sikhs and other asian staff by the Uganda Railway engine - around 1930's
SOME MORE MEMORIES - IN PICTURES
Poets of 'JAI HIND KAVI MANDAL' Nairobi. Photo taken in 1946. Third from left seated is Pandit Laxmi Narain Shastri 'Gardish' - a prominent figure in Nairobi. Harjinder kanwal's father P.S. Kanwal is on the extreme right seated.
Photo taken in 1930 - Members of Kavya Phulwari
From LtoR sitting: Gopal Singh Chandan, Prem Singh Mastana Jogi, Ragi labh Singh, Giani Gian Singh Mahilpuri & Sita Ram Mangal: Standing LtoR Makhan Singh, Bishan Singh Bara Pind, Devinder Singh Dev & Meharban Singh
This photo and a short Biography of Gopal Singh Chandan has been sent by his son Amarjit Chandan, which outlines a brief history of the days in Kenya during the 1930/40s. We are very grateful to him for such an important and interesting information ( to order a copy of the book please write to Dr Darshan S Tatla
VOK broadcaster poet Chaman lal Chaman reciting his poetry at a symposium. Sitting are S.Gopal Singh Chandan and Prem Singh. (photo courtesy A.Chandan )
A small town 43 miles from Nairobi towards Mombasa. The railway line passes near Konza, a station near Machakos. This town is surrounded by hills on all four sides and is very picturesque. Some of the people who lived there have sent some photographs and brief descriptions of their lives spent in this lovely town. Here are some of the historical pictures and brief accounts.
1942 - Machakos, Kenya - only a handful of Sikhs were there at the time. Kanwal's father P.S.Kanwal second from left sitting and Mr. Mastan Singh Mangat, standing in middle.This photo is of members of the Machakos volleyball team and nearly all the Indians residing in Machakos at the time.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
P.S.Kanwal with his group of musicians enjoying in Kitui, near Machakos in 1945.
Young Harjinder kanwal -fourth from left with his father P.S.Kanwal who played part of Raja Harish Chandra in a play -'Satyavadi Raja Harish Chandra' staged at Machakos on January 5th 1946. Members of 'Machakos Youth League Dramatic Society' can be seen in various drama uniforms. This play was probably one of the FIRST stage dramas enacted in Kenya.
Mr. Phuman Singh Kanwal opened his own shop in Machakos in 1936 which dealt in Cycle Repairs, watch Repairs, Gramophone repairs & photography e.g. practically all sorts of jobs were undertaken. He closed this business in 1948 and moved to Nairobi.
Another relatives of Mr. kanwal were M/s Dalip Singh & Sewa Singh who also had their business in Machakos which dealt in Cycle repairs and Saw Mills. This business thrived extremely well and was later on managed by Mr. Dalip Singh's sons Mohan Singh & Gurbux Singh who named their firm Dalip Singh & Sons Ltd. A photograph of the family of S. Dalip Singh with their grandfather S. Amar Singh & father S. Dalip Singh tis seen with the rest of the staff:-
A delegate of businessmen from Machakos went to see the President of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyata in 1965. Mr. Mohan Singh (second from left) seen here with the delegates.
A letter from Usha Kiran Chhabra is printed here with information about her grandfather who lived in Machakos:-
My Nanaji, Mr Harbans Singh Bhamra lived in Machakos between the years of 1943 to 1972 with his wife, my Nani-ma, Mrs. Mohinder Kaur Bhamra, and their 7 children, Jaswinder(gudi), Rajinder (pupi), Ajit, Ashok, Jaspal, Harpal (Muna) and Kamaljeet (Baby). They spent many idyllic days there and he fondly recalled his times there.
Bhamra family on a picnic near one of the many rivers in the district of Machakos.
My Nanaji had a TV shop there that was pretty well known there. One early memory of one of my Masi's was that of the early evenings, when many of the town's people would come into the store and sit on the floor to watch programmes like Bonanza and Pop-Eye..
Mr. Harbans Singh Bhamra
The family loved the life there and made many friends there, who they kept in contact with through the generations. A married friend of mine visited me in the States when I was with my Grandparents ( they moved to the Uk in 1972 and then the States in 1988) and her Husband happened to be My Nanaji's friend's Grandson from Machakos- Small world! But you hear of these stories so much.
My Grandparents leave 7 Children, 15 Grand-children and 6 Great Grand-children and they are so so missed!!! They were such a happy, sociable and sucessful couple....
Any more information, please email me. I am sorry if I have waffled on.
Kindest of regards
Usha-Kiran Chabra (USA)
Talking about Dramatic societies and art in Kenya, who can forget the name of Harbhajan Preet, who being a teacher in City Primary School, was an excellent actor who later on became a good director.
Preet as Hassan in the play 'Kismet' at the Kenya National Theatre 24/29 th May 1954
Harbhajan Preet was one of the finest actors in Kenya. He acted and directed a number of plays and won many prestigious awards and acclaims. He directed Rashpal Panesar in a number of plays.
The following article was printed in the East African Standard on January 16, 1986 on the sad demise of another very talented actor - Rashpal Panesar (below) - a student and then a teacher of Eastleigh Secondary School - see section Miscellaneous -ESS).
This article was written by Nigel Slade
PANESAR LEAVES FOND MEMORIES
"I knew him: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." (Hamlet)
these still dawning days of 1986 a shadow has fallen with the quiet passing of
Rashpal Panesar, one of the most gifted comedians to brighten Nairobi's
stages. He was only 37 years old.
At the time of his departure Rashpal was the Chairperson of "Natak". Some of his major roles were in:
1. Ramesh Mehta's "Undersecretary".2.
Ramesh Mehta's "Khuli Baat" 3. Ramesh Mehta's "Roti aur Bet"
4. "Saray-ke-Bahar" 5. Shiv Batalvi's "Loona" 6. Waris Shah's
"Heer Ranjha" 7. Allaudin Qureshi's "Chachi O Chachi" 8. A.
Qureshi's "Parchhayian" 9. "Anarkali" 10. Shahnawaz Zaidi's
"Woh Manzilen Woh Raastey" 11. Shanawaz/Allaudin's "Do Duni Paanch"
12. Shahnawaz's "Aankh Micholi" 13. Balwant Gargi's "Kanak di Balli"
14. Allaudin's "Aashiana" 15 Swinder Gulatis "Paisa paisa Paisa".
And many TV skits and shows.
SOME MORE OLD MEMORIES
Sant Ishar Singh Ji Rarewale with Sangat members in Nairobi during his visit in 1951
The following information has been sent by Suniti Mohindra with thanks
Meghjibhai P. Shah donated a life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi for the Royal Technical College, ( Now Nairobi University) which was unveiled by the Vice-President (later President) of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan on 12th July 1956 at a ceremony in Nairobi when Suniti was at Duke of Gloucester School and raised funds to shower Dr. Radhakrsishnan with flower petals as his motorcade drove past the school going towards downtown Nairobi opposite the Lady Griggs Nursing Home on Nagara Road .(M.P.Shah who donated the MP SHAH HOSPITAL IN NAIROBI TO THE INDIAN COMMUNITY) This Hospital is still operative and serves all.
for more info please see link:-
The M. P. Shah Hospital is Meghjibhai Pethraj Shah’s biggest monument in Kenya, but there were many other donations as well. The Igerton Agricultural Hospital benefited, and another gift provided accommodation for the disabled in Thika. Although at that time many people did not believe in girls' education, Meghjibhai's outlook on this issue was progressive and he believed firmly that it was not possible to improve society without educating girls. For this reason he gave every encouragement to this aim and persuaded the Kenyan government to expend large sums of money on girls' schools, hostels and primary schools. One large donation, which he made, was the sum of 200,000 sh. for the buildings of the Maniben M. P. Shah Girls' School at Kisumu.
M.P.Shah Hospital - Nairobi
Dr. Radhakrishnan, the President of India came to Nairobi ,seen in an open car going through River Road with a Sikh Police Driver.
(photo contributed by Prem Modgil)
PUNJABI HERITAGE IN EAST AFRICA
The history of the South Asians in East Africa is not very old. It is only about 100 years since the first Indians landed on the shores of Kenya, namely Mombasa. The journeys in those days were accomplished in dhows which were the main source of transport and starting from Bombay the journeys could take as much as months to complete as the dhows depended on the state of the winds. It was after a lot of hardships that some of our ancestors reached Kenya to serve in the Uganda Railways which was being built from Mombasa to Kampala.
The Punjabis (Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs) were the main source of skilled and semi skilled labourers who worked on the railways. They suffered numerous hardships including the lions of Tsavo.
Do You or Your parents or Grandparents had any escapades, adventures, memorable incidents, interesting stories, their rise to fame or riches, old photographs or mementoes, souvenirs, brochures of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika - magazines printed by gurdwaras or federations, clubs, schools, students etc. Any documents or photos about East Africa – anything!
I am in the process of writing a book on the ‘Punjabi Heritage in East Africa’ and I need information as much as possible. Just get in touch with me and send me the information (which will be returned after use). Your name will be acknowledged in the book.
Your assistance would help in inserting your ancestors’ names in the history of East Africa.
Harjinder Singh Kanwal,
Phone: 024 7631 9483