SIKH TEMPLE MAKINDU, Kenya
SIKH TEMPLE MAKINDU (HISTORY)
The origins of the ‘Sikh Temple Makindu’ in Kenya can be traced back to the early1900s, when the British built the Uganda Railway to open up the interior of East Africa. The train running out of Mombasa had its first majot stop at Voi and then Makindu, where an encampment was established which soon blossomed into a robust and bustting town 1920s. It was the days of steam locomotives chugging along slowly across the nyika where the lions reigned supreme just as the famous elephants of Tsavo. The steam engines got timber fuel and water at Makindu railway station.
Among the many Indians that were recruited by the British authorities to come and construct the railway line there were many pioneering Sikhs, who became part of the larger history of the Sikh contribution to the overall development of Kenya. They were great men of clear vision, far-sightedness and iron will. Many of them were lost in the tropical wilderness or picked up by the man-eating lions of Tsavo forests.
A place of shelter and service was the only answer to provide help and relief to one and all. It is believed those early Sikhs would gather under a tree near the railway station every weekend to offer their prayers and thanks to Waheguru. And to those humble and hardy Sikhs to set up a Gurdwara was within their limits of strength and savings. Their desire to establish a Gurdwara was seen as establishing a church by their bosses and colonial rulers. The British not only gave green light but also gave the Sikhs a piece of land near the station. The Sikhs were more than happy and together with their non-Sikh fellows, suppliers, contractors and rich community members laid the foundation of Makindu Sikh Temple. With the installation of one of the original versions of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the doors of the new Temple were opened in 1926 and ever since then this Sikh place of worship has continued to be a mystical inspiration to many visitors.
Makindu thus became an important stop for Sikhs and other Indian train passengers, who would especially come off the train to paytheir respects to the house of God. Among the founder fathers of the Temple were Bhai Tara Singh Ahluwalia, a shed master atMakindu and Bhai Lochman Das, commonly known as ‘Dipti’. S. Teja Singh, a guard with the Railways, performed the opening ceremonyof the Temple.
Even the Sikhs living at Makindu left the place, closing the Temple and leaving an African called ‘Gwalo’ as caretaker. A window was, however, left open so that travelers between Nairobi and Mombasa could stop and pay their respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib through the opening.
In the early 50s a fire broke out and destroyed the main temple building, leaving only the Sri Guru Granth Sahib intact. At another time a plague of deadly ants ravaged the building, but again Sri Guru Granth Sahib remained untouched. Then one day Gwalo saw a miracle. He went and told a Sikh farmer in the area, known as Dhanna Singh that he had seen some Sikhs on horseback riding from the skydown towards the Temple. Gwalo saw a painting of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Dhanna Singh’s place and said he saw a person like that come down from the skyon a horese back.
Dhanna Singh came to Nairobi and related Gwalo’s story to other Sikhs. Thecommunity was shaken by Gwalo’s storyand felt the urge to do something to revive the Temple.