Sunday, December 11, 2011

Punjabi / Sikh Guards at Bukit Brown

What makes this cemetery unique is the reflection of what once was a community of people who came, lived and subsequently died and laid to rest in this grounds. The memories, stories and impact they left behind is something cannot be duplicated anywhere else. The fusion of styles adopted as a result of socialisation with the other races they meet in their daily lives and adoption of various Asian and western influences with their own Chinese customs and beliefs thoroughly makes this place a one-of-a kind heritage cemetery and the last in Singapore. I would like to call this a Heritage Park.

The Punjabi / Sikh guard statues are a fine example of this. I would imagine the local population,   impressed with the diligence, loyalty and bravery of the Punjabi /Sikh guards brought in by the British colonial masters to provide security, decided that they would also be adequate symbolic guardians of their final resting when they pass on.

The artisans that crafted the statutes made so many of the statutes seem so "life-like", each with its on distinct features, whether it is moustached or full bearded, stiff upper lip or with a friendly smile- indeed they are works of art and something we will never see again in Singapore.

Below are some of the Punjabi / Sikh statutes from all over Bukit Brown and Greater Bukit Brown.(i will continue to add on when i discover more since i started this in Dec 11, 2011, so do visit again - . I have taken pictures of 30 Punjabi / Sikh guards to-date.

(Pictorial collection update-30 Punjabi guards as at April 3, 2015)

Tomb of "Majoor" Wee Boon Teng (Capitan China of Selat Panjang, Sumatra under Dutch Control)
Block 3 Division A @1.336765,103.82506

Tomb of Mr Chua Cheng Hock
Block 3 Division D @1.3358,103.8252
Tomb of Mr Oei Bok Sien and Madam Soh Nyia Chik
Block 3 Division A @1.33717,103.824957

Mr Chia Choon Kiang and Madam Lim Chin Koon Neo
Block 3 Division A plot 575 @1.336931,103.825088 

Tomb of Mr Lim Cheng Tee (Block 3 Divison B  )  



Ong Sam Leong' tomb,
Block 3 Division C @1.336872,103.826757


Ong Boon Tat's (eldest son of Sam Leong's tomb)
Block 3 Division C  @1.336628,103.82688


Teng Bin Chai 鄧敏齋 @1.33769,103.82695
Teng Bin Chai 鄧敏齋
Block 3 Division B @1.33769,103.82695

Mr and Mrs. Sim Cheng Lian  沈清蓮
Block 3 Division B @1.337305,103.827192 

Tomb of Mr Teo Choo Cheng (died Feb 7, 1931)
Block 3 Division B @1.338411,103.825687


Mr Tan Gim Wee and Madam Pang Say Nyah
Block 3 Division A @1.337192,103.824726

Mr. Chew Geok Leong's tomb
Block 3 Division D  @1.335285,103.826158

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Teo Siok Guan
Block 3 Division D 1.3355931,103.823842


Mr Phua Sen Wee and Madam Tan Guak Sim
Blk 3 Division D -plot 137, 145  @1.335627,103.825436

Height and facial hair
Most are around 3 feet or less. The tallest is around 5 feet 8 inches. Some have dogs by their feet as well. Do check out the differences between the pair for a single tomb as well ! They may look different from each other in terms of their turban (headgear), facial hair and expressions as the Punjabi Guard could either be a Sikh guard of a Punjabi guard of Muslim or Hindu religion. So take pictures of both of them if possible and note the various differences. The ceremonial sword carried also as important significance. If can be a kirpan or a sabre or a sword.

Madam Wee Cheng Neo alias Madam Nonek (wife of Mr Oh Wee Poh)
Block 4 Division A @1.340112,103.825075



Miss Oh Ang Tew alias Oh Tua Koh
Block 4 Division A @1.34008,103.825035


Mr. Lim Kow Nah
Block 4 Division A @1.340041,103.824945


Wong Chin Yoke cluster- Probably the tallest statutes at 5 feet 8 inches
Block 4 Division A @1.339891,103.824901
2 Sisters 林衫娘 郭(尾+力)娘 (Tomb of 2 woman)
Block 4 Division A @1.339202,103.824674
Chinese soldiers with turban 


Mr and Mrs Seet Tiang Seng
Block 4 Division C (plot 197 and 212)  @1.340301,103.827527
Sikh guard that carries a Kirpan (dagger)

Finding the Punjabi / Sikh Guards
Not all tombs are by the roadside. Some are up the hill hidden from sight. For those close to the roadside, some are hidden due to the undergrowth. That's the challenge and fun of it while compiling this collection. How many are there total is in Bukit Brown ? I think no one will ever know for sure......but i am constantly on the lookout for this unique wonders.

Madam Wee Jee Neo @1.338397,103.823238
Tomb of Mdm Wee Jee Neo
Block 2 Division B @1.338397,103.823238


Mr and Mrs Teo Chin Chay @1.33855,103.823501
Mr and Mrs Teo Chin Chay
Blk 2 Division F @1.33855,103.823501


Madam Yap Woo  @1.337484,103.823149
Tomb of Madam Yap Woo. Died 1st Oct 1935
Blk 2 Division D  @1.337484,103.823149  (peg 1876)



Unknown Block- found via a grave caretaker in the jungle. Trail is from a jungle trail that leads
to Gymkhana Road (future Bukit Brown MRT) .
Notable features: Almost 5 feet and has large headgear. Covers a large area
Tomb of Mr. Yap Geok Song  1.3323297,103.8238634


Punjabi Guard at the Tomb of Mr. Tan Bin Cheng (Block 1 Division A) 1.3355931,103.823842
Some of this tombs are affected by the road that will cut across Bukit Brown, So do check them out if you spot them.


Greater Bukit Brown (e.g. Lao Sua, Kopi Sua.)
Bukit Brown is not the only place where i can find this unique Punjabi Guards. I expanded my collection of pictures to include Punjabi Guards i found outside Bukit Brown.

Mrs Yeo - Madam Low Tay Neo ( taken at Lao Sua) 1.3323082,103.8238634

Mr Yeo Lock Gee (Loa Sua)  @1.3339225,103.8244535

Tomb house of Tan Boon Cheng  陳文清 1.3333165,103.824196




Lim Kah Siew 1.327256,103.831196


Tan Pek Tjoen 1.326829,103.831217




Punjabi or Sikh guards -the difference 
The term Punjabi and Sikh guards were used in a simplistic manner in this article to describe the statues in Bukit Brown. With more inputs from the community, i am updating this article as at October 21, 2014 to highlight more clearly this differences. Punjabi is a race while Sikhs refers to the people who are followers of Sikhism. Some of the Punjabi soldiers / policemen /guards employed in Singapore are of the Muslim or Hindu faith and this is usually reflected in photos /pictures of them either clean shaven, with moustache but without beard.

Hence, a stone guard without a full beard cannot be referred to as a Sikh Guard, but should be generalised as a Punjabi Guard. For experts, the headgear or turban design may provide further insights into which Punjabi Unit that they might below too, if the uniform is one of the British Indian Army. What is interesting as well , is the tomb with a guard that as more Chinese features but with head gear. More research needed in this but it does not take away the fact the cross cultural influences that makes this cemetery very unique.

Punjabi guard tomb Personalities references

Hill 1
Tan Bin Cheng

Hill 2
Teo Chin Chay
Madam Wee Jee Neo

Hill 3
Tan Gim Wee
Oei Bok Sien
"Majoor" Wee Boon Teng
Chew Geok Leong
Ong Sam Leong
Ong Boon Tat
Chua Cheng Hock
Teo Siok Guan
Lim Cheng Tee
Sim Cheng Lian and family

Hill 4
Miss Oh Twa Koh and Madam Wee Cheng Neo

4 comments:

Gurinder Singh Kooner said...

Thanks Mr. Rojak for bringing out this hidden treasure,,, this is a matter of pride for all of Sikhs:- Gurinder Singh Kooner, Punjab, India

Gurinder Singh Kooner said...

sgurinder@gmail.com

Rojak Librarian said...

Thanks Gurinder Singh Kooner. Do share this with friends too of this wonderful place.

Gurinder Singh Kooner said...

I have already posted it on my facebook page and people are liking it....Thanks once again