KALGĪDHAR DĪWĀN MALAYA, a socio-religious body of the Sikhs in Malaya (Malaysia), and an offshoot of Khālsā Dīwān Malaya, was first formed in January 1918 as Khālsā Dīwān, Selangor (3º20'N, 101º15'E), by those elements of the Khālsā Dīwān Malaya who were dissatisfied with the parent body's affiliation with the Chief Khālsā Dīwān, Amritsar, and its indifferent attitude to the Komagata Maru's sufferers. During the annual Sikh conference at Penang (5º24'N, 100º19'E) in 1919, differences between the two groups became more pronounced on the question of disposal of surplus funds of the Khālsā Dīwān Malaya. While the establishment wanted to remit them to the Chief Khālsā Dīwān, the dissidents insisted on their retention in Malaya for educational purposes. The rift was complete with the establishment of the Kalgīdhar Dīwān Malaya in place of Khālsā Dīwān Selangor. It was registered as a central body of Malay Sikhs on 1 February 1920. Its aims and objectives were the same as those of the parent body, viz. religious, social and educational uplift of the Sikh community. The activities of the Dīwān included prachār or preaching of Sikhism, maintenance of gurdwārās and cremation grounds, running of educational institutions, and welfare of orphans and other needy Sikhs. Its preachers co-operated with those of the Khālsā Dīwan Malaya in religious service and baptismal ceremonies. On theological points, the Kalgīdhar Dīwan was nearer to the Pañch Khālsā Dīwān, Bhasauṛ. It was against the recital of Rāgmālā at the conclusion of the reading of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Proper etiquette was insisted upon in holy assemblies. Rumālās or coverlets for the Gurū Granth Sāhib with the sketches or pictures of the Gurūs printed on them were prohibited. The leadership of the Dīwān excluded uninvited persons from their business meetings by issuing identification badges for attendance.
Paradoxically, while it disliked the Chief Khālsā Dīwān's pro-government policies in India, the Kalgīdhar Dīwān solicited the British government's favour in Malaya. It presented scrolls of honour to retiring British officers and its leaders accepted titles and honours such as 'Sardār Sāhib' and Justice of Peace' awarded by the government. Cordial relations with the authorities were, of course, not without dividends for the community. For example, the Director of Education agreed to encourage Sikh students to maintain unshorn hair and beard; Sikh civil servants and students were allowed any two of three optional Holidays Baisākhī and birth anniversaries of Gurū Nānak and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh; and the government agreed that death in hospital of a Sikh without relations to claim the body would be intimated by the hospital authorities to the nearest Sikh temple, the latter undertaking to perform the last rites and to transmit information to the next of kin in India. In 1924, jointly with the Khālsā Dīwān Malaya, legal permission for the Sikhs to wear kirpān (a small sword as a religious symbol of the Khālsā) was sought; and, although formal permission was not granted, no official notice was taken of the Sikhs wearing it. Again, in 1925, at the joint representation of the two Dīwāns, Sikh weddings under the Anand Marriage Act of India received legal recognition in Malaya.
Kalgīdhar Dīwān took up an educational programme in December 1924, advocating the need for education in Punjabi particularly for girls, in all gurdwārās. In 1934, land was purchased near lpoh (4º-35'N, 101-5'E) for a school, and the Gurū Kalgīdhar School, Ipoh, started functioning on I January 1937. Early in the 1920's a Punjabi newspaper, Khālsā Prakāsh, had been floated. In 1931, Bachittar Siṅgh Musāfir, an immigrant from the Sikh state of Paṭiālā, set up a Punjabi Press under the aegis of the Kalgīdhar Dīwān and started a Punjabi daily, Pardesī Khālsā Sevak. It came under the control of the lndian Independence League during the World War II. In 1947 Bachittar Siṅgh retired to his native village in India. A limited company was formed to run the press and a new paper Malaya Samāchār replaced Pardesī Khālsā Sevak. The Dīwān had been dormant under the Japanese occupation (1942-45), and was again inactive after the declaration of emergency in Malaya in 1948. In 1962, a meeting to revive its activity was summoned in Penang, but several old guard stalwarts having passed away and the effort having received little support from the younger generation, Kalgīdhar Dīwān Malaya phased out quietly.
Mehervān Siṅgh Singapore