Temple built to nurture Sikhism

By Austine Okande

Nairobi, Kenya: Considered as one of the iconic buildings in Nairobi, Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha temple, which has maintained its structural authenticity to date, not only serves as a historic monument but also as a reminder of the inception of the Sikh culture in the city.

According to an article titled, Siri Guru Gurdwara Singh Sabha Nairobi Kenya published on www.sikhheritage.co.uk, the main aim of the Singh Sabha Temple was to restore the purity of the Sikh culture, to do away with non-Sikh practices and inculcate love for Sikhism. It also encouraged publications of books and periodicals on Sikh history and prompted the Punjabi language as a medium of teaching.

“Initially the temple was a tent set up in 1899 by Kishen Singh and his company of railway police. In 1911, when there were only 100 Sikhs in Nairobi, it was replaced by a building with a huge bronze central dome,” writes Yuko Iwatani and Evelyne Wanjiku in their book, A Brief Tour of the Buildings of Nairobi.

Designed by an architect only known as Mr Vamos, the foundation of this 80 feet artsy dome was laid in January 1959 and officially opened in November 1963 by Sardar Inder Singh Gill.

“The glory of the Gurdwara was a huge bronze central dome which for many years was a landmark and showpiece in Nairobi. The opening was a day of rejoicing and the Sikhs travelled from Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and other towns for this historic occasion,” the article says.

The main hall is 36 feet long and 32 feet broad with a 10 feet wide verandah surrounding the temple, which comprises ten rooms, which are believed to have been designed for visitors and the priest (granthi). The interior of the temple is an artistic decoration that exudes the cultures and beliefs of the Sikhs. At the entrance of the temple is a towering metallic gate with a stone lion sculpture.

The piece of land where the temple stands today at the Byramjee Street, now renamed Uyoma Street, was originally a Crown Land until September 1956 when the colonial government approved the Sikh leaders’ request for it (the land).


The present dome was designed to reduce echo. The structural design of the temple was approved by structural engineers Messrs and Gilbert Dean.

“The flag of the ‘Panth’ was hoisted by Sardar Jodh Singh, retired Chief Inspector of Police. The Gurdwara Sahib opened days before Kenya gained its independence from the British on December 12, 1963,” the article reads.

“The erection of the Nishan Sahib (flag staff) by late Sardar Perminder Singh Sagoo, Chairman of Siri Guru Singh Sabha, has greatly given an uplift to the image of the temple,” it adds.

Since 1982, further renovation has been done on the building, including tiling of the dome to make it waterproof and flooring of the courtyard to make the floor comfortable.