The first reading of an Akhand Path (a Sikh religious ceremony) in Australia took place on a farm owned by Siva Singh at Benalla, Victoria.  It was read for Herman Singh by his son Isar Singh on the 16 December 1920 from a gilt edged Morocco Bound, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh Holy Book), which had been brought to Australia for the Ceremony, it is believed to be the first Sri Guru Granth Sahib imported into Australia and Siva Singh’s property is at this stage the site of the first “Darbar Shahib” (Guru”s Court).

Herman Singh from Ambala, Punjab, India, was the son of Wozer Singh and Mohar Kaur.  He died at the Wangaratta Hospital on the 13 January 1920 and was cremated on the 14 January. He had worked as a hawker in the Benalla District for twenty years and was survived by his wife and four children.  The reading coincided with the time that the Hawkers had to renew their licences. About 30 Sikhs including Herman’s brother, Gooram Singh attended the Ceremony.  They were mainly hawkers, businessmen and farmers who came from Melbourne, Albury, Wodonga, Chiltern and towns on the Yarrawonga Railway line. Offerings of £31/10.9 ($63.00) were collected and sent to India. Siva Singh the owner of the property died in 1955 aged 84 at Benalla.

Note: There is an unconfirmed report in 1895 of a Sri Guru Granth Sahib that was owned by Mett Singh a well-known merchant in Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria.

Selected Bibliography:

1. Darabar Sahib – Darbar (Court) Sahib (Guru) – “Guru’s Court”  The main hall within a Sikh Gurudwara where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is placed in a prominent postion when in use.
2.© Kenna, Len & Jordan Crystal, Are Indians An Ethnic Minority? Volume 5, A Pictorial History, 2013.
3.Benalla Standard’ in Victoria on Friday 17 December 1920.
4.The Horsham Times 19 March 1895.

Photo: Courtesy Benalla Historical Society (The glass plates were saved and preserved by the Benalla & District Family History Group (now Benalla Family Research Group) they house 1260 photographs of the Howship Collection in collaboration with the University of Melbourne.

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