The original Wadda Gurdwara (‘Big Temple’) of Singapore’s Sikh community was a bungalow at Queen Street. Acquired with the help of a Sindhi merchant named Wassiamull, the house was turned into a gurdwara in 1912 and became known as the Central Sikh Temple.
The bungalow was converted into a proper temple in 1921, with a congregation hall on the ground floor and other rooms, including a kitchen, on the second storey. The latter is an important feature, as it is the custom of Sikh temples to provide food and lodging to travellers. An unexpected outcome of this tradition was that foreign hippies took undue advantage of the practice during the 1960s, forcing the temple to close its doors to Western tourists. Sikh and other travellers of Indian origin continued to be welcomed, along with the old and destitute.
After the Queen Street location was slated for redevelopment into housing flats in 1979, the temple moved to a temporary facility at the former Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre at Seng Poh Road. Funded by donations from the Sikh community, construction for a new temple on Towner Road began in 1984.
The Central Sikh Temple is a modern interpretation of a Sikh temple and boasts a skilful blend of modern and traditional architecture that won an award from the Singapore Institute of Architects in 1986. The prayer hall on the second storey is a column-free, fully carpeted space beneath a 13-metre wide hemispherical dome. The internal wall abuts an open-air pool. Beside the temple is a 7-storey annexe building housing a dormitory, guest rooms, staff quarters and classrooms as well as the offices of the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board and Singapore Sikh Education Foundation.