Sikhs have been in Australia for at least 180 years.They have played many roles in Australian history that not many people know about – including being cameleers, hawkers, farmers, wrestlers and soldiers. The funeral rites of the Sikh religion require cremation. In Canning, what was largely undeveloped land at the time, a part of the river park in Adenia Road, Riverton was allocated for Sikh Cremations.
The story of “Little” Budda Singh
Far from his beloved Punjab, and the sacred river Ganges, "Little" Budda Singh lay dying. He was called "Little Budda Singh, to distinguish him from Big Budda Singh, better known as Buttin Singh, once famed as a wrestler throughout Australia. By the designation "Singh"—the Lion—was his, race and religion known. There was little that was lion-like in the appearance of Little Budda, a sixty-year-old Indian hawker, weakened by sickness and the gathering infirmities of age. But he was a member of a race renowned throughout India and the British Empire for its Lion-like strength and fierceness in war, its stern discipline in religion and life, and its clinging faith to the ritual of death. Steel is the sacred symbol of the Sikhs, and fire is the purging agent through which they travel to their Paradise (Truth newspaper, Sunday 21 July 1929, p6)
Audio spoken by Katherine Healy.
To find out more, explore the Australian Sikh Heritage Trail at Adenia and Duff Roads, Riverton or visit - www.australiansikhheritage.com/
- 1929 – The Cremation Act was legislated following decades of petitioning by WA Sikhs.
- 1932 – A small reserve was allocated by the State Government to 2 WA Sikhs, Bhola and Massa Singh, for cremation.
- 1977 – The Sikh Cremation Site reserve was cancelled and reverted to public open space
- 1992 – Memorial stones and a plaque were unveiled to acknowledge the existence of a Sikh Cremation Site and celebrate Australian Sikh pioneers.
- At least 19 Sikhs enlisted or attempted to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force for WWI.
- While only making up 2% of India’s population, 22% of the British Indian Army were Sikhs.
- The iconic Australian Army slouch hat has a seven-pleated cloth band that’s called a ‘puggaree’ which is Punjabi/Hindi for ‘turban’.
- Address - Adenia Rd, Riverton WA
Images courtesy of Beverley Historical Society, The Mirror, Shashpal Singh Chahl family collection, Australian Sikh Heritage, Etienne Brits, Daniel and Carson