It is difficult to exactly pinpoint when the Sai movement in Singapore has begun. However, it was in the early Seventies that interest in Sri Sathya Sai Baba began to gather strong momentum. Bhajan sessions (gatherings where the glories of God are sung) were held in the homes of devotees every Thursday and other days as convenient.
In the early 1970s, several Singaporeans started visiting Baba in India. Some, upon their return, organized regular bhajans in their homes. Some have gotten together and decided that a central place for bhajans would be much more convenient and thus came the advent of centralised bhajans at the Kalyana Mandapam in Perumal Temple at 397 Serangoon Road was chosen as the venue.
The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi was registered under the Societies Act on November 8,1975. Despite the fact that the Samithi had regular weekly bhajans, the movement lacked permanent premises where it could house a Secretariat, and conduct Education in Human Values (EHV) classes for children and seva (service) activities. The premises search took off into serious action in March 1988. A Samithi member spotted an advertisement in the papers for an 8,000 sq. ft. freehold site in Moulmein Road. He paid a $5,000 option deposit on April 18, 1988, subject to securing change of use of the site from “Residential” to ” Place of Worship”. This was approved in just four weeks an unusually short time, according to the architect.
The $613,500 purchase was completed in July 1988, and thus a permanent address, 133 Moulmein Road, secured for the Samithi. The money for the property came from the then President of the Samithi, three other key Sai devotees and his close friends. They formed a company, Aivest Investment Pte Ltd, to own the property. Meanwhile the Samithi changed its its name to Sri Sathya Sai Society upon receiving approval from the Registrar of Societies on November 23, 1989, Baba’s 64th birthday. In the same month, The Society obtained written permission to put up a four-story building on the site. However, the project could not proceed then because of lack of funds.
In the interim, the Society had to keep on applying to extend the written permission for the project. It was successful each time. While this was going on, the Society made use of two pre-war houses on the site to run its activities. However, they later became too dilapidated and had to be pulled down by late 1992. By that time, the Society’s financial position had improved, and it seemed opportune to embark on the construction of the new building. Piling was about to start when Singapore’s largest property developer, Far East Organisation, made its advent on the scene. Its managing director, Philip Ng, studied the plans for the project and strongly advised the Society’s president that a basement should be added. He also suggested the provision of a lift and air-conditioning.
When the President explained to him that the additions were beyond the Society’s budget, Mr Ng assured him that all the improvements could be included without any additional costs. Mr Ng resubmitted the plans, called a tender again and selected a contractor who undertook to construct a four-storey building with a basement and the other extra specifications – within the Society’s original budget. On top of that, the Samaritan developer provided free site supervision and project management services. When the contract was awarded, the Society had funds for only 25 per cent of the estimated $1.85 million construction cost. As work progressed, the funds trickled in slowly and steadily from Sai devotees and well known philanthropic organizations.
An important development in the mean time was the decision of Aivest Investment to donate the freehold site to the Society. In August 1995, the construction of the new building was completed. The Temporary Occupation Permit was received in September 21, 1995.
By His grace, the travail was over. The Sathya Sai Baba Centre was born. It was joyously consecrated on October 3, 1995.