Sai Centre History
It is difficult to exactly pinpoint when the Sai movement in Singapore began. 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 devotees got together and decided that a central place for bhajans would be much more convenient. Thus, centralised bhajans started at the PGP Kalyana Mandapam in Perumal Temple at 397 Serangoon Road.
The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi was registered under the Societies Act on November 8, 1975, in the run-up to Bhagawan’s 50th Birthday Celebrations. Despite the fact that the Samithi had regular weekly bhajans, the movement lacked a permanent premises where it could house a Secretariat, and conduct Education in Human Values (EHV) classes for children and organise 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 on Moulmein Road. He paid an 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, which was an unusually short time, according to the architect.
The purchase was completed in July 1988, and thus a permanent address, 133 Moulmein Road was 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 initially formed a company by name Aivest Investment Pte Ltd, to enable faster transaction of the property. Meanwhile the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi changed its its name to Sri Sathya Sai Society, Singapore 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 start then due to 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 existing pre-war houses on the site to run its activities, such as SSE (Bal Vikas), seva and administrative activities. However, they later became too dilapidated and had to be pulled down by late 1992 for safety. By that time, the Society’s financial position had improved, and it seemed the right time to start the construction of a 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 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.
After the ground-breaking ceremony, piling work started on 23rd November 1993, which was Bhagawan’s 68th Birthday. Divine Grace was visible all along, even in the piling. Technical investigations by soil experts had revealed that because of the soft soil, the concrete piles would have to be driven down to a depth of 16 metres to get the required load-bearing stability of the building. Yet, miraculously, as the digging started, they found solid rock support at 6 metres depth, surprising the experts. This saved not only money, but also time. The Divine Hand was visible throughout the project.
In May 1994, with Bhagawan’s blessing, sand was brought from Prasanthi Nilayam and sprinkled on the foundations, to symbolise the bond between this new building and Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi.
When the President explained to him that the additions were beyond the Society’s budget, he assured him that all the improvements could be included without any additional costs. The MD 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 good 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 construction cost. As work progressed, the funds trickled in slowly and steadily from Sai devotees and some philanthropic organisations.
An important development in the meantime 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 project was finally completed. The Sathya Sai Baba Centre was born. It was joyously consecrated on October 3, 1995, and a formal inauguration was held on 21st September 1996 by the former President of the Republic of Singapore, Mr. Wee Kim Wee, with multi-faith prayers.
Once the building was ready, a consecration ceremony was held with a multi-faith event. This symbolises the concept of Unity of Faiths or Sarvadharma.
Following the consecration event, a formal inauguration was held on 21st September 1996 when the building was fully ready in all respects. It was inaugurated by Dr. Wee Kim Wee. the former President of Republic of Singapore.