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The Sikh Place of Worship

The Sikh place of worship is called Gurdwara, meaning door of Guru or gateway to Guru/God. Gurdwaras are carved dome structures made of marble, white stone and (often) gold.The first Sikh place of worship was referred to as Dharamsala, where devotees gathered to sing hymns and hear the Guru preach. The term 'Gurdwara' was first introduced by the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji. Thereafter all Sikh places of worship came to be known as Gurdwaras, a place where the Guru could be reached.     

There are three main functions that are carried out in a Gurdwara.

These are:

1. Singing of hymns (Kirtan)

2. Preaching from Guru Granth Sahib (Katha)

3. Community meals (Langar)

Sikh festivals and ceremonies like childbirth, marriage, death, dastar bandi (turban ceremony), baptism etc are also held in Gurdwaras. They also serve as centres for Sikh literature and charitable work, where people of all faiths are welcomed.


Visiting a Gurdwara

Gurdwaras are considered abode of the 'Living Guru' Sri Guru Granth Sahib - the embodiment of the Word (Shabad), hymns and prayers of Gurus. Thus, all Sikhs are expected to reflect an attitude of humility, respect and gratitude towards the sovereignty of Guru Granth Sahib.

Visiting a Gurdwara is open for everyone; regardless of their beliefs and caste. 

Gurdwara Visit - Step by Step

1. Enter the Gurdwara premises respectfully, with a slight bow of the head.

2. Remove shoes and socks, and place them in shoe racks provided for devotees.

3. Wash hands and feet.

4. Cover the head before entering main hall of Gurdwara. Scarves provided for devotees.

5. Once inside, bow down on knees to acknowledge sovereignty of Guru Granth Sahib.

6. Cash offering optional, in donation box.

7. Sit cross legged on the floor, facing Guru Granth Sahib.

8. Feel free to recite the scriptures and devotional hymns, without disturbing others.

9. Always take Karha Prashad (sanctified sweet offering) with cupped hands.


Gurdwara Visit and Protocol

(A Detailed Description)

1. All devotees are required to take off their shoes and place them in the shoe racks provided.

2. Loose fitting and decent clothing, which covers the body, is recommended.

3. Head covering is essential for men and women. For men not wearing turbans or patkas, head scarves are provided. Hats and caps are not allowed in Gurdwaras. Women can cover their heads with scarves or chunni (a long flowing semi-transparent cloth). Baptised Sikh women generally wear turbans. 

4. All visitors must wash their hands and feet (mandatory in certain Gurdwaras) before entering the main hall of worship. 

5. On entering the main hall, as devotees approach the Guru Granth Sahib, they fold their hands in prayer, bow down on their knees and touch their heads to the floor, as a mark of respect to the Eternal Sikh Guru.

6. Cash offerings are offered at this time at the altar in front of the Granth Sahib or in the offering box (called Golak) placed nearby. These offerings are not compulsory but voluntary.   Some devotees also bring articles of food, which are then collected for the Langar (free kitchen).

7. After bowing and cash offering, one should sit down in the Sangat (congregation) quietly without disturbing others.


8. Devotees sit cross-legged on a carpeted floor, symbolic of down to earth humility and equality of all. 

9. As a mark of respect, the feet and backs of congregation should never be pointed towards Guru Granth Sahib.

10. Men and women sit on separate sides of the centre aisle.

11. On one side of the Granth Sahib, musicians (known as Raagees) recite Shabads (Sikh devotional music) and play the harmonium and Tabla.

12. One is free to leave the worship services anytime.

13. While Ardaas (concluding prayer at the end of a worship service) is being read out, all people are expected to stand facing Guru Granth Sahib, and recite Waheguru in between. 


14. The Hukam (a random scripture portion) is then read out by the Granthi. (Sikh Priest).

15. Afterwards, the Karha Parshad (sanctified sweetened whole wheat flour prepared in clarified butter, and consecrated to the Gurus with Kirpan, the Sikh dagger) offering is served to the sangat (congregation). The KaraParshad is to be taken with cupped hands, but you can request the Sewadar (volunteer) for a small quantity. Never throw away the Karha Parshad or refuse it, as the same can be interpreted as an insult.

16. Langar (community meals) is followed by the worship services, especially on special occasions like anniversaries of Gurus etc.


Some more information about Gurdwaras

· In every Gurdwara, the Sikh religious flag is hosted atop a thick long pole covered with saffron cloth, a colour sacred to the Sikh community. This religious flag is known as Nishan Sahib.

· No photographs or pictures of Sikh Gurus are allowed in the main hall of worship, where Guru Granth Sahib is installed.
· Worship is conducted in a big main hall, where Guru Granth Sahib is placed respectfully on an elevated structure below a canopy.
· Devotion is carried in morning, evening and night at the Gurdwara. The worship starts around 4am. All devotions end with the distribution of Karha Parshad.

· In certain historical Gurdwaras, there is a pool of sacred water (sarovar), where devout Sikhs bathe to purify and cleanse themselves of their sins.

· Holy water (Amrit) is served to the devotees in steel kettles. Devotees take it respectfully, drink some and sprinkle the rest on themselves. They have firm belief in its purification and healing powers.
· There is a separate hall for community meals (langar).
· In some Gurdwaras, Langar is a daily practice, 

and in some historical ones, it is served 24 hours. Partaking in Langar is considered to bring blessings of Waheguru. Often devotees join hands voluntarily to prepare and serve the Langar.

· Irrespective of their status, people of all castes sit together in queues on the floor to take part in Langar, a strict vegetarian fare. This symbolizes equality of all. 

· No smoking or drinking is allowed within or in the vicinity of Gurdwara premises. Carrying intoxicants and tobacco inside a Gurdwara is also forbidden. 



Sewa (Selfless Service) and Charity

Sewaor charity forms an integral part of Sikh worship. Guru Granth Sahib equates the virtue of 'Charity' along with 'Truth'. According to the scriptures in Guru Granth Sahib, “Truth and charity are my white clothes.”

Sewa (Selfless Service) to the community is essential in the life of every Sikh. All over the world,the Sikhs contribute a lot towards charity and helping the homeless and poor by building hospitals, care homes, community centres,religious centres etc. 


Other forms of voluntary Sewa include polishing shoes of visiting devotees, cleaning the Gurdwara premises, preparing and serving langar (community meals), helping in Gurdwara construction work etc. 

Devout Sikhs partake in Sewa out of respect and love for Waheguru. 


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