Sikh Missionary Society
Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
10, Featherstone Road. Southall, Middx, U.K. UB2 5AA
Tel: +44 020 8574 1902
Fax: +44 020 8574 1912
Email: info@sikhmissionarysociety.org
Reg Charity No: 262404
 
The Gurdwara (The Sikh Temple)
 
The Gurdwara (The Sikh Temple)

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: The Gurdwara (The Sikh Temple):

Ceremonies


Ceremonies

The Sikhs have rejected the ceremonies and rites which give rise to egotistical pride. They attach more importance to the cultivation of moral values and spiritual development. In every Gurudwara and most of the Sikh homes, people get up at the 'ambrosial hour of the morning" (Amrit Vela), take a bath and meditate on God, through the morning pray prayer 'Japji'.*
*Life in England being too busy, the practice is rapidly dying out due to shift-work and overtime.

Many Sikhs, especially children, who are unable to recite the 'Japji' do recite the Mul Mantra or just Sat Nam Waheguru. 'Asa Di Var' is then recited in the Gurudwara and in the evening 'Raharas' and 'Sohila' prayers are recited. The only other ceremonies the Sikhs have are termed Smagam (functions) and are as follows:

Baptism

BaptismStarted on 30th March, 1699, by Guru Gobind Singh, this ceremony consists in preparing 'Amrit' (nectar) by putting some water in a bowl, adding sugar and stirring it with a double edged sword while five baptised Sikhs each recite a prayer. The initiate takes the vows of the Khalsa faith and bows in acceptance of them while five palmfuls of Amrit are given to the novice. He is given the name 'Singh' for male or 'Kaur' for female after his or her name. The member then wears the five Ks : (Kachha - underwear, Kesh - hair, Kara - iron bangle, Kangha - comb, Kirpan - sword). If a baptised Sikh violates the vows, he must confess his guilt before the holy congregation. The decision about punishment or fine (or both) is taken by the Sangat according to the nature of the offence. This is called 'Tankha' and consists of recitation of Gurubani (hymns), service of the Sangat, cleaning the utensils or shoes of the congregation, grinding the corn for the Langar, etc. There is no age limit for baptism.
 

Marriage

MarriageIt is solemnised by making the bride hold one end of a sash while the other end is held by the bridegroom. The four marriage vows (lavan) are read while the couple walk round the Holy Granth. They bow in acceptance of the lavan and Sit down cross-legged in front of the Holy Granth to listen to the religious obligations of married life. The ceremony is called Anand Karaj which means the ceremony of bliss. It is usually carried out early in the morning. While every effort is made to celebrate marriage as early as possible, most marriages in England are celebrated in broad daylight considering the difficulties of getting up early and that of accommodating English well-wishers.

Widow remarriage is permitted in Sikhism and is performed more or less in the same way. It is called CHADAR PAUNA (Offering Protection).
 

Childbirth

Sri Guru Granth SahibSome days after the birth of a child the whole family accompanied by some relatives and friends, come to the Gurudwara. A prayer is offered in thanksgiving and for a long and blessed life for the child. After a random reading from the Granth, the first letter of the hymn is taken up by the Sangat and names beginning with that letter are suggested for the child.

After one of the names having been accepted by the parents, the Sangat raises a loud cry of 'Sat Siri Akal' (God is Truth).

The Sikh names usually carry a meaning:
Gurbakhsh Singh: Blessed by the Guru.
Dhanna Singh: Wealthy.
Sewa Singh: A dedicated servant of society.
Ajit Singh: Invincible.
 

Death

On the death of a Sikh, his body is cremated and the mourners come to the Gurudwara and offer prayers. A Saptah (seven days recitation) or Dusehra (ten days' recitation) of the Holy Granth is started at the house of the deceased. On the appointed day of the Bhog (Finale), 'Sadd Ramkali' is read which depicts the scene of the third Guru's death and the transitory nature of life. It inculcates fortitude and acceptance of the will of God. No memorials are erected and the celebration of death anniversaries (Sharads) is forbidden. The period of mourning usually lasts ten days. During this time the relatives come for condolence and listen to Gurubani (word). The ashes of the Sikh may be scattered on a river or sea.

Path

PathThis is the reading of the Granth from cover to cover and usually takes seven days (Sahaj Path). A continuous recitation by five readers for forty-eight hours is called Akhand Path (incessant recitation by relays). There is no priest in the Gurudwara and anyone can read the Granth but usually a paid Granthi (reader) is present to assist. Sikhs do not invest the Granthi with any particular social or religious status but he usually commands a respect in society if he is well-read and is able to explain the word to the layman.

At the end of each of there ceremonies the 'Anand' is recited and 'Karah Parshad' (sweet dish) ( 1. Prepared from equal weights of sugar, flour, water and butter. Semolina is heated with butter and afterwards hot sweetened water is added and the whole lot stirred into a thick dough-like Karah Parsad ). The person who prepares Karah Parsad takes a bath before doing so and repeats the five Sikh Prayers while preparing it is distributed as a grace from the Lord to all, irrespective of the contribution of each. Path is arranged by a family on occasions of birth, death, opening a business, going abroad and on other social occasions.
 

Festivals

The only festivals celebrated in the Gurudwara are Baisakhi (the birthday of the Khalsa) and Diwali. ( 2. Diwali is a festival of the Hindus. It is celebrated in honour of Lord Rama's return from 14 years of exile. Incidentally Guru Har Gobind the Sixth Guru of the Sikhs was released from Gawalior jail on this day and was given a tumultuous welcome at Amritsar. The Sikhs celebrate this day in honour of their Guru's release from Internment )

The birthdays of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, and the martyrdom days of Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur are also celebrated and called Gurpurbs. On these occasions a procession ( 3. Processions are not often taken out in England, to avoid problems of congested traffic. The lectures are delivered inside the temple. The whole programme is in Punjabi unless English guests have been invited. ) of the Granth is taken out from the Sikh Temple in a flower bedecked palanquin with Sikh ensigns on each side. Five men march in front of the Granth with drawn swords in their hands, representing the five beloved ones (first five baptised Sikhs. Lectures are delivered at important places and prayers are held in all Gurudwaras and Sikh homes.

Gurmatta

In the event of an important question affecting the local community, the matter is referred to the Sangat in the Gurudwara and a decision is taken. A resolution is passed by the holy congregation and is called a Gurmatta (the Guru's advice). Any attempt made afterwards to contravene or change the decision is thought to be a sacrilegious act if done without consulting the Sangat once again. Important decisions affecting the whole Sikh community are usually taken by a committee of five Jathedars consisting of the four leaders of the Takhats and the Granthi of the Golden Temple at Amritsar who are considered to be authorities on the Sikh religion.*
* Important decisions in England are taken by the individual Sangats. There is no central body to link up all Sikh Temples and standardize the procedure of celebrations and functions. The necessity is recognised by almost all the Gurudwaras and a central body may be formed soon.

The Sikh Temple is not only a place of worship but also a field of action and headquarters of the ideal society conceived by Guru Nanak. It is the pivot of universal brotherhood, voicing the concept of one God and demolishing all prejudices, between man and man, man and woman, religion and religion, rich and poor and high and low. It is free from formalism, ritualism and intolerance. It is a place of gainful activity inviting the individual to lead the life of a householder and plunge into the field of action by serving others. It is a school imparting lessons in modesty, humility, equality, purity, fraternity, service, knowledge and devotion, and it caters for the physical, mental, moral, ethical and spiritual needs of its scholars. It is a place where the individual always remains in the divine presence and is exposed to no attack from within or without. It is the abode of human brotherhood, a centre of shared life, a sanctuary of God, the headquarters of the commonwealth of people consecrated to God; people who look upon service not as an irksome duty but as a honourable task and a privilege. It is a resting place amid the conflicting creeds and practices of man, highlighting the necessity of living a religion rather than only professing it. Everyone here prays for everyone everywhere invoking. "THE GOOD OF ALL UNDER THE WILL OF THE LORD." (Ardas)
 
Previous Chapter - The Sikh Temple

Return to the top of the page.

Copyright (©)2004 by Sikh Missionary Society (U.K.)
All Rights Reserved.