Worship, Ceremonies & Institutions

Describe the Sikh worship in a Gurdwara.

Generally a Sikh Gurdwara remains open throughout the day, so that worshippers can offer prayers and receive the Guru’s blessings and wisdom at any time convenient to them. However, two services are held daily in every Gurdwara, one in the morning and the other in the evening. Most fully functioning Gurdwaras will have Aasa-ki-Vaar sung or recited in the morning, this is followed by Anand Sahib, the Ardaas (standing supplication) and a Hukam (a random reading of a hymn from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji), followed by the distribution of Karah Prashaad (sacred sweet pudding consisting of flour, clarified butter, water and sugar). In the evening, Rehraas Sahib are recited by the Granthi (reader of the Scripture) or by the Sangat (congregation). Then some sacred hymns are sung by the Raagis (musicians) or recited by the Sangat. After an Ardaas and a Hukam, Karah Prashaad is then distributed. Finally, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is ceremoniously closed & wrapped up (known as “Sukhaasan”), and then taken to its special place for the night with great respect and grandeur.

On festivals like Gurpurbs (Guru’s festivals) days commemorating the birth, accession, death anniversary or other special occasions and Akhand Paath (continuous reading of the Scripture for 3 days by the relays of readers) is held and the Ardaas is offered. This is followed by a programme of Kirtan (hymnal singing) and Katha (discourse). On such occasions the free kitchen – Langar – is open throughout the day.

Sikhs bathe in the early morning when they wake up to pray. It is essential to keep hygiene and tidiness before going to the Gurdwara. They take off their shoes at the gate then wash their hands and feet if suitable arrangements exist. When they enter the main hall, they kneel down and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib, they also make an offering in cash or kind. Any non-Sikhs must cover their heads with a cap or a handkerchief. They are not allowed to take any form of tobacco, alcohol or narcotics inside the Gurdwara.

The congregation sits cross-legged on the floor/carpet, the use of chairs is not permitted. In some cases, old and infirm people are allowed cushions for their comfort. There is no priesthood in Sikhism, but for the benefit of the congregation, a Granthi or Sewadar (care-taker) may be employed to read the scripture, perform ceremonies or help in the Langar. Often professional musicians called Raagis sing hymns from the Scripture in the prescribed raags (melody-pattern) and taals (rhythms), accompanied by a harmonium and tabla (pair of drums). In the absence of any musicians, the congregation sings the hymns in chorus.