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A Gurdwara meaning "the doorway to the Guru", is the Sikh place of worship and may be referred to as a Sikh temple. People of all religious backgrounds or of no religious faith are welcomed into a Sikh Gurdwara. However, it is necessary that any visitors remove their shoes and cover their head with a Hankerchief/Scarf/rumal before entering a gurudwara. Visitors are also forbidden to go into the gurdwara while they are inebriated or possess alcohol, cigarettes or any intoxicating substance.

Customs and etiquette

Devotees will sit cross-legged on the floor and must never point their feet towards the holy Guru granth Sahib. All those who enter the hall must remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering. On entering the hall, devotees walk slowly and respectfully to the main throne on which the Guru Granth Sahib rests. Devotees then stand before the Holy Scriptures, often say a silent prayer, offer a donation (if able), then bow humbly. These manners and practices, though seemingly ritualistic in modern times are actually a well preserved extension of the ancient Punjabi practice of respect (for elders, ruling or religious persons).

On first entering the large prayer room (called the Darbar Sahib), a small bow to the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book) shows respect to the 'Guru'. It is normal to sit cross-legged in a yoga style. Visitors will be offered Kara Parshad (sweet flour and oil based food offered as prashad) in the worship hall, which is usually given into the cupped hands of a visitor. You may be offered Langar (vegetarian food from the communal kitchen). When in the Langar Hall, it is better to ask for less rather than take too much and waste the food. If you require more later, just wait for the Sewadar to come around, also remember all food in the Langar is vegetarian, so don't ask for meat!

 

Pursuing salvation

Guru Nanak's teachings are founded not on a final destination of heaven or hell, but on a spiritual union with God which results in salvation. The chief obstacles to the attainment of salvation are social conflicts and an attachment to worldly pursuits, which commit men and women to an endless cycle of birth - a concept known as reincarnation.

Maya-defined as illusion or "unreality"-is one of the core deviations from the pursuit of God and salvation: people are distracted from devotion by worldly attractions which give only illusive satisfaction. However, Nanak emphasised maya as not a reference to the unreality of the world, but of its values. In Sikhism, the influences of ego, anger, greed, attachment and lust-known as the Five Evils-are believed to be particularly pernicious. The fate of people vulnerable to the Five Evils is separation from God, and the situation may be remedied only after intensive and relentless devotion.

Nanak described God's revelation-the path to salvation-with terms such as nam (the divine Name) andsabad (the divine Word) to emphasise the totality of the revelation. Nanak designated the word guru (meaning teacher) as the voice of God and the source and guide for knowledge and salvation. Salvation can be reached only through rigorous and disciplined devotion to God. Nanak distinctly emphasised the irrelevance of outwardly observations such as rites, pilgrimages or asceticism. He stressed that devotion must take place through the heart, with the spirit and the soul.

A key practice to be pursued is nam simran: remembrance of the divine Name. The verbal repetition of the name of God or a sacred syllable is an established practice in religious traditions in India, but Nanak's interpretation emphasised inward, personal observance. Nanak's ideal is the total exposure of one's being to the divine Name and a total conforming to Dharma or the "Divine Order". Nanak described the result of the disciplined application of nam simran as a "growing towards and into God" through a gradual process of five stages. The last of these is sac khand (The Realm of Truth)-the final union of the spirit with God.

Nanak stressed kirat karo: that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity, and should defend the rights of all creatures, and in particular, fellow human beings. They are encouraged to have a chardi kala, or optimistic, view of life. Sikh teachings also stress the concept of sharing-vand chakko-through the distribution of free food at Sikh gurdwaras (langar), giving charitable donations, and working for the betterment of the community and others (seva).

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