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What You Need to Know Before You Visit the Gurdwara

Gurdwara Basics


The place where Sikhs gather to worship is called a gurdwara and literally means the guru's door. A gurdwara meeting place has no specific design. It can be a bare, clean, simple room or an elaborate building, such as the Golden Temple with its marble floors, gilded frescos, and ornate domes. Gurdwaras may be surrounded by fountains, or have a moat used by pilgrims for bathing. There might be a flag marked with the emblem of the Sikh coat of arms. The one necessary feature is the installation of Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture.


Anyone is welcome to worship in a gurdwara regardless of caste, color, or creed. A specific protocol exists for the gurdwara. Cleanliness is essential. If you are thinking of visiting a gurdwara, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be modestly attired.
  • Cover your head.
  • Remove your shoes.
  • Wash hands and feet if needed.
  • Bow before the Guru Granth.
  • Offer any donation such as flowers, food items or money.
  • Sit quietly on the floor with your legs crossed facing Guru Granth.
  • Accept prasad, a sanctified delicacy made from flour, butter, and sugar.
  • Enjoy a meal from the free kitchen.


Inappropriate Gurdwara Conduct

The gurdwara is considered the house of the Guru Granth Sahib, ceremonies and practices not condoned include:

  • Festivities associated with other faiths.
  • Any other book or scripture level with, or above Guru Granth.
  • Rituals involving burning lamps & incense.
  • Sounding a gong.
  • Idol worship or bowing to statues or pictures of the ten gurus.
  • Keeping water beneath the cot on which Guru Granth rests.
  • Sitting with legs extended or feet pointed towards Guru Granth.
  • Sitting on a cushion, chair, or in any position or posture designating rank.
  • Massaging, pressing or rubbing floor, walls, or legs supporting the Guru's cot.
  • Smoking, drinking, dancing, or parties

Only a Sikh may perform kirtan or read aloud from the Guru Granth before sangat.


Opening Guru Granth

Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib
Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Prior to any worship service, a Sikh able to read the scripture offers a prayer, and then ceremoniously opens the Guru Granth. The resting place for Guru Granth is required to have:

  • A canopy over head.
  • A cot with small cushions, pillows or similar items.
  • Coverlets to drape over the Guru Granth.
  • A small whisk to fan the Guru Granth.

Gurdwara Programs and Worship Services

Sikhs congregate together in the gurdwara for a multitude of purposes. To avoid disruption of any function, only one activity may take place at a time in a particular hall. Gurdwara worship services include:

  • Kirtan: Singing devotional hymns of Sikh scripture.
  • Katha: Narration of Sikh scriptures and their meanings.
  • Gurbani: Recitation of any Sikh scriptures or daily prayers.
  • Ardas: A prayerful supplication and invocation of blessing.
  • Hukam: Reading of a random verse from Guru Granth.
  • Simran and Naam Jap: Recitation of Waheguru, the Sikh word for God.


Gurdwara Events

Gurdwaras with large memberships usually have several rooms in addition to the main hall, which may be used for services or other purposes including:

  • Akhand Paath: A continuous unbroken reading of Guru Granth.
  • Anand Karaj: A Sikh wedding.
  • Amrit: The Sikh initiation ceremony.
  • Gurmat: Classes for study in any subject of Sikhism.
  • Langar: Cooking, serving, and eating food from the guru's free kitchen.
  • Nagara: A drum used for special occasions.
  • Kirtan: Singing of hymns.
  • Seva: Community service of any kind on behalf of the congregation.
  • Speeches: Issues having to do with the gurdwara or Sikh community.

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