The Gurdwara

The Sikh place of worship or temple is called a gurdwara. It houses the sacred writings of the Sikh religion, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, thereafter called The Guru. The Sikh Gurus themselves compiled the Sikh scripture.

Men and women bow in front of the Guru sitting separately on the carpeted prayer hall. Shoes must be taken off and the head covered when entering the prayer hall and the community kitchen or Guru Ka Langgar.

Worship

Sikhs pray to one God. Prayers are normally done before sunrise and sunset or prior to retiring at night although there are no specific timings. Sikhs may pray at home or in the Gurdwara. There is no priesthood in Sikhism and any Sikh, male or female, may lead in the reading of the Holy Scriptures and a prayer service. All worshippers are treated equally. No idols or pictures, even of Sikh gurus, are allowed for worship.

Festivals

The five major special occasions celebrated by Sikhs all over the world are: (i) Guru Nanak’s Birthday in October/November; (ii) Guru Gobind Singh’s Birthday in December/January; (iii) Vasakhi, (14 April) which commemorates the setting up of the order of the Khalsa brotherhood as the Sikh way of life; (iv) Installation of the Sikh Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, as the permanent Sikh guru, and (v) Bandi-Chhor Divas to celebrate Guru Hargobind’s release from Gwalior Fort jail and triumphant return to Amritsar, the timing of which coincides with Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Diet

Only vegetarian meals are prepared and served for consumption in the gurdwara. Meat consumed is of an animal that has been killed instantly with one stroke. Consumption of intoxicants, smoking tobacco and the use of drugs, alcohol and meat are forbidden in the temple precincts. Sikhs are not vegetarians, but Sikh teachings exhort that a Sikh must “Avoid food and clothing which harm the body or provoke evil thoughts.” (Sri Rag Ml, 16)