Gurdwara FAQs

What is a gurdwara?

A:

The Sikh place of worship and learning is called a gurdwara. It is the key institution for the Sikh community where congregations take place but community and civic matters are also discussed.

Who can enter the gurdwara?

A:

Everyone. All persons are welcome and equal in the gurdwara.

What is the flag outside the gurdwara?

A:

This is the nishaan sahib. It is a triangular flag, either yellow/orange or blue. It serves as a beacon and announces the presence of a gurdwara from afar and also is a sign of spiritual and temporal freedom and sovereignty. The symbol on the nishaan sahib is the khanda and is considered the emblem of the Sikh faith.

What is proper gurdwara etiquette?

A:

All visitors to the gurdwara must remove their shoes and cover their heads as a sign of respect.  Most gurdwaras will provide rumaals or kerchiefs that can be tied on the head.   Shoes are placed on racks, usually near the entrance of the gurdwara.

Voluntary donation can also be placed in the box in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Non-Sikhs are not compelled to bow or offer a donation and may discreetly enter and join the congregation.

Intoxicants such as alcohol and tobacco products are not permitted on the premises.

What is at the centre of the prayer hall?

A:

Sri Guru Granth Sahib is placed at the centre of the divan hall or prayer hall. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is revered as the living word of God and accorded the respect of a monarch. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is placed on a raised platform under a canopy at the centre of the hall and a chaur or whisk is also waved as a sign of respect and royalty. All Sikhs enter and bow to Sri Guru Granth Sahib in order to show their acceptance and submission to the message of the Gurus. A voluntary donation can also be placed in the box in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Non-Sikhs are not compelled to bow or offer a donation and may discreetly enter and join the congregation.

What is the food that is offered to all worshippers?

A:
This is karah parshad, a Sikh sacrament that is offered to all visitors. It is made of flour, clarified butter, sugar and water. It is considered a blessing and symbolizes the process of enjoying and absorbing the message of the Guru. If one chooses, one can ask for a little or abstain completely.

Why are we sitting on the floor?

A:

Traditionally Sikhs sit on the ground as a sign of equality before God and the Guru. If one has a physical disability, alternative seating is usually provided. The entire congregation rises to stand during the ardaas or congregational prayer.

Why are men and women sitting separate?

A:

In many gurdwaras, men and women sit on opposite sides of the divan hall. This is not a religious requirement but done as a cultural or practical consideration. There is no restriction on men and women sitting together if they wish.

Who leads the services?

A:

As there is no clergy in the Sikh faith, any initiated Sikh male or female can lead the congregation. Often however, professional raagis or hymn-singers recite verses and there is a granthi or caretaker who resides within the gurdwara and organizes the program.

What is the langar?

A:

The langar is a free vegetarian meal. It is offered to all visitors and one can eat as much or as little as one chooses. It is served in a separate hall, away from the divan hall.

What are the pictures on wall in the langar hall?

A:

Often, gurdwaras place pictures of prominent Sikhs on the wall who have made a contribution to the community or have sacrificed their lives for their faith. The pictures serve as a reminder of Sikh history and traditions.


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