Public worship

Key facts about SikhismBBC RELIGION & ETHICS, RETRIEVED 2013

Worship is an essential part of a Sikh's life. The main purpose of worship is to praise the one, true God, referred to as Waheguru. According to Sikh belief, God is the creator of everything, is immortal and is without form.

The Mool Mantar, the opening sentence of the Guru Granth Sahib, contains Guru Nanak's teaching about God and is recited daily in morning prayer.

Because God has no form, Sikhs do not have images of God in their place of worship, the gurdwara. Sikhs do have pictures of holy people, eg Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. However, they do not worship the Gurus. Rather, in public worship they remember the Gurus, listen to their teachings and share food, reinforcing the equality of all.

Sikhs do not have a set day for public worship but usually attend the gurdwara on Sunday in the UK. It is an important way for the sangat to worship together, support each other and socialise.

Place of worship

Worship in the gurdwara takes place in a hall called a diwan, meaning 'court of a ruler'.

Each morning the Guru Granth Sahib is carried in procession into the diwan and placed on a takht, a raised platform with a canopy over it to show that is the ruler of the Sikhs.

The Guru Granth Sahib is covered with beautiful cloths called rumalas. An attendant waves a decorative fan, called a chauri, over it to purify the area before reading the scripture.

Sikhs remove their shoes, cover their heads and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib when they enter the room. They make an offering of money or food for the Gurdwara's kitchen, which is known as the langar.

Everyone sits on the floor, men on one side, women on the other. Services are informal and may last a long time, so people come in and out as they wish.

Features of worship

  • Kirtan is sung and there are lectures and sermons explaining the meaning of the words.
  • Musicians lead singing with people joining in, prayers are said and readings from the Guru Granth Sahib are given.
  • Towards the end of the service, the Ardas prayer is said. The Ardas remembers God and the Ten Gurus and asks God to bless the Sikhs and all humanity and to help them be faithful to the scriptures.
  • Prayers may be said for specific individuals, for example, sick people in the community and then Karah Parshad is shared.

Following the service, a vegetarian meal is shared in the langar.

The Guru Granth Sahib is treated as a living person and has its own room in the gurdwara. The person who looks after the Guru Granth Sahib is the granthi and he may lead the morning and evening services. However, any Sikh, male or female, who is able to do so, can lead public worship.

Sewa is an important part of worship. Sikhs fulfil this duty when they help in the langar or look after the gurdwara, study the Guru Granth Sahib and teach it to others and give money or other help to people in need. This is why the langar welcomes anyone regardless of religion or background, offers free meals to visitors and some gurdwaras also provide beds for the homeless.