The Gurudwara | Sikh Temple
A Gurdwara, meaning “the doorway to God,” is the Sikh place of worship. The gurdwara houses the Guru Granth Sahib (a compilation of teachings and philosophies from previous Sikh Gurus). People of all religious backgrounds or of no religious faith are welcomed into a Sikh Gurdwara.
Gurdwara is a Punjabi word which means ‘Guru’s door‘. It is a way of saying that the gurudwara is God’s house. A gurudwara does not have to be in a special building. the important thing is that the Guru Granth Sahib is there. This the holy book of the Sikhs.
Outside the Gurudwara
Some gurudwaras may be specially built. Others are in buildings which have been changed so they can be used as a gurudwara. All gurudwara can be recognized by the yellow Sikh flag flying outside. The flag is called the Nishan Sahib. It always flies above the level of the building.
The Diwan Hall
All gurudwaras have a room where people can meet for worship. worship means praying to God, singing hymns, and asking for God’s help in your life. The proper name of the worship room is the diwan hall. It is usually decorated with tinsel and small lights. It has a carpet or rugs on the floor, but there are no seats. The people sit on the floor, this shows that everyone is equal. it is also to show respect to the Guru Granth Sahib which is kept on a special throne at one end of the room. The throne is called a Takht. It is the same sort of seat that a human guru would sit on. It shows that the book is treated with the same respect as a person. In front of the Takht is a place where people can leave gifts of food or money.
Sikhs do not have a special day when they go to the gurudwara. Many gurudwara is open all day, every day, and people can call in to pray for a few moments or as long as they like. There are main services in the morning and at night.
Entering the Diwan Hall
Before going into the most important room Diwan Hall one must take their shoes off and cover their head. As they enter the diwan hall they go in front of the Guru Granth Sahib and kneel or bow. When sitting one should be careful to stay facing the front because it would show a lack of respect to turn their back on the Guru Granth Sahib. Men and women usually sit on opposite sides of the room.
Any Sikh who is respected by the others may lead worship in a gurudwara. There is usually one person in each gurudwara who reads from the Guru Granth Sahib and leads the prayers. This person is called the granthi. He or she sits behind the Guru Granth Sahib, facing the rest of the people.
Sometimes the granthi waves a special fan-made of hairs or feathers over the Guru Granth Sahib. The fan is called a Chauri. It is the sort of fan which used to be waved over kings in India. now it is used to show respect to the Guru Granth Sahib.
Worship in the Gurudwara
Services are usually held in Punjabi. They can last up to five hours, but they are very relaxed and people are not expected to stay the whole time. They can arrive after the beginning or leave before the end. Services are to praise God, and there is a lot of reading and singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. The singing is very important and is done by musicians called Ragis. There are talks, too, which help to explain the readings, or maybe about things that affect Sikhs in their lives.
All services end with the Ardas. This is a special prayer that lasts for about fifteen minutes. Everyone stands facing the Guru Granth Sahib. One person stands in front of the rest and leads the prayer. It reminds everyone to remember God and the ten gurus and to pass on the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib. Prayers are said for Sikhs and all people everywhere. There may be special prayers for people who are ill or who need prayers for some other reason.
Whilst the Ardas is being said, the Karah Prashad is stirred with a kirpan. Karah Parshad is a special ‘pudding’ made of flour, sugar, and ghee. It is given to everyone and eating it together is another way of showing that everyone is equal. After the service, everyone shares the langar.
Near the entrance to the gurudwara are places where people can leave their shoes. No one wears shoes in the worship room. There are separate rooms where men and women can wash their hands and feet. If the gurudwara is large enough, it has a small room where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept when it is not being used in the worship room. Most gurudwara have another room that is separate from the worship room. This is where people can share a meal after the service. A kitchen for preparing the meal is also necessary.
Sikh services are always followed by a meal called the langar. Everyone who has been to the service can go to the langar. The langar is a part of Sikh worship which goes back to the days of Guru Nanak. in those days, there were strict rules in India about different groups of people not eating together. Guru Nanak said that being a Sikh was more important than these rules. The meal became a symbol that all Sikhs are equal. The food is cooked and served by men and women, and it is given free to everyone. It is paid for by gifts which people give at the beginning of the service.