"He who regards all men as equals is religious."
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Rules of the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Like any other sacred space, you will want to plan on dressing modestly when visiting a Sikh temple.
Cover your head
Everyone must cover their heads before entering the gurudwara out of respect for the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (holy book). Sikh men customarily wear turbans, while Sikh women typically wear head scarves as part of their traditional dress. If you do not have a head covering, inquire about borrowing one when you arrive at the temple. In every Gurudwara, you will find large bandanna-like cloths available to use.
Remove your shoes and wash your hands and feet.
It is customary to remove your shoes here and place them on the shoe racks provided and wash your hands. Bow respectfully before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Bow respectfully before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
It is customary to bow to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the first thing after entering the main hall, touching the floor with the forehead. This not only shows their respect but also indicates that we submit ourselves to the truths contained in the book.
Offer any donation such as flowers, food items, or money.
People also place an offering of food or money in front of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This is used to run the Gurudwara and the free food kitchen (Langar). The offering is not charity but a sharing of God’s gifts. If a someone has no money or food to offer, they may offer flowers, or just some words of sincere thanks.
Sit quietly on the floor with your legs crossed, and face towards Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Everyone sits on the floor in a Gurudwara. This is to be humble before the Guru Granth Sahib and because it gives everyone a place of equal status to sit. Most people sit cross-legged. Men and women generally sit on separate sides of the hall.
Accept Sacred food (prasad), a sanctified delicacy made from flour, butter, and sugar.
Towards the end of a service karah prasad, a sweet vegetarian food blessed by God, is served. This should be taken and received in cupped hands as a gift of God.
The gurudwara is considered the house of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Ceremonies and practices not condoned within the gurudwara complex include:
- Festivities associated with other faiths.
- Any other book or scripture level with, or above Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
- Rituals involving burning lamps & incense.
- Sounding a gong.
- Idol worship, or bowing to statues.
- Sitting with legs extended or feet pointed towards Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
- Smoking, drinking, dancing, or parties.
Inside the Gurudwara
- There are no idols, statues, or religious pictures in a Gurudwara, because Sikhs worship only God, and they regard God as having no physical form. Nor are there candles, incense, or bells, or any other ritualistic devices.
- The focus of attention, and the only object of reverence in the main hall is the book of Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which is treated with the respect that would be given to a human Guru.
- The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is kept in a room of its own during the night and carried in procession to the main hall at the start of the day’s worship.
- The book is placed on a raised platform (Takht or Manji Sahib, meaning “throne”) under a canopy (Chanani or Palki), and covered with an expensive cloth when not being read.
- During a service a person with a whisk or fan called a Chaur waves it over the Guru Granth Sahib.
- Although Sikhs show reverence to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, their reverence is to its spiritual content (shabad) not the book itself. The book is just the visible manifestation of the shabad.
Every Gurudwara has a Langar Hall (Dining Hall) attached to it where food is served to anyone without charge. The term Langar is also used for the communal meal served at the Gurudwaras. The food served in the Langar must be simple, so as to prevent wealthy congregations turning it into a feast that shows off their superiority. Only vegetarian food is served in the Gurudwaras. The meal may include chapati, dal (pulses), vegetables and rice pudding. Fish and eggs are counted as meat and excluded.
Gurudwaras fly the Sikh flag outside. The flag is saffron in color and has the Sikh emblem in the middle.