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Sikhism >> Gurudwara >> Sikhism

For a detailed listing of Gurudwaras in the US, visit Gurudwara in USA page and a similar listing of Gurudwaras in Canada section.



Sikhism is a monotheistic faith. Sikhs believe that the one, living God created the universe, sustains it and, in the end, will destroy it. In the Punjabi language of India, the word Sikh means “disciple” or “learner of truth.” A Sikh is a disciple of God, but more particularly, one who follows the teachings of the 10 Sikh gurus, (teachers), as written in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scriptures).

The Sikh religion was founded in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was developed by the 9 gurus who followed him, until the last of the 10, Guru Gobind Singh, compiled all the Scriptures written by his predecessors into one definitive work and named it his successor, calling it Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the one, holy, teaching book of Scripture. Although some historians say that Sikhism is derived in part from earlier Hindu and Muslim beliefs, this is generally denied by Sikhs, who regard their faith as original and based in revelation from God to the 10 gurus.

Sikhism rejects idol worship; the caste system, which still survives in India; and religious rituals. It regards men and women as equals and advocates tolerance of all religions.

The basic beliefs of the Sikhs, as set out by the first guru, Nanak Dev, are the following:

  • There is only one God.
  • His name is Truth.
  • He is the Creator.
  • He is without fear.
  • He is without hate.
  • He is immortal.
  • He is beyond birth and death.
  • He is self-existent.

Religious Elements

Scriptural and Doctrinal Sources

  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib, also known as Adi Granth, is the supreme sacred writing and spiritual authority of the Sikh religion. A collection of hymns, it was originally compiled from the works of his predecessors by the fifth guru, Arjan Dev, and completed in 1604.
  • Additional hymns and prayers composed by gurus, bhagatas (saints) and others were included by the successors of Arjan Dev, the 6th–10th gurus. Some inclusions are the works of bhagatas or holy men of other religions, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists.
  • The last guru, Gobind Singh, compiled the final official version by 1706 and named the collection as his successor and living guru. The Adi Granth is the only guru of the Sikhs.
  • The original work was destroyed in battle in 1762, though copies had been made. The copies are now are considered the official version.

Sacraments and Rituals

For the most part, Sikhs reject religious practices centred in the concepts of sacrament and ritual, pilgrimage and fasting. Worship is confined to prayer, reading of Scriptures, singing of hymns and meditation. Although worship services usually conclude with the serving of a traditional food, karah prasad (a special form of sweet bread pudding), the practice is not seen as a sacrament in the Christian sense. It is a cultural tradition. However, various ceremonies hold special religious significance in the life of the Sikh:

  • The naming ceremony: Babies are named in a religious service at the temple. The family donates karah prasad and a rumala (cloth covering for the Scriptures). Prayers are offered, and hymns are sung. The Scriptures are opened to a randomly chosen page, and the first letter of the first word is identified as the first letter of the baby’s name. The family then chooses a name that is common to the sex of the child. The name Singh (lion) is added for boys; the name Kaur (lioness), for girls.
  • Pahul (baptism): Baptism is usually administered at puberty. The initiates, men and women or boys and girls, take amrit (sugar water) stirred with a dagger as a sign of baptism and are normally admitted to the khalsa (see below) at the same time.
  • Khalsa: Khalsa is the initiation of Sikhs as members of a “chosen” race of soldier–saints committed to a spartan Code of Ethical Conduct. The khalsa was begun by the Gobind Singh, the 10th guru, as a society of warrior Sikhs charged with fighting the oppression of the Mogul emperors of Punjab. Sikhs who have undergone pahul (baptism) to become khalsa abstain from liquor, tobacco and narcotics. They devote their lives to prayer and a crusade for dharmayudha (battle for righteousness). In the modern ceremony, the initiate is instructed in the following: “(a) You shall never remove any hair from any part of thy body, (b) You shall not use tobacco, alcohol or any other intoxicants, (c) You shall not eat the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way, (d) You shall not commit adultery. The initiate is required to wear the physical symbols of a Khalsa at all times as well as follow the Khalsa Code of [Ethical] Conduct.” (Source: — the Sikhism home page.)
  • Marriage: For Sikhs, marriage is a sacred and holy union. There is no divorce in the Sikh religion, though civil divorce is permitted. Any respected Sikh may perform the ceremony, subject to provincial licensing laws. Weddings may be conducted in the temple or in a family home. Marriages are typically arranged by families.
  • Death ceremony: For Sikhs, death is a part of a cycle leading to possible reincarnation and, ultimately, to Nirvana (heaven), or union with God. See section on Death and Cremation for details.

Moral Code

  • The writings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib are the source of moral and ethical teachings of the Sikhs.
  • In 1931, Sikh theologians and scholars developed an agreed code of conduct, the Reht Maryada. The Akal Takhat, supreme theological teaching authority for Sikhs, approved it. It provides, in part, the following as the Khalsa Code of Ethical Conduct:
    • The Sikh will worship only God. They will not set up any idols, gods, goddesses or statues for worship nor shall they worship any human being.
    • The Sikh will believe in no other religious book other than the Sri Guru Granth Sahib...
    • The Sikh will not believe in castes, untouchability, magic, omens, amulets, astrology, appeasement rituals, ceremonial hair cutting, fasts, frontal masks, sacred thread, graves and traditional death rites.
    • The Khalsa will remain distinct by wearing the Five K’s [see Dress Requirements section below] but shall not injure the feelings of others professing different religions.
    • The Khalsa will pray to God before starting any work. This will be over and above his usual prayers.
    • Although a Sikh may learn as many languages as he likes, he must learn Punjabi and teach his children to learn to read it.
    • Every male should add “Singh” after his name and every female Khalsa should add “Kaur” after her name. They must never remove hair from any part of their bodies.
    • Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol are strictly forbidden for Sikhs.
    • Khalsa men and women will not make holes in their ears or nose and shall have no connection whatsoever with those who kill their daughters. Sikh women will not wear a veil.
    • A Sikh must live on honest labour and give generously to the poor and the needy, thinking all the time that whatever he gives is given to the Guru.
    • A Sikh must never steal or gamble.
    • Except for the Kacch and the turban there are no restrictions on the dress of a Khalsa, but a Khalsa’s dress should be simple and modest.
    • When a Khalsa meets another Khalsa he will greet him by saying, Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (The Khalsa belong to God, Victory belongs to God).
      (Source: — the Sikhism home page.)

Houses of Worship

  • The Sikh temple is the gurdwara (“gateway to the guru”). Every sizable community of Sikhs will have a gurdwara. Private homes may also have a room or place set aside as a gurdwara.
  • In North America, temples built by larger Sikh communities are likely to be patterned on traditional Indian Sikh architecture, though Sikhs have converted churches of Christian denominations to use as temples. Gurdwara built on traditional lines will have entrances facing all directions and will have the main level set below the surrounding ground level, ensuring that worshippers descend steps to enter, to commemorate the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
  • The temple is both a place of worship and a community centre. It is used for worship, celebrations of birth, weddings and funerals. The temple usually includes a langar (free kitchen). Larger temples may include schools, dining halls, libraries, reading rooms and guest rooms.
  • The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture) is kept in a central place on a raised platform under a canopy. Worshippers sit on carpets (chairs are not permitted) — men on one side, women on the other — to listen to readings and hymns. (Note: In some Canadian Sikh congregations, majority groups have permitted tables and chairs to be placed in the gurdwara. This practice is considered by other, more traditional Sikhs a sacrilegious practice or a sign of weakening of the faith. It has resulted in serious legal disputes and in violence.)
  • There are more than 200 historical gurdwara administered and protected by a special commission established by parliamentary act in India as the governing body of Sikhism. The greatest is the Golden Temple of Amritsar, India.
  • Both men and women must have their heads covered to enter the temple. They remove their shoes at the entrance. Hands and feet may be washed before entering if facilities are provided.
  • Sikh temples are open to all.

Devotional Practices and Services

  • Sikh temples are open throughout the day for worship and other activities.
  • Normally, in Canada, group gatherings for worship services are on weekends. In India, temples hold two services daily.
  • Worshippers sit on carpeted floors to listen to readers and music and to participate in singing.
  • Although there are no priests, temples may employ caretakers as Scripture readers.
  • On festival days, there is a continuous reading of Scripture, which may take 48 hours.
  • Readings, discussion and kirtan (hymn singing, or “singing the praises of God”) are followed by a prayer of supplication (Ardas) and a final hymn reading (Hukam). Distribution of karah prasad, consecrated cooked food made of flour, clarified butter and sugar, follows the last reading. The free kitchen is open on days of services and throughout festival periods.

Clergy, Organization and Government

  • There is no professional priesthood in Sikhism.
  • The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture) is the only priest or guru of the Sikhs.
  • Every Sikh is entitled to read Scriptures and sing the kirtan. Women take part on an equal basis with men.
  • Every temple has a Sangat, or governing council of holy men, which directs the affairs of the temple. The council members are elected by the congregation. Women do not normally take part.
  • There are five seats of authority (takhats) in Sikhism, each exercising doctrinal authority in its own jurisdiction and recommending punishments for religious offences. Elected leaders of the takhats are called jathedars. The takhats are considered shrines — the scenes of historic events and repository of relics of the gurus:
    • Akal Takhat (throne of the timeless God): at Amritsar, Punjab, India; the oldest and most important, founded in 1609.
    • Takhat Sri Patna Sahib: home of two of the gurus, the first in 1665.
    • Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib: in Anadpur, India; founded in 1665, it was the scene of the founding of the khalsa in 1699.
    • Takhat Sri Huzur Sahib: at Nander, in Mahrashtra State, India.
    • Takhat Damdama Sahib: the 10th guru compiled the official version of the Adi Granth (sacred Scriptures) here in 1706.

Propagation of the Faith

  • All Sikhs have a duty to teach the world about Sikhism.

Major Celebrations and Observances

Sikh religious holidays are observed according to the Nanakshahi calendar, named after the first Guru, Nanak Dev Ji. The years of the calendar start with the year of his birth, 1469 CE. Start days for each of the 12 Sikh months correspond to the Gregorian calendar dates indicated in the chart below. The Sikh New Year starts on Chet 1, or 14 March.

Sikh Month

Gregorian Calendar
Date for Beginning of Month


14 March


14 April


15 May


15 June


16 July


16 August


15 September


15 October


14 November




14 December


13 January


12 February

Days of Observance

Gurupurabs — Anniversaries of the 10 Gurus and Establishment of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib


Parkash (Birthday)

Gur Ghaddhi (Guruship)

Jyoti Jot (Death)

Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Katik Pooranmashi

From Parkash

Asu 8 (22 September)

Guru Angad Dev

Vaisakh 5 (18 April)

Asu 4 (18 September)

Vaisakh 3 (16 April)

Guru Amar Das

Jeth 9 (23 May)

Vaisakh 3 (16 April)

Asu 2 (16 September)

Guru Ram Das

Asu 25 (9 October)

Asu 2 (16 September)

Asu 2 (16 September)

Guru Arjan Dev

Vaisakh 19 (2 May)

Asu 2 (16 September)

Harh 2 (16 June)

Guru Hargobind

Harh 21 (5 July)

Jeth 28 (11 June)

Chet 6 (19 March)

Guru Har Rai

Magh 19 (31 January)

Chet 1 (14 March)

Katik 6 (20 October)

Guru Harkrishan

Sawan 8 (23 July)

Katik 6 (20 October)

Vaisakh 3 (16 April)

Guru Tegh Bahadur

Vaisakh 5 (18 April)

Vaisakh 3 (16 April)

Maghar 11 (24 November)

Guru Gobind Singh

Poh 23 (5 January)

Maghar 11 (24 November)

Katik 7 (21 October)

Guru Granth Sahib

Bhadon 17 (1 September) Installation in Golden Temple by Guru Arjan Dev

Katik 6 (20 October)


Special Observances



Creation of the Khalsa Vaisakhi

Vaisakh 1 (14 April)

Martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s elder sons

Poh 8 (21 December)

Martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons

Poh 13 (26 December)

(Source for calendars:


Dress Requirements

  • Although the wearing of the five emblems of the khalsa (the five Ks) is not mentioned in Scriptures, these are traditional modes of religious obligatory dress whose history dates from the earliest days of Sikhism. They are worn by males who have been baptized and consider themselves khalsa:
    • Kesa or kesh (hair): For khalsa, the hair must remain uncut, as a symbol that the khalsa lives in harmony with God by refusing to remove a part of the body given to him by God. It is the must important K. A khalsa who cuts his hair is considered a renegade.
    • Kangha (comb): This wooden comb, worn in the hair, is essential to cleanliness and grooming.
    • Kacch: This undergarment is worn by soldiers.
    • Kirpan: Traditionally, this was a sabre, but in modern dress, it is a dagger or small knife. It symbolizes courage, self-reliance and a readiness to defend the weak and oppressed.
    • Kara: This steel bracelet, worn on the right arm, symbolizes restraint from evil deeds.
  • Turbans for men and scarves for women have religious significance in covering the kesa (hair). The headdress is also a symbol of the Sikh’s honour, pride and equality with all others.

Dietary Requirements

  • Sikhs will not eat any meat killed or prepared in a ritual way, including Jewish kosher style and Muslim halal style.
  • Sikhs do not observe fasting for religious reasons.
  • Sikhs may practise vegetarianism. Not all agree that it is a religious obligation.

Medical and Health Requirements

  • All life is sacred. Human life is of the highest form of life.
  • Blood transfusions are allowed.
  • Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not encouraged.
  • Maintaining a terminally ill patient on artificial life support for a prolonged period in a vegetative state is not encouraged.
  • Organ transplants (donating and receiving) are allowed.
  • Artificial reproductive technology is permitted only between husband and wife during the span of an intact marriage.
  • Genetic engineering to cure a disease is acceptable.
  • Abortion is not advised except for medical reasons.
  • Male infants are not circumcised.
  • Modesty of patients must be respected.
  • Prayers should not be interrupted for routine care.
  • Unnecessary touching of the patient must be avoided to protect the patient’s personal space.
  • Patients may wish to wear the five Ks at all times.
  • After removing their headdress, Sikh patients may want to keep their head covered with an alternative covering such as a small turban or scarf or a surgical cap. The headdress should be respected, and if removed, it should be given to the family or placed with the patient’s personal belongings. The headdress should not be placed with the shoes.
  • Infants may be required to wear religious symbols, such as the kara (steel bracelet).
  • Sikh women may insist on covering their bodies with more than a hospital gown. They may request to wear a gown during examinations. Although Sikhism does not ban treatment by a practitioner of the opposite sex, providing the patient with a practitioner of the same sex is preferable.
  • Daily bathing and personal hygiene are a part of Sikh life and should be provided for unless there is a medical reason for avoiding this.
  • It is a Sikh cultural and religious practice to visit the sick.
  • Generally, Sikhs do not use or consume tobacco, alcohol, intoxicants or illicit drugs.

(Source for medical information: — SikhWomen online.)

Death and Cremation

  • Sikhs believe that the soul is eternal and subject to a continual cycle of birth, death and reincarnation until liberated from the mortal cycle and reunited with God.
  • The family and friends of a dying person attend the deathbed when possible to pray and to console the dying person and each other.
  • Mourning for the deceased is discouraged.
  • Autopsies are avoided except where legally required.
  • The remains of the deceased may be taken to the family home or to a funeral home for a wake before cremation.
  • The body is washed and dressed with clean clothing and, for baptized Sikhs, the five Ks.
  • After the wake, the remains are taken to a crematorium for cremation, with family and friends in attendance. In India, cremation would be done on a funeral pyre.
  • Prayers for the salvation of the deceased precede the funeral. Where possible, the eldest son or other family member should start the actual cremation.
  • Ashes are disposed of by immersion in the sea or other body of water. Some families may take the ashes to the Sikh homeland in Punjab, India.
  • Where cremation is not possible, the body should be buried at sea or in another body of water.
  • After cremation, the family and friends gather for the Bhog ceremony, usually in the temple, for prayer, hymn singing and ceremonial serving of karah prasad. The ceremony also includes a complete reading of the Scriptures by the family, either in the temple or at home. The reading may take up to 10 days.

Note: Some details in this site have been adapted from the research published by Canadian Government

Member Gurdwaras of WSC-AR: Gurdwara Sahib Fremont, Fremont, CA Guru Nanak Sikh Mission, Livingston, CA Sikh Gurdwara of LA, North Hollywood, CA Sikh Gurdwara Riverside, Riverside, CA Colorado Singh Sabha, Denver, CO Guru Singh Sabha of Augusta, Augusta, GA 7. Sikh Study Circle of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 8. Sikh Religious Society of Chicago, Palatine, IL 9. Sikh Society of South, New Orleans, LA 10. Sikh Gurdwara of Michigan, Rochester Hills, MI 11. Sikh Society of Michigan, Madison Heights, MI 12. Guru Nanak Foundation of Jackson, MS 13. Sikh Gurdwara of North Carolina, Durham, NC 14. Garden State Sikh Association, Bridgewater, NJ 15. Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Delaware Valley, Sewell, NJ 16. Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Glenrock, NJ 17. Sikh Sabha of New Jersey, Lawrenceville, NJ 18. Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh, Las Vegas, NV 19. Sikh Cultural Society Inc., Richmond Hills, NY 20. Sikh Cultural & Edu. Society of Western NY, Buffalo, NY 21. Sikh Religious Society of Dayton, Dayton, OH 22. Guru Nanak Found. of Greater Cleveland, Richfield, OH 23. Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Society, Bedford, OH 24. Guru Nanak Religious Soc. of Central Ohio, Columbus, OH 25. Sikh Sadh Sangat, Easton, PA 26. Philadelphia Sikh Society, Millbourne, PA 27. Tristate Sikh Cultural Society, Monroeville, PA 28. Mid South Sikh Sabha, Memphis, TN 29. Sikh Center of Gulf Coast, Houston, TX 30. Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Richardson, TX 31. Sikh Gurdwara of North Texas, Garland, TX 32. Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Fairfax, VA 33. Sikh Association of Central Virginia, VA 34. Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin, Brookfield, WI Other Sikh Institution Members of WSC-AR: 1. Siri Guru Granth Sahib Found., Anaheim, CA 2. Sikhs Serving America, Topeka, KS 3. Sikh Youth Federation of North America, White Plains, NY 4. Sikh Heritage Institute, Long Island, NY 5. Sikh Educational & Religious Foundation, Dublin, OH 6. Sikh Youth Federation of USA, Toledo, OH 7. Academy of Guru Granth Studies, Arlington, TX






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