Ceremonies and Festivals
Learn about what happends at a Sikh wedding ceremony in words & pictures
Nam Karan, Naming of a Child
As soon as the
mother and child are able to travel, the family visits the Gurdwara. There
they recite joyful hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib to celebrate the birth
of the new child. Karah Prashad (sacred pudding) is prepared by the family.
Amrit (sweet water) is also prepared and given to the infant as well as
the mother. The name is chosen by taking the Hukam, the granthi randomly
opens Sri Guru Granth Sahib to any page and reads the hymn on that page.
The first letter of the first word of the hymn is chosen. The child's
name is than chosen beginning with that letter and is announced to the
Amrit Sanskar, Baptism
This is the sacred
ceremony for the initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood. It should be
taken only by those who are fully mature enough to realize the commitment
required and the significance. The initiate may be a man or woman of any
caste or previous religion. Generally they are encouraged to start behaving,
acting and looking like a Sikh before seeking baptism. The baptism is
done in a quiet place away from distractions where Sri Guru Granth Sahib
has been installed. The initiate is required to wash their hair, cover
their head, wear clean clothes and the 5K's before presenting themselves
before 6 amritdhari Sikhs (those who are already baptized). Five amritdhari
Sikhs will conduct the ceremony while one reads Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The principals of Sikhism are explained to the initiate and this is followed
by Ardas and taking of the Hukam (opening of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to
a random page and reading of a hymn). Amrit (sweet sugar water) is prepared
in a steel bowl and stirred with a kirpan by the five beloved ones while
Japuji, Jaap, Ten Sawayyas, Bainti Chaupai and 6 verses from Anand Sahib
are recited. This is followed by Ardas and the initiate drinking the amrit
five times in cupped hands and exclaiming Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru
Ji Ki Fateh (The Pure Belong to God, Victory to God). Amrit is then sprinkled
on the hair and eyes of the initiate and any leftover is drunk by all
present. This is followed by an explanation of the code of conduct and
discipline required for a Khalsa. The Khalsa is required to wear the 5K's
and abstain from 1) cutting hair, 2) eating Muslim halal meat, 3) cohabiting
with a person other than ones spouse and 4) using intoxicants such as
tobacco. Other breaches of the code of conduct are also explained before
Ardas is once again repeated. This is followed by taking Hukam and eating
of karah prasad (sacred pudding) from a common bowl. If a person does
not have a Sikh name, they take a new name at this time.
In Sikhism death
is considered a natural process and God's will. Any public displays of
grief at the funeral such as wailing or crying out loud are discouraged.
Cremation is the preferred method of disposal, although if it is not possible
any other method such as burial or submergence at sea are acceptable.
Worship of the dead with gravestones, etc. is discouraged, because the
body is considered to be only the shell, the person's soul is their real
essence. The body is usually bathed and clothed by family members and
taken to the cremation grounds. There hymns are recited which induce feeling
of detachment are recited by the congregation. As the body is being cremated,
Kirtan Sohila the nighttime prayer is recited and Ardas is offered. The
ashes are disposed of by immersing them in the nearest river. A non continuos
reading of the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken and timed to
conclude on the tenth day. This may be undertaken at home or in the Gurdwara.
The conclusion of this ceremony marks the end of the mourning period.
This is the non-stop
cover to cover reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is undertaken to
celebrate any joyous occasion or in times of hardship, such as birth,
marriage, death, moving into a new house, and Gurpurbs. The non stop reading
takes approximately 48 hours and is carried out be family members, or
professional readers in the presence of the family. The reading must be
clear and correct so that it can be understood by all listeners. After
the completion of the reading the Bhog ceremony takes place. A Hukam is
taken by randomly turning to any page and reading the hymn on that page.
Karah parshad (sacred pudding) is also distributed to all present.
This ceremony evolved
in the mid 18th century when there were few hand written copies of Sri
Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs were fighting for their lives at this time
and hiding in jungles. They would all gather to hear whatever portion
of a reading that they could before Sri Guru Granth Sahib would me moved
to another location for another audience. Performance of Akhand Path
as a blind ritual is highly disrespectful to Sri Guru Granth Sahib and
contrary to the teachings of the Gurus.
associated with the lives of the Gurus are referred to as Gurpurbs. These
are usually marked at gurdwaras with Akand Path (continuos cover to cover
reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) concluding on the specific day. There
is also kirtan (musical recitation of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
as well as katha (lectures on Sikhism). Some places also have nagar kirtan,
where there is a procession with Sri Guru Granth Sahib led by 5 Sikhs
carrying Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag). Free sweets and langar are also
offered to the general public outside some gurdwaras.
Among the larger
Gurpurb celebrations are:
First installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the Golden Temple by
Guru Arjan Dev
Birth of Guru Nanak (traditionally
celebrated in November)
Birth of Guru Gobind Singh
Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
Martyrdom of The Sahibzadas (the
sons of Guru Gobind Singh)
Guru Amar Das
first institutionalized this as one of the special days when all Sikhs
would gather to receive the Gurus blessings at Goindwal in 1567. In 1699
Guru Gobind Singh gathered thousands at Anandpur Sahib and founded the
Khalsa order by baptizing 5 brave Sikhs who were willing to give their
life for the Guru. The Five Beloved Ones in turn baptized Guru Gobind
Singh into the Khalsa brotherhood. This day celebrated around April 13
is considered the birthday of the Khalsa order. Sikhs visits gurdwaras
and fairs and parades are held. Many Sikhs choose to be baptized into
the Khalsa brotherhood on this day, as well the wrappings of the Nishan
Sahib flag post at most gurdwaras are changed on Vaisakhi.
Note: Vaisakhi is not the Sikh New Year. Vaisakhi occurs in the second month of the Sikh calendar. The Sikh New Year is on Chet 1 according to the Sikh calendar which occurs on March 14th every year. See the Sikh Calendar for more information
Bandi Chhor Divasi
On Bandi Chhor Divas 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated
with many lights to welcome home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind
from imprisonment in Gwalior fort. Sikhs have continued this annual celebration
with lamps being lit outside gurdwaras and sweets distributed to all.
The largest gathering happens at The Golden Temple which is lit up with
thousands of lights.
Sikhs visit gurdwaras
and listen to kirtan on this day to commemorate the martyrdom of the Forty
Immortals. The largest gathering happens at Muktsar where an annual fair
is held. It occurs on the first day of Maghar Sangrant, around January
14. Forty followers of Guru Gobind Singh who had previously deserted him,
fought bravely against overwhelming Mughal army forces and were martyred
here. Guru Gobind Singh personally blessed them as having achieved mukti
(liberation) and cremated them at Muktsar.
An annual festival
of thousands held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh
as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the
day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed
by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singh's carry on the martial
tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding.
There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present
and kirtan and religious lectures take place. The festival culminates
in a large parade headed by the nishan sahibs of the gurdwaras in the
region. Hola Mohalla is held around March 17.
This is the time
when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next, it is the
start of the new month in the Indian calendar. The beginning of the new
month is announced in the gurdwaras by the reading of portions of Bara
Maha, Song of the 12 Months, by Guru Arjan (pg. 133) or sometimes
Bara Maha by Guru Nanak (pg. 1107). This day just marks the beginning
of the new month and is not treated as being greater or better than any