is a Gurdwara?
During the times of the early Gurus,
Sikh places of worship were referred to as dharamsalas. They were a place
where Sikhs could gather to hear the Guru speak or sing hymns. As the
Sikh population continued to grow Guru Hargobind introduced the word Gurdwara,
meaning the gateway through which the Guru could be reached. Thereafter
all Sikh places of worship came to be known as Gurdwaras. Any place where
the Guru Granth Sahib is installed and treated with due respect can be
referred to as a Gurdwara, whether it is a room in ones house of a separate
building. Three main functions are carried out in all public Gurdwaras.
One is Kirtan which is the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib,
another is Katha which is reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and explanations.
The third main function which is carried out at every Gurdwara is the
Langar, free community kitchen for all visitors of all religions. Along
with these main functions Gurdwaras around the world also serve the Sikh
community in many other ways including, libraries of Sikh literature,
schools to teach children Gurmukhi and the Sikh scriptures and charitable
work in the community on behalf of Sikhs.
When entering the Gurdwara one is expected to remove the shoes and cover
ones bare head as signs of respect towards the sovereignty of the Guru
Granth Sahib. Hands are washed and in some Gurdwaras there are also feet
washes. Approaching the Guru Granth Sahib one is expected to bow down
and touch the floor as a sign of further respect towards the Eternal Sikh
Guru. Offerings of cash are usually made at this time to help carry the
expenses of running the Gurdwara and community work carried out by the
Gurdwara. These offerings are voluntary and not compulsory. All people
irrespective of their status sit on the floor as a sign of equality as
opposed to chairs and the Guru Granth Sahib is always installed on a higher
level. One may enter or leave the congregation at any time. Men and women
do not generally sit together but on separate sides of the room, both
at an equal distance from the Guru Granth Sahib. All people are expected
to stand facing the Guru Granth Sahib when the Ardas (common prayer) is
read out. Gurdwaras are open to all people of all religions and are generally
open 24 hours a day. Some Gurdwaras also provide temporary accommodations
for visitors or pilgrims. In the Langar all sit on the floor and food
is cooked and served by volunteers, this food is available at all times.
Only vegetarian food is served so that no person may be offended and all
people of all religions can sit together to share a common meal irrespective
of any dietary restrictions.
Darbar Sahib and Five Takhts
Historical Gurdwaras of Punjab