A gurdwara (, or , ), meaning "the doorway to the Guru", is the Sikh place of worship and may be referred to as a Sikh temple. One of the most famous gurdwaras is the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, in northern India.
Visiting a Gurdwara
Gurdwara is a house of the guru, derived from "Gur" for Guru, and "Dwara" meaning house or door. People of all religious backgrounds or of no religious faith are welcomed into a Sikh Gurdwara. However, it is necessary that any visitors remove their shoes and cover their head with a rumāl before entering the Darbar Sahib. Visitors are also forbidden to go into the gurdwara while they are inebriated or possess alcohol, cigarettes or any intoxicating substance.
Customs and etiquette
Devotees will sit cross-legged on the floor and must never point their feet towards the holy Guru Granth Sahib. All those who enter the hall must remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering. On entering the hall, devotees walk slowly and respectfully to the main throne on which the Guru Granth Sahib rests. Devotees then stand before the Holy Scriptures, often say a silent prayer, offer a donation (if able), then bow humbly. These manners and practices, though seemingly ritualistic in modern times are actually a well preserved extension of the ancient Punjabi practice of respect (for elders, ruling or religious persons).
When visiting a Gurdwara the following guidelines should be followed:
- Head covering for men/boys will normally be available in the Gurdwara but a knotted handkerchief is acceptable. (The Gurdwara may provide handkerchief sized cloth to cover the head). Other hats (eg baseball-style caps) are not appropriate.
- Women/Girls will need to wear a headscarf or such head covering but they can also wear a knotted handkerchief. The Gurdwara usually has a box of scarves, but you should bring your own headscarf for this purpose.
- On first entering the large prayer room (called the Darbar Sahib), a small bow to the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book) shows respect to the 'Guru'. It is normal to sit cross-legged.
- Visitors will be offered Kara Parshad (sweet flour and oil based food offered as prashad) in the worship hall, which is usually given into the cupped hands of a visitor. If you are uncertain about your ability to eat a lot of this prashad – Say "thoba", which means “very small portion” to the Sewadar (volunteer) serving the Kara Parshad. You should take a small plastic bag (or ask for one from the Sewadar serving the Kara Parshad) to save your Kara Parshad for consumption later.
- No meat is allowed in the gurdwara.
- You may be offered Langar (vegetarian food from the communal kitchen). If not too certain about consuming this food you can ask to be excused although most people should take langar as it is regarded as a blessing by the Guru. When in the Langar Hall, it is better to ask for less rather than take too much and waste the food. Say “very little” to the Sewadar serving the Langar. If you require more later, just wait for the Sewadar to come around, also remember all food in the Langar is vegetarian, do not ask for meat.
- If you are at a traditional Gurdwara, you may be required to sit on the ground while eating langar. The more modern Gurdwaras allow the visitors to sit on chairs and eat on tables. Also within the Gurdwara is usually a learning center for Sikhs to learn more about their religion, as well as a library.
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- Global Gurudwara Database
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- Historical Sikh Gurdwaras - SikhismGuide.org
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