Q113. Describe the Sikh Temple.
Guru Nanak started the first Sikh assembly at Kartarpur in 1521. This was the beginning of a religious congregation called Dharmsala (place or seat of religion). In the mornings and the evenings the followers of Guru Nanak formed a Sangat (congregation) and hymns were sung by the Guru and Mardana often in chorus with all present. Later on, such sessions were held in the homes of the Guru’s followers. The second Guru, Guru Angad, added another activity to the routine of work by teaching Punjabi in the Gurmukhi script. This was called the Pataskala. Here children gathered, to learn the script of the Guru’s hymns. Guru Amardas, the third Guru, extended the free kitchen. The Fourth Guru established an ideal center for work at Amritsar, while the Fifth Guru built the Harmindar Sahib later (called the Golden Temple). Almost all the Gurus set up temples wherever they went or whenever they acquired a group of followers. These temples were called Gurdwaras which mean the door (home) of the Guru.
A Sikh temple today is not only a place of worship, but also a community-center. A Free Kitchen (langar) is always a part of a temple. The Gurdwara is also used for performing the birth, marriage and death ceremonies of Sikhs. The Scripture is called Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It contains the musical compositions of the first five Gurus, the Ninth Guru and medieval-Indian saints – Bhagats – both Hindu and Muslim. It is kept in a central place on a raised platform and under a canopy. A man sits behind holding a Chauri(made from feathers or hair), which he waves from time to time in token of respect for “The Word” of the Guru. The worshippers sit on a carpet, men on one side and women on the other. They listen to the musicians or the lecturer. The most important Sikh Temples of Doctrinal Authority are the Akal Takhats Amritsar, Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur, Patna Sahib, Hazur Sahib at Nander and Damdama Sahib.
Sikh festivals like Diwali, Baisakhi and Gurupurab are celebrated in all Gurdwaras. Then the sessions are long and well attended. Special lectures are arranged to explain to the audience the significance of each occasion or historical event. Apart from the kitchen and dining hall, there are rooms set apart for the accommodation of travelers and visitors. Some big temples have a library and reading room, a Sikh Museum and school. Welfare projects like widow-homes, orphanages, dispensaries or clinics are run by many historical Gurdwaras in India. A Gurdwara is managed by a committee elected from the congregation, according to its registered Constitution. These elections are being held annually.
The Historical temples in India follow a certain design of architecture called Indo-Arsenic. Temples in foreign countries may be housed in any building. Some of the Gurdwaras in U.K. have purchased former Christian churches and then altered them to suit their needs. Usually there is a tall flag-pole – Nissan Sahib – covered with cloth and with a yellow flag bearing the Sikh Insignia. A Sikh temple is open to all people – whoever they may be.