Living in Consonance with Guru’s Tenets
A Sikh’s living, earning livelihood, thinking and conduct should accord with the Guru’s tenets. The Guru’s tenets are:
(a) Worship should be rendered only to the One Timeless Being and to no god or goddess.
(b) Regarding the ten Gurus, the Guru Granth and the ten Gurus word alone as saviors and holy objects of veneration.
(c) Regarding ten Gurus as the effulgence of one light and one single entity.
(d) Not believing in cast or descent, untouchability, magic, spells, incantation, omens, auspicious times, days and occasions, influence of start, horoscopic dispositions, shradh (ritual serving of food to priests for the salvation of ancestors on appointed days as per the lunar calendar), ancestor worship, khiah (ritual serving of food to priests – Brahmins – on the lunar anniversaries of the death of an ancestor), pind (offering of funeral barley cakes to the deceased’s relatives), patal (ritual donation of food in the belief that that would satisfy the hunger of the departed soul), diva (the ceremony of keeping an oil lamp lit for 360 days after the death, in the belief that that lights the path of the deceased), ritual funeral acts, hom (lighting of ritual fire and pouring intermittently clarified butter, food grains etc. into it for propitiating gods for the fulfillment of a purpose) jag (religious ceremony involving presentation of oblations), tarpan (libation), sikha-sut (keeping a tuft of hair on the head and wearing thread), bhadan (shaving of head on the death of a parent), fasting on new or full moon or other days, wearing of frontal marks on the forehead, wearing thread, wearing of a necklace of the pieces of tulsi stalk [A plant with medicinal properties], veneration of any graves, of monuments erected to honour the memory of a deceased person or of cremation sites, idolatry and such like superstitious observances. [Most, though not all rituals and ritual or religious observances listed in this clause are Hindu rituals and observances. The reason is that the old rituals and practices, continued to be observed by large numbers of Sikhs even after their conversion from their old to the new faith and a large bulk of the Sikh novices were Hindu converts. Another reason for this phenomenon was the strangle-hold of the Brahmin priest on Hindus secular and religious life which the Brahmin priest managed to maintain even on those leaving the Hindu religious fold, by his astute mental dexterity and rare capacity for compromise. That the Sikh novitiates include a sizable number of Muslims is shown by inclusion in this clause of the taboos as to the sanctity of graves, shirni, etc.]
Not owning up or regarding as hallowed any place other than the Guru’s place – such, for instance, as sacred spots or places of pilgrimage of other faiths.
Not believing in or according any authority to Muslim seers, Brahmins holiness, soothsayers, clairvoyants, oracles, promise of an offering on the fulfillment of a wish, offering of sweet loaves or rice pudding at graves on fulfillment of wishes, the Vedas, the Shastras, the Gayatri (Hindu scriptural prayer unto the sun), the Gita, the Quran, the Bible, etc However, the study of the books of other faiths for general self-education is admissible.
(e) The Khalsa should maintain its distinctiveness among the professors of different religions of the world, but should not hurt the sentiment of any person professing another religion.
(f) A Sikh should pray to God before launching off any task.
(g) Learning Gurmukhi (Punjabi in Gurmukhi script) is essential for a Sikh. He should pursue other studies also.
(h) It is a Sikh’s duty to get his children educated in Sikhism.
(i) A Sikh should, in no way, harbour any antipathy to the hair of the head with which his child is born. He should not temper with the hair with which the child is born. He should add the suffix Singh to the name of his son. A Sikh should keep the hair of his sons and daughters intact.
(j) A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, in short any intoxicant. His only routine intake should be food.
(k) Piercing of the nose or ears for wearing ornaments is forbidden for Sikh men and women.
(l) A Sikh should not kill his daughter, nor should he maintain any relationship with a killer of daughter.
(m) The true Sikh of the Guru shall make an honest living by lawful work.
(n) A Sikh shall regard a poor person’s mouth as the Guru’s cash offerings box.
(o) A Sikh should not steal, form dubious associations or engage in gambling.
(p) He who regards another man’s daughter as his own daughter, regards another man’s wife as his mother, has coition with his own wife alone, he alone is a truly disciplined Sikh of the Guru.
(q) A Sikh shall observe the Sikh rules of conduct and conventions from his birth right upto the end of his life.
(r) A Sikh, when he meets another Sikh, should greet him with Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh [The Khalsa is Waheguru’s; victory too is His!]. This is ordained for Sikh men and women both.
(s) It is not proper for a Sikh woman to wear a veil or keep her face hidden by veil or cover.
(t) For a Sikh, there is no restriction or requirement as to dress except for he must wear Kachhehra [A drawer type garment fastened by a fitted string round the waist, very often worn as an underwear] and turban. A Sikh woman may or may not tie turban.
Ceremonies pertaining to Birth and Naming of Child
(a) In a Sikh’s household, as soon after the birth of a child as the mother becomes capable of moving about and taking bath (irrespective of the number of days which that takes), the family and relatives should go to a gurduwara with karhah prashad (sacred pudding) or get karhah prashad made in the gurduwara and recite in the holy presence of the Guru Granth Sahib such hymns as parmeshar dita bana (Sorath M. 5), Satguru sache dia bhej (Asa M. 5)) that are expressive of joy and thankfulness. Thereafter if a reading of the holy Guru Granth Sahib had been taken up, that should be concluded. Then the holy Hukam (command) should be taken. A name starting with the first letter of the hymn of the Hukam (command) should be proposed by the granthi (man in attendance of the holy book) and, after its acceptance by the congregation, the name should be announced by him. The boy’s name must have the suffix Singh and the girl’s, the suffix Kaur.
After that the Anand Sahib (short version comprising six stanzas) should be recited and the Ardas in appropriate terms expressing joy over the naming ceremony be offered and the karhah prashad distributed.
(b) The superstition as to the pollution of food and water in consequence of birth must not be subscribed to [There is a wide-spread belief among certain sections of Indian people that a birth in a household causes pollution (sutak) which is removed by the thorough bathing of the mother, the baby and persons attending on her as also by a thorough cleaning of the house, the utensils and the clothes, after prescribed periods of ten, twenty one and forty days.] , for the holy writ is: The birth and death are by His ordinance; coming and going is by His will. All food and water are, in principle, clean, for these life-sustaining substances are provided by Him.
(c) Making shirts or frocks for children out of the Holy Book’s draperies is a sacrilege.
Anand Sanskar (Lit. Joyful Ceremonial: Sikh Matrimonial Conventions and Ceremony)
(a) A Sikh man and woman should enter wedlock without giving thought to the prospective spouse’s caste and descent.
(b) A Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh.
(c) A Sikh’s marriage should be solemnized by Anand marriage rites.
(d) Child marriage is taboo for Sikhs.
(e) When a girl becomes marriageable, physically, emotionally and by virtue of maturity of character, a suitable Sikh match should be found and she be married to him by Anand marriage rites.
(f) Marriage may not be preceded by engagement ceremony. But if an engagement ceremony is sought to be held, a congregational gathering should be held and, after offering the Ardas before the Guru Granth Sahib, a kirpan, a steel bangle and some sweets may be tendered to the boy.
(g) Consulting horoscopes for determining which day or date is auspicious or otherwise for fixing the day of the marriage is a sacrilege. Any day that the parties find suitable by mutual consultation should be fixed.
(h) Putting on floral or gilded face ornamentation, decorative headgear or red thread bands round the wrist, worshipping of ancestors, dripping feet in mild mixed with water, cutting a berry or jandi (Prosopis spicigera) bushes, filling pitcher, ceremony of retirement in feigned displeasure, reciting couplets, performing havans [sacrificial fire], installing vedi (a wooden canopy or pavilion under which Hindu marriages are performed), prostitutes dances, drinking liquor, are all sacrileges.
(i) The marriage party should be as small a number of people as the girl’s people desire. The two sides should greet each other singing sacred hymns and finally by the Sikh greeting of Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh.
(j) For marriage, there should be a congregational gathering in the holy presence of Guru Granth Sahib. There should be hymn-singing by ragis or by the whole congregation. Then the girl and boy should be made to sit facing the Guru Granth Sahib. The girl should sit on the left side of the boy. After soliciting the congregation’s permission, the master of the marriage ceremony (who may be a man or woman) should bid the boy and girl and their parents or guardians to stand and should offer the Ardas for the commencement of the Anand marriage ceremony.
The officiant should then appraise the boy and girl of the duties and obligations of conjugal life according to the Gurus tenets.
He should initially give to the two an exposition of their common mutual obligations. He should tell them how to model the husband-wife relationship on the love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul in the light of the contents of circumambulation (lavan) hymns in the Suhi measure (rag) section of the Guru Granth Sahib.
He should explain to them the notion of the state of a single soul in two bodies to be achieved through love and make them see how they may attain union with the Immortal Being discharging duties and obligations of the householders life. Both of them, they should be told, have to make their conjugal union a means to the fulfillment of the purpose of the journey of human existence; both have to lead clean and Guru-oriented lives through the instrumentality of their union.
He should then explain to the boy and girl individually their respective conjugal duties as husband and wife. The bridegroom should be told that the girl’s people having chosen him as the fittest match from among a whole lot, he should regard his wife as his better half, accord to her unflinching love and share with her all that he has. In all situations, he should protect her person and honour, he should be completely loyal to her and he should show as much respect and consideration for her parents and relations as for his own.
The girl should be told that she has been joined in matrimony to her man in the hallowed presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and the congregation. She should ever harbour for him deferential solicitude, regard him the lord and master of her love and trust; she should remain firm in her loyalty to him and serve him in joy and sorrow and in every clime (native or foreign) and should show the same regard and consideration to his parents and relatives as she would, to her own parents and relatives.
The boy and girl should bow before the Guru Granth Sahib to betoken their acceptance of these instructions. Thereafter, the girl’s father or the principal relation should make the girl grasp one end of the sash which the boy is wearing over his shoulders and the person in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib should recite the matrimonial circumambulation stanzas (lavan of the fourth Guru in the Suhi musical measure section of the Guru Granth). After the conclusion of the recitation of each of the stanzas, the boy, followed by the girl holding the end of the sash, should go round the Guru Granth Sahib while the ragis or the congregation sing out the recited stanza.
The boy and girl, after every circumambulation, should bow before the Guru Granth Sahib in genuflexion, lowering their forehead to touch the ground and then stand up to listen to the recitation of the next stanza. There being four matrimonial circumambulation stanzas in the concerned hymn, the proceeding will comprise four circumambulations with the incidental singing of the stanza. After the fourth circumabulation, the boy and girl should, after bowing before the Guru Granth Sahib, sit down at the appointed place and the ragis or the person who has conducted the ceremony should recite the first five and the last stanza of the Anand Sahib. Thereafter, the Ardas should be offered to mark the conclusion of the Anand marriage ceremony and the sacred pudding distributed.
(k) Persons professing faiths other than the Sikh faith cannot be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony.
(l) No Sikh should accept a match for his/her son or daughter for monetary consideration.
(m) If the girl’s parents at any time or on any occasion visit their daughter’s home and a meal is ready there, they should not hesitate to eat there. Abstaining fromeating at the girl’s home is a superstition. The Khalsa has been blessed with the boon of victuals and making others eat by the Guru and the Immortal Being. The girl’s and boy’s people should keep accepting each other’s hospitality, because the Guru has joined them in relationship of equality.
(n) If a woman’s husband has died, she may, if she so wishes, finding a match suitable for her, remarry. For a Sikh man whose wife has died, similar ordinance obtains.
(o) The remarriage may be solemnized in the same manner as the Anand marriage.
(p) Generally, no Sikh should marry a second wife if the first wife is alive.
(q) A baptized Sikh ought to get his wife baptized.
(a) The body of a dying or dead person, if it is on a cot, must not be taken off the cot and put on the floor. Nor must a lit lamp be placed beside, or a cow got bestowed in donation by, him/her or for his/her good or any other ceremony, contrary to Guru’s way, performed. Only Gurbani should be recited or Waheguru, Waheguru repeated by his/her side.
(b) When some one shuffles the mortal coil, the survivors must not grieve or raise a hue and cry or indulge in breast beating. To induce a mood of resignation to God’s will, it is desirable to recite Gurbani or repeat Waheguru.
(c) However young and deceased may be, the body should be cremated. However, where arrangements for cremation cannot be made, there should be no qualm about the body being immersed in flowing water or disposed of in any other manner.
(d) As to the time of cremation, no consideration as to whether it should take place during day or night should weigh.
(e) The dead body should be bathed and clothed in clean clothes. While that is done, the Sikh symbols – comb, kachha, karha, kirpan – should not be taken off. Thereafter, putting the body on a plank, Ardas about its being taken away for disposal be offered. The hearse should then be lifted and taken to the cremation ground, hymns that induce feeling of detachment should be recited. On reaching the cremation ground, the pyre should be laid. Then the Ardas for consigning the body to fire be offered. the dead body should then be placed on the pyre and the son or any other relation or friend of the deceased should set fire to it. The accompanying congregation should sit at a reasonable distance and listen to kirtan or carry on collective singing of hymns or recitation of detachment-inducing hymns. When the pyre is fully aflame, the Kirtan Sohila (prescribed pre-retirement night Scriptural prayer) be recited and the Ardas offered. (Piercing the Skull half and hour or so after the pyre has been burning with a rod or something else in the belief that that will secure the release of the soul – kapal kriya – is contrary to the Guru’s tenets). The congregation should then leave. Coming back home, a reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be commenced at home or in a nearby gurduwara, and after reciting the six stanzas of the Anand Sahib, the Ardas, offered and karhah prashad (sacred pudding) distributed. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be completed on the tenth day. If the reading cannot, or is sought not to, be completed on the tenth day, some other day may be appointed for the conclusion of the reading having regard to the convenience of the relatives. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be carried out by the members of the household of the deceased and relatives in cooperation. If possible, Kirtan may be held every night. No funeral ceremony remains to be performed after the tenth day.
(f) When the pyre is burnt out, the whole bulk of the ashes, including the burnt bones, should be gathered up and immersed in flowing water or buried at that very place and the ground leveled. Raising a monument to the memory of the deceased at the place where his dead body is cremated is taboo.
(g) Adh marg (the ceremony of breaking the pot used for bathing the dead body amid doleful cries half way towards the cremation ground), organized lamentation by women, foorhi (sitting on a straw mat in mourning for a certain period), diva (keeping an oil lamp lit for 360 days after the death in the belief that that will light the path of the deceased), pind (ritual donating of lumps of rice flour, oat flour, or solidified milk (khoa) for ten days after death), kirya (concluding the funeral proceedings ritualistically, serving meals and making offerings by way of shradh, budha marna (waving of whisk, over the hearse of an old person’s dead body and decorating the hearse with festoons), etc. are contrary to the approved code. So too is the picking of the burnt bones from the ashes of the pyre for immersing in the Ganga, at Patalpuri (at Kiratpur), at Kartarpur Sahib or at any other such place.
Other Rites and Conventions
Apart from these rites and conventions, on every happy or sad occasion, such as moving into a new house, setting up a new business (shop), putting a child to school, etc., a Sikh should pray for God’s help by performing the Ardas. The essential components of all rites and ceremonies in Sikhism are the recitation of the Gurbani (Sikh Scriptures) and the performing of the Ardas.