NISHAN SAHIB, NAGARA, PRIEST
GURDWARA (the Sikh place of worship)
Since the time of Guru Nanak Sahib, where there were even a couple
of Sikhs, they used to gather almost every day. Such gatherings were
held in the houses of the Sikhs. With the increase in the number of
the Sikhs, Dharmsalas (congregation centres) were established by the
Sikhs. The first Sikh centre was set up by Guru Nanak Sahib at Kartarpur
(Pakistan). It was followed by Khadur Sahib, Goindwal Sahib, Guru
Da Chakk (Amritsar), Tarn Taran, Kartarpur (Jullundur district), Keeratpur
Sahib, Chakk Nanaki, Anandpur Sahib, Paonta Sahib etc. During the
end of the eighteenth century the Sikhs shrines began to be known
Now, Gurdwaras have been established in each and every village, town
and city of the Punjab. Even in the other parts of the world, wherever
the Sikhs live, they have set up Gurdwaras.
Every Gurdwara, besides daily religious
worship, is expected to provide food and lodging to the visitors/travelers.
Hence, a Saran (inn /hostel) is usually attached to most of the
Gurdwaras. In the foreign countries a school to teach Punjabi language,
Gurmukhi script and Sikh history is also a part of most of the Gurdwaras.
It is utterly wrong to use the term
TEMPLE for a Gurdwara. A Gurdwara is a Gurdwara, a Sikh shrine and
not a temple. A temple is a place where statues are worshipped.
Sikhism strictly forbids worship of a statue or a picture of a deity.
Similarly, Darbar Sahib Amritsar is not Golden Temple, and, Gurdwara
is not a Sikh church or Sikh mosque.
The term "Gurdwara" is
a combination of two words: Guru (the Enlightener) and "dwara"
(literally meaning door but here it denotes the abode). Hence, Gurdwara
is the "abode of Guru Sahib." Gurdwara is the hub of the
Sikh mosaic. A Sikh is supposed to join congregation in the Gurdwara
as frequently as possible. Gurdwara is not an ordinary place of
worship. It is a center of spiritual, social and educational activities.
Usually there are four parts of
the complex of a Gurdwara: the main hall for worship, Langar (kitchen),
Saran/Serai (inn i.e. residential area) and the school (for teaching
of Punjabi language, Gurmukhi script and the history and philosophy
of the Sikh religion). All the major or big Gurdwaras have all these
facilities but, in small Gurdwaras, one or more of these facilitie
The central and the pivotal object in a Gurdwara is Guru Granth
Sahib (the Scriptures). Guru Granth Sahib is wrapped in fine rumalas
(clothes). There must be a Chanani (canopy) over Guru Granth Sahib.
A Chaur (it is wrong to call it fly-whisker) must be placed near
Guru Granth Sahib. Both, the Chanani and Chaur are symbols of royalty
and their presence is not functional. When Guru Granth Sahib is
brought inside the hall (or room), all those present there must
stand up with bowed hands. The burning of earthen lamps with Ghee/Ghio
(with a view of holy-ness of lamps); the ringing of bells and clapping
etc. in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, are the acts against
the Sikh ideology. The use of lamps for necessary light is permitted].
Nishan Sahib:- On the top of the
building and/or in front of a Gurdwara a Nishan Sahib (the Sikh
national flag) is erected. Its colour is Kesari (saffron) and the
colour of the cloth for wrapping the flag-pole, a cloth, is usually
light blue. According to earlier sources, the colour of the Sikh
flag, at the time of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, was blue. Saffron/yellow
colour had been introduced during Maharaja Ranjit Singh's times.
Nowadays, in several Gurdwaras, even the colour of the clothes wrapped
on the flag-pole of the flag too, is saffron. There is no fixed
length of the flag but it must be taller than the building of the
Gurdwara. An insignia Khanda is surmounted on the top of the flag.
This Khanda represents the concept of the one-ness of Miri (temporal)
and Piri (transcendental) in the Sikh ideology.
A Nagaara (large drum) must always be kept in a Gurdwara and should
be sounded at appropriate times. Nagara is an essential article
of soveriegnty of the Sikh nation.
Services at Gurdwara:- Generally,
a Gurdwara remains open to every visitor throughout the day. The
services begin before sunrise with the opening of Guru Granth Sahib
and making an Ardas (prayer). After this Hukam (order from Guru
Granth Sahib) is read. It is followed by Ãsã Di Vãr
(a hymn written by Guru Nanak Sahib) etc. For the rest of the day
Keertan (singing of hymns) is performed. In a Gurdwara, only hymns
from Guru Granth Sahib or the verses written by Bhai Gurdas and
Bhai Nand Lal can be sung. In some Gurdwaras, there are noon and
after-noon sessions too. In these sessions, exposition of Guru Granth
Sahib is performed and/or the Sikh history is explained. In the
evenings Guru Granth Sahib is closed (unless continuous uninterrupted
recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is going on) after Rahirãs,
Keertan, Ardãs and Sohilã. Service(s) of Guru Granth
Sahib can be performed by men and women alike.
No pictures of any sort can be hung
in the main congregation hall of a Gurdwara. In the library, corridors,
Langar-hall, office etc. the pictures of the Gurdwaras and the Sikh
martyrs can be hung. As there is no real picture of Guru Sahib,
it is blasphemous to hang the pictures of the models. It is against
the Sikh ideology to bow before the pictures of these models or
even before the pictures of any sort. The Sikhs can not bow even
before the monumental platforms erected in the memory of Guru Sahib
or the Sikh martyrs.
Priest in Sikhism:- There is no priestly
class in Sikhism. Any Sikh, male or female, can perform services
in a Gurdwara. Similarly there are no missionaries (as a class)
in Sikhism. Partly due to fast life or for convenience and partly
because of lack of religious information to a common Sikh, some
persons are appointed Bhai (literally: brother) or Granthi (one
who can read Guru Granth Sahib, can interpret it and can sing hymns)
but they have no special status like Christian priests or the Muslim
Mullah or the Hindu Pujari. Similarly, there is no class of SANT
as well. In the twentieth century several such people have emerged
who call themselves (or love to be called) "Sant" but
it is an un-Sikh class. In the Sikh Scriptures, term Sant has been
used for the Almighty only. In Sikhism there is no agent in between
man and the Almighty. This Sant-dom is copy of Hinduism and it has
harmed the Sikhs a lot.
Dr. Harjinder Singh Dilgeer
For comprehensive information
The Sikh Culture
The Sikh reference Book (Sikh Encyclopedia)
By the author