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Gurdwara
Sikh Missionary Society: Articles: Gurdwara

Gurdwara
Sri Harmandir Sahib ( The Golden Temple )
The Sikh Place of Worship

Discipline and procedures in a Gurdwara

The following books are recommended for references -

Sikh Reht Maryada, S.G.P.C., Amritsar, 1998.
Rehtnamae, Piara Singh Padam, Bhai Chatar Singh Jiwan Singh, Amritsar, 1991.
Gurmatt Martand Part I and Part II, Kahn Singh Nabha. S.G.P.C., Amritsar, 1979. It is a good book to learn about the Sikhi.
Sada Itihsa Part I, Satbir Singh, New Book Company, Jalandhar, 1971.
GURDWARA
The Sikh Place of Worship

It is called Gurdwara Sahib, which can be literally translated as follows: Gur - of the Guru; Dwara - house; and Sahib - Master, an honorific word. It is “the Revered Gurdwara - God's place. A Gurdwara has no specific design. Usually, at the top, it has a central bigger dome and smaller domes on sides. Identity of the place is that a saffron, triangular Nishan Sahib - the Sikh flag,, with its symbols and a double edged sword atop, flutters on the building, or in its yard.
 

Gurdwara Belongs to the Guru

A Gurdwara belongs to the Guru and the Khalsa Panth - the Sikh world i.e. the Sikh community. This is a place for everyone with no discrimination of color, caste, sex, faith, status, or country. Everyone can go there with full liberty.
 

An Ideal Gurdwara

An ideal Gurdwara should have the facilities to make it a place where everyone is welcome at all hours like an honored guest, and he or she is provided free of any cost, food, shelter, and a place to rest (including a bedding for the immediate and urgent need). Each Gurdwara may not be able to comply with all this due to local restrictions, or resources.

Purpose of Gurdwara

The essential services offered by a Gurdwara -

    Prayer - Worship of only one God in the set and standard (traditional) Sikh-way, in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib - the Sikh Holy Book. Singing of the Holy Hymns is done, sermons are delivered, and an invocation to God for His mercy, and well-being of everyone is made.
    Langar - community, free food, served without any discrimination. This helps to learn equality of the human beings.
    Selfless service - A Gurdwara is a place to learn and practice selfless service to the humanity.
    Celebrations - Gurpurbs: Festivals i.e. important days of the Gurus are celebrated with devotion, and great fanfare -
    Akhand-Path - As a set precedence, mostly an Akhand-Paath (continuous recitation of Guru Granth Sahib - the Sikh Holy Book) is done.
    Kirtan - singing of the Holy Hymns, is performed,
    Katha (sermon) is delivered, and it includes history of the occasion.
    Additional Programs - Seminars, children's competitions, and some other programs may be organized.
    Langar - free food after the proceedings are over, is almost an integral part of all celebrations.
    Fire Works - on the appropriate days - the days of happy celebrations.
    Free Drinks, Food, Articles of Need etc. - especially for the people outside the Gurdwara. Another service may be rendered collectively or individually. These do not surpass the programs in the Gurdwara.


Prayer, Langar and Sewa

Prayer, Langar, and selfless service are closely linked to attain an ethical life. Everyone is equally welcome to the prayer hall, and to the Langar - dining hall. All these services are free.

Selfless service of any sort in the Gurdwara, or out in the public, has great significance, but first comes the service to the Gurdwara, Sangat (congregation), members of the community, and it cannot be ignored or replaced with any service outside. If anyone may be from outside your community, needs a service urgently, it should be rendered with top priority ignoring your own people. In fact, there should be no discrimination in performing selfless service. However, especially for the services involving large amounts, needs of the personal community should not be ignored. There is no binding and choice is yours. For your day to day and usual charities, you are the best judge and you should not be under any obligations.
 

Gurdwara Yard Service
A Superior Self Service

An essential selfless service provided with a smile and devotion should be to dust, wipe, wash, and keep the Gurdwara building clean and tidy. This involves maintenance of the Gurdwara yard and parking lot.
 

Nishan Sahib Sewa

The Sikh flag has to be carefully maintained, and changed every year as a precedence on the Baisakhi day. It is changed earlier if it is damaged or its color fades away too much.
 

Environment

Atmosphere inside a Gurdwara is of reverence, peace, love, serenity, sanctity, humility, silence, equality, tolerance, and of selfless service. Everyone has to understand, adjust, and accommodate. In case of any trespassing, beg pardon from the Guru, Sangat and the individual if any involved.

No one is prohibited to enter a Gurdwara, but it should be kept in the mind that a Gurdwara is a place of worship according to the Sikh tenets - code of ethics, precedence, procedures, and routines. No one should engage in any meaningless, negative and undesirable criticism, argument, or interfere there, even if the problem is serious and demanding immediate attention. The best is to bring your suggestions, complaints, or grievances to the notice of the management.
 

Contributions

Contributions in cash or kind are welcome in a Gurdwara. These are accepted in the prayer, as well as in the langar halls. For this, the cashier, secretary, or president may be contacted. Contribution is voluntary, and if possible, it may be liberal.

Best is to take out tithe - 1/10th of the income, for the humanitarian purposes. Service, particularly to the Gurdwara and Sangat should be done with humility, and it should not be labeled a charity.

A very practical way is to keep some amount aside almost everyday, for such purposes. Go on adding it to a Golak - money box, pot, or a carton. Offerings made to Guru Granth Sahib at home serve this purpose well.
 

Personal Collections

Collections made personally e.g. at home, may be used for -

    Guru Granth Sahib - For purchasing Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book), and on any item needed for its service - Peerrhee or Manji Sahib (cot), Chanani (canopy), Chaur (hair-wisp), Romalae (scarves, sheets, covers), pillows, Gutkae (mini prayer books), decoration pieces, musical instruments, Agarbattee or Dhoop (scented sticks - incandescence, or scented paste), napkins, and any items needed for prayer room may be added.
    Gurdwara - contributions to the Gurdwaras.
    Gurpurbs - celebrations of the Sikh holy days.
    Magazines - subscriptions to papers and magazines of the Sikh faith or community.
    Parshad - offering of Parshad (sanctified food, including Karrah-Parshad - the holy pudding), flowers etc. to Guru Granth Sahib.
    Charities - for helping others, and for your charities.
    Books - For adding religious books to your personal library.
INFORMATION

The Stage

The stage should be high appropriate to the size of the prayer hall, so that it is visible to the people sitting at the back part of the hall. It should not have a back light - natural or artificial. It silhouettes the people looking towards Sangat, and makes their faces dark and indiscernible. The light should fall on the faces of those at the stage.
 

Palki - Palanquin

It is a wooden, metal, or masonry structure, with a raised seat to place Guru Granth Sahib, and on its four pillars, there is a dome at the top. It has its own canopy under the dome, but even then the palanquin is placed under a large canopy above it. A small palanquin with dome hinders the view and it has to be large enough.
 

Canopy, Chandova or Chanani

As an honor to the Holy Book, a canopy of the proper size is kept spread above it. It should fully cover the platform with raised seat of Guru Granth Sahib. It also protects from any dirt or insects etc. falling from above on to the Holy Book.
 

Chauree
A wisp

Tail hair of Sura-Gae (yak - mountain ox) are used to make it. Now, the cheap varieties are made of plastic strands. The handle may be made of sandal or any other wood, plastic, or some metal - precious or ordinary.

Tosha-Khana (a store for precious or selected items) above the main entrance of Golden Temple, Amritsar, had a Chaur made of fine sandal-wood strands. It was offered by a Muslim devotee, perhaps from some Arabian country (needs verification). It was destroyed in attack on Harimandir Sahib in 1984 AD.

Canopy, wisp etc. are the signs of authority and glory. The wisp is moved respectfully and gently, without making any showy movements, or gestures. It should be worked calmly. Some wisps are heavy and may need both the hands to work these.
 

Decorations

The dais and stage are mostly decorated with real and artificial flowers, garlands, flower vases, weapons, mini lights, beads, ornaments, etc. A subtle scent may be used, and even applied to the cloth covers of the Holy Book. Incense is often burnt, but it should be mild, used sparsely, and should not bother the people on the stage. It should be carefully used to protect from fire. The candles and lamps should also be used very carefully. It is thoughtful to keep such things on the fireproof plates, and to have a fire extinguisher handy. Someone should keep a watch on such things.

Palanquins itself, and the sheet spread down in front of it (like a train) receive most of the decoration. The stage and hall are also decorated.
 

Kumbh, Jote (Jyoti), Red Cloth

During any sort of Guru Granth recitation, may be Akhand Paath (continuous recitation), these things should not be kept there. Kumbh represents Jall Devta (water god); Jote - burning lamp, is for Agani Devta (fire god); and red cloth denotes a goddess. The Sikhs do not believe in such things. A pitcher of water with covered mouth is fine as a handy fire extinguisher. Some take this water as Amrit after culmination of the Akhand Paath (continuous recitation of the Holy Book). They drink, distribute it as Parshad, and sprinkle in and outside the house. The water not used is given to plants, so that this so called “holy water” does not go to a drain. A Jote - lamp, is good as an emergency light. At some places (Harimandir, Amritsar), a Jot-e is kept burning in a Gurdwara, in or outside the sanctum sanctorum, and pure Ghee (butter oil) is used in it. Perhaps, it is a memorial to someone linked to that place. A Jot-e (jyoti) represents light - spirituality. Such a Jote is well revered. To keep it or not is a personal choice of the local Sangat, and is not essential in a Gurdwara.
 

Pictures
Use of pictures in a Gurdwara

Sikhs do not worship pictures of their Gurus or related to them. Of course, these remind the great Gurus and provide a base for our imagination. Many Gurdwaras and other holy places, or places related to the Gurus, put such pictures on the walls. It is not in a very good taste to place pictures before the Holy Granth, provided there is a place to put them elsewhere. Bowing or bowing with folded hands to a picture of the Guru with his reverence and greatness in mind, or placing an insense or flowers before it, although not appreciated, is absolutely a personal and different thing from worshipping a picture. It is great if the Guru's grandeur comes to the mind when standing before his picture, hands get folded and head bows down. If the human role models are rare or not there, at least the pictures of the Gurus can be easily had.

Worship of a picture. It is worship of the picture if we place incense, flowers etc. before it, sing its praise, and practice other gestures of devotion before it, in place of Guru Granth Sahib, and make the picture the primary object of worship like a deity. The Sikhs do not practice such things, and do not worship pictures.

Frescos etc. are commonly seen even inside the historical Gurdwaras. Ancient paintings of the Gurus are also seen. We should try to derive inspiration from these pictures. Pictures or no pictures should be left to the personal choice. In a Gurdwara, Sangat can decide it. Some Gurdwaras put up pictures in the library or in a separate hall. It is a good idea for a Gurdwara to have its museum.

Statues of the Gurus are not acceptable - the Sikh world does not worship, or approve these. The Sikhs avoid purchasing, or keeping the statues of the Gurus in their homes. Anyone preparing these is not approved.
 

Nishan Sahib
The Sikh Flag.

Unless a Sikh (Khalsa) Flag flutters on or at the place, it is not considered a Gurdwara. Hoisting a Nishan Sahib dedicates a place to the Guru, and to the Khalsa Panth - the Sikh world. It is considered holy and is honored. It is dignity of the Khalsa, and represents spirituality and liberty of the mind and body.

This flag is saffron colored, triangular in shape, and has the Sikh symbol on it. The symbol is called Ik-Oankar < With time, Khanda-Chakkar-Kirpan, > also got introduced as a symbol. This has a central ring with double-edged sword in its center, and two curved swords on its sides. The ring is sharp edged throwing weapon - quoit. Usually, both these symbols are there, one on each side of the flag.

At some Gurdwaras, especially in memory of Guru Gobind Singh e.g. at Paunta Sahib, the Sangat goes around Nishan Sahib singing Shabads selectively of the Tenth Guru. They do so morning and evening.
 

Nagara, Niqara or Dhaunsa

Many Gurdwaras keep a Dhaunsa (Niqara, Ranjit-Nagara) - kettledrum, placed on a high stand. It is a big bowl shaped drum beaten with two sticks. It makes a booming, resonant, dull, loud sound, reaching great distance. This is a war-drum beaten to lead the soldiers to announce their approach or attack. This sound was encouraging and raised the morale as well as stamina.In a Gurdwara, A Niqara is beaten twice a day, one time at each step of Ardas - invocation, when the congregation shouts out “Waheguru,” and continuously for some time at the end of Ardas - supplication.
 

Requirements

A Gurdwara should have the following facilities -

    Library - It should be well managed, lest the books are lost. A library is very important. The Gurdwara should have a good, well-managed library. There should be no shortage of the Sikh literature and help books, particularly for children and the youth. It is important to avail the help of electronics, including Internet, and recording facilities.
    Nursery - for better control of small children, and freedom to parents to attend Gurdwara.
    Classroom - The Gurdwara should have a school to impart education of the faith including Gurbani (Scriptures, the Holy Hymns), history, and the Punjabi language. It should also teach the devotional music to children, youth, and also to the adults. Learning the Gurmukhi script is important if one needs to go deep into the real meanings of Gurbani. Without this, we usually get only approximations of the meanings.
    Phonation of Gurbani. It is very important to learn phonation for correct recitation of Gurbani. Every Lagg (addendum- attachment) linked to a Gurmukhi letter effects phonation of the word, and modifies its meanings. Phonation is best learnt from someone who knows it. Where such a person is not available, the electronic media, and recordings, can help very well.
Facilities

Needed facilities in a Gurdwara

    Check the Facilities. Before a Gurdwara-Session,and after it, the concerned persons should check the facilities and utilities to be sure that every thingis working fine - trash-cans are empty, soap is there, toilet rolls are available, paper-towels are in plenty, flush is working etc. Paper towels or its roll should not be kept on the hand wash basin. Paper gets wet, spoiled and polluted..
    Handicap Area. Facilities for handicapped persons are needed. Arrangement for their sitting should be ideally located - close to the stage, keeping in the mind respect to Guru Granth Sahib.
    Sound System - If anyone desires to get the volume of loudspeakers adjusted, rather than fumbling he or she should approach the proper operator. The loudspeakers should be evenly distributed throughout the hall. The volume of loudspeakers should be ideal for everyone, including those at the rear. The volume should be assessed from the rear of the Sangat. Keep in the mind that the people with hearing problems might be there.
    Lighting - Besides usual light, the prayer hall needs a control for a subtle, cool light equally spread throughout the prayer hall.
    Restroom - Nobody should ever go to washroom, restroom - bathroom, with naked feet. This will soil the feet and spoil carpet in the hall - it will become dirty and get polluted: environment in the hall will get spoiled. A few pairs of shoes (slippers) of different sizes should be kept there. After using restroom (bathroom), one must wash hands with soap and water to prevent spreading infection.
    Anyone with infection e.g. flue, mumps measles, whooping cough etc. should better stay at home till recovery.
DISCIPLINE IN THE GURDWARA

Organizers and Management
Working of the trustees

It is duty of the management to take care of and observe that the discipline and procedures in the Gurdwara are maintained. For applying and watching these effectively, at least some trustees should attend all the Gurdwara functions. One or the other trustees should be there throughout the program, and participate actively.
 

Members.

Involvement of the trustees. The management should try to involve the maximum number of the Sangat - members of congregation, and share their minor as well as major responsibilities with them. This will reduce burden of the trustees.The approach should be of understanding, tolerance, accommodating others, compassion, humility, and of politeness, to win the confidence, respect, and commitment of the Sangat. This will also, promote in the members, universal love, unity, selfless service, and sense of sharing,. It will develop in them unity, and dedication as envisioned by the Gurus.
 

The Youth.
Involvement of the Youth.

It is very important to involve the youth. This is the only way to create in them an eagerness for faith, and love for Gurdwara. Sangat should be responsible for inculcating in them the pride of faith to save them from getting astray.
 

Elderly Persons.

It is in no way less important to actively involve the elderly members. At least some of them may be well experienced in at least a few of the procedures practiced in the faith.
 

Sangat - Congregation
Responsibilities of Sangat

The principal responsibility of the whole Sangat is to maintain the serene and holy atmosphere in the Gurdwara, more so in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, which is considered the living Guru.

In the Gurdwara, everyone has to be clean, properly groomed and dressed. The body should be covered ideally. One should be humble, polite, and mentally in communion with Gurbani. The mind should be above negative traits, malice, and animosity - in the calm and pure state of mind.

One should go to the Gurdwara with full surrender to the Guru and God to get every thingfor his spiritual enforcement, and to evolve - to become an ethical entity.The Gurdwara is a Chatsal - a school, to learn the Sikh discipline, and Gurmukh-Jiwan - to spiritually evolve. As well, this is a place to learn recitation and correct phonation of Gurbani (Scriptures), Sikh history, and basics of the Sikh Culture etc. If not in a Gurdwara, then where to learn all this? It is not right to do recitation of the Scriptures incorrectly. The people, without realizing or caring for their incorrect phonation, sit down even for an Akhand-Paath - continuous recitation of Guru Granth Sahib. The Gurbani recitation should be correct. It is great that someone reads the Holy Book, may be incorrectly, but this is justified for the learning stage only, and not for ever. One should aim at learning its correct recitation.

The corrections are usually done by a monitor, and mostly when one is reciting it. This is the practical and standard method. Afterwards, nobody has time to attend to such things, and as well it becomes much less effective. A correction done at the spot goes home well. This method should be fine in a limited, casual gathering, more particularly set for this purpose, and is not for a regular Gurdwara session. The local Sangat can decide on the method to be adopted.

PRAYER HALL DISCIPLINE

Gurdwara - This is the place for the people to pray to God in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib - the Sikh Holy book, in their set Sikh way. Following is the discipline for entering the prayer hall, going to the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, and Sangat (congregation).
 

Entering the Prayer Hall

Going to the presence of Guru Granth Sahib

    Children may be left in the nursery if this facility is available. Older children may go to the children's class, if it is held.Go to the Gurdwara with neat, tidy self, and clean clothes. The clothes should cover the body properly and impart soberness. They should not be showy or gaudy. Deep neck-cut, mid-riff (belly button showing), armless, and high or tight clothes do not seem suitable for going to the Sangat - congregation. Avoid putting on too much makeup and too many ornaments. Piercing the nose, ears, etc. is not approved in the Sikh world.
    Do not carry any drugs, alcohol or tobacco in its any form. Do not go to a Gurdwara after taking alcohol, tobacco, or any other drug.
    The head should be covered.
    Leave your shoes. and socks out, in the place reserved for this purpose - a room, shoe-stands etc. If need be clean your feet. Usually, there is a small ditch (tank) mostly with the running water to clean the feet before entering the prayer hall. It does not mean anything just to dip a toe in the bowl of water - merely a purposeless ritual. Unless there is water tank to wash the feet, the freshly worn socks are mostly not removed in the usual Gurdwaras. In most of the historical Gurdwaras, the socks are not permitted. In some rare and very special situation, the local management may allow a clean, washed, or a new pair of socks, may be after washing the feet immediately before entering the premises.Beepers, phones, and such distracting devices should better be off, or left out. Remove headphones - no playing of cassettes, digital or other CDs, or any other voice (music)-storing devices etc.
    Walk to the dias with folded hands, humility, serenity and calmly. As far as possible, make some offering in coin or kind to Guru Granth Sahib, bow to it, and sit down anywhere you like.
The Sikhs usually bow to the Holy Book coming down on both knees and touching floor with forehead - not that only one knee touches the floor. Of course, there is no strict discipline for it. A handicapped person may not be able to bend, or go down on his or her knees.There is no restriction, but mostly, the women and men occupy two different sides of the hall. Properly located low chairs or other seats may be provided for the handicapped. Those with good health should avoid to use this facility unless essential due to some valid reason.Traditionally, everyone sits at the same level on the floor to express equality of all. None is provided with, or tries to find a special seat to get differentiated or distinguished. Personal, incapacitating health problem is a different story.
    After bowing to Guru Granth Sahib, or later, a devotees may offer some cash to Ragi - the devotional singer, Kathakar - professional sermon-giver. After making the offer gently, do not touch the stage before them as a gesture of bowing to them.
Nobody should ever bow to the floor or touch the feet of anyone in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. Slightly bowing or a nod of head with folded hands, may be with a little smile to show respect, should be enough. No talking.
    Pay full attention to the recitation of the Scriptures, divine music, and other proceedings in the prayer hall.
    Do not talk to your neighbors. If essential, do it so that you do not disturb the others. You may go out for any long talk. Better give a written message.
    You cannot disturb proceedings in a formal gathering - no questions, and no discussions. You may quietly ask questions after the end of proceedings. You may question a speaker if the questions are invited. Otherwise, you can talk to him or her later at the personal level
    Listen to Kirtan silently, or you may accompany it in your own heart and do not disturb others. Quite often, singing by Sangat is invited and encouraged.
    Control your children. Do not allow them to run about, jump, dance, shout or cry etc. Keep them calm. If needed, take the child out of the hall till he or she calms down. It is your responsibility to maintain the sanctity of the hall. If there is provision, take the child to the separate enclosure, children's center, school etc.
    While sitting in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, nobody stands up if someone enters the hall however great he or she may be. This will amount to insult of the Holy Book. If need be, a Sewak (an attendant - the person in service) may approach such a person and conduct him to a proper place to sit. When a distinguished person enters the hall, some may shout Jaikaras (slogans) without getting up. This too, should not be encouraged or appreciated. But, getting up is not at all acceptable.
    Nobody claps hands, makes inappropriate gestures, or makes any movements in the presence of the Holy Book.
    A slogan should be shouted only at a reasonable, proper, and justified occasion, and not otherwise. Try utmost not to disturb the Sangat.
    Many people think that it is insulting to the Holy Book if the flower-petals are showered over anyone else except the Holy Granth (Book). Some do so carefully so that the petals thrown over someone do not cross over or fall on Guru Granth Sahib.
ROUTINES IN THE PRAYER HALL

Daily programs in a Gurdwara are usually set and standard for the place, and may have the additional routines at different days. Gurdwara may be held daily, or on specific days, mostly on Sundays. The following are the usual routines -
 

Recitation of Gurbani

Prescribed Nit Nem is recited in the morning, Rehras at the time of sunset or, and it is followed by Sohela (Kirtan Sohela). At home, Kirtan Sohela is recited at the bedtime, but if Rehras gets late, Sohela is as well done along with it. Reciting Sukhmai Sahib is an option. It makes no sense to play the pre-recorded Bani, or Kirtan, as a routine in the Gurdwara - it may be played just to fill up some free time.
 

Kirtan

Devotional singing. Harmonium and Tabla - a pair of drums, are the usual instruments for doing Kirtan. Occasionally, some other instruments are added, may be the Western, too. In the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, singing only of its Holy Hymns is allowed. Compositions by Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Nand Lal, and very short references by the old time writers are permitted.
 

Katha

Katha - sermon, or preaching, mostly of the historical episode, or of Gurbani. Katha may be a routine at some places, and is usually undertaken in the afternoon. Commonly, Ragis combine Kirtan with some Katha.
 

Dhadi Vaars
Vaar - a ballad. Dhadi - a bard

This singing in a Gurdwara is not a regular feature. A Vaar is an episodes from the Sikh history. Bards narrate these in poetry and use traditional instruments Dhad and Sarangi. The Vaar singing has its great value in raising morale and valor.

Dhad is a small hand held double-drum. Sarangi is a stringed instrument played with a bow. Guru Hargobind introduced Dhadi Vaars in his Darbar - court.
 

Lectures

Only the non-political talks by the scholars and others may be allowed. Politics is not a right thing in the Gurdwara where audience is almost always mixed. The people of the other faiths will be discouraged to come to the Gurdwara. The environment should always be maintained neutral, and politics can be discussed anywhere else.
 

Ardas

Invocation - This is the prayer said at the end of the Gurdwara session.

    Everyone has to get up for Ardas, stand calmly with folded hands, with face towards Guru Granth Sahib or its seat (where it is kept and opened in the hall). Outside, where the Holy Book is not present, the face should be towards Ardasia (one who leads supplication).
    Listen to Ardas attentively and follow the Ardasia when he or she says “Waheguru,” and after him or her says the slogan at the end “Jo bole so nihaal, Satsri-Akaal.” - Blessed is the one who utters God is great!
    If you want to repeat Ardas with Ardasia, do so only in your heart. Do not speak it out.
    Bow down when Ardasia bows down, follow him to stand up and to sit down.
    Ardas is done attentively and with concentration. Nobody should place money into his or her hands while he or she is doing Ardas. If there is any urgent instruction, preferably give it as a note neatly written in block letters. All those attending Ardas, should stand calmly without talking. Even if someone is holding a child in her or his arms, it is a must to stand without moving, and if it is not possible, she or he should go out of the hall and attend to Ardas from outside. .
We pray to God, through our Guru and Guru Granth Sahib - i.e. the Word of the Gurus.
 

Hukam
Edict of the Guru: an inspiration for the day.

Hukam, or Vaak - Order, edict or the Word of Guru. The person in Tabya - in attendance, the one sitting behind the Holy Book, will read out of it the Hukam - Order of the Guru. This is recitation of a Hymn at random, usually from about middle portion of Guru Granth Sahib. Maintain an absolute silence and no talking or anything else. The same Hukam of the morning is read out throughout the day when needed.

    Keep your children under perfect control.
    None else will speak out the Hukam.

    All others should listen to it silently, reverently, with folded hands and humility. This is Hukam and we should listen to what the Guru says, and try to adopt it practically.

We commonly use the term Hukam-Namah, but in fact it means a written order.
 

Parshad
Karrah-Parshad - Sanctified Pudding

    Parshad is a blessed gift from the Guru - Waheguru, and even a small quantity of it should suffice.
    Parshad is taken in both hands cupped together, and not on a single hand. If the hands are not clean, it may be taken on a napkin placed in the cupped hands. Keep sitting calmly to get it in your turn. If you have been missed, you may request for it.
    Anyone receiving Parshad should be watchful and even if a fraction of it falls on the floor, he or she should promptly pick it up and respectfully put aside so that it does not get trampled, or it be put in the napkin for disposal. It will maintain the respect of Parshad and as well, if the carpet is there, it will be saved from getting spoiled.
Socializing

Do not socialize in the prayer hall especially if the Holy Book is still there, may be it is closed. After partaking Parshad, everyone moves to Langar - the community kitchen if the food is to be served.

LANGAR HALL - DISCIPLINE

A Langar Hall is where the community food is prepared, served and eaten.

Entering the Langar Hall

    Enter the langar hall with covered head, bare feet, and nicely washed hands. Be calm. Do not be impatient or in any hurry.Sit with others in a row. Everyone may chant together the Name of God, the True Name - “Waheguru, Satte-Naamu” etc.
    Start eating when the food is served to all and a signal to eat is given. Usually the slogan is uttered “Jo bole so nihaal, Satsri-Akaal.”
    Eat food quietly. If by chance you have been ignored, or some item has not been served, you may gently remind the people serving there, without calling aloud.
    You are at liberty to ask for salt, pepper, chilly, condiments, sugar etc.
    Take only that much which you can eat without leaving any portion. Try not to leave Jooth - uneaten portion.
    Eat with reverence to the Guru, and God. Some consider themselves fortunate in eating Langar, and they may take it as a Parshad- the Guru's holy gift.

    After finishing, wait till others have eaten. Try to get up with the others. You may keep sitting and continue eating till you are done, get up only after you are finished, and do not mind even though other new ones have started sitting down on your sides, or in the rows. There is no need to hurry up, be calm and have your time.

    Do not wash your hands or mouth into your plate, or while sitting in the row. Get up and go to wash room. For this purpose, a devotee may offer to some honored one e.g. a saint, a hand wash-basin and water where he or she is sitting. It is not good to look at.
    Clean the place if something gets spilled. If the Langar Hall is carpeted, take an extra care not to let anything spill.
    After eating, throw the plastic ware into the trash-bag if someone comes to collect it. If not, pick it on getting up, and dispose it off into a trash-bag or can. Someone may collect silver ware (metal) or china ware. Otherwise, throw leftover in the trash-can, take it to the sink, or to a designated place, and leave it there. You may rinse and leave it, or clean it properly as others might be doing. The best is to clean it with soap and water, or with cleaning powder. Wooden ash mixed with sand worked fine at some places in India. If dishwasher facility is available, rinse and leave such utensils there.
    One should not eat, nibble or snack in the kitchen, or at its service counter.No one busy eating, should touch utensils, food, or service bowls, service spoons etc. in the kitchen, without first washing the hands with soap and water. It is convenient and nice to ask someone else to serve you rather than trying to do it your own self. At some places, or occasions, self-service is practiced, but in a proper and organized way.
One Dollar Lunch

It should never come to the mind of anyone that Langar is “one dollar lunch” i.e. you offer one dollar to the Holy Book and become entitled to take the free lunch. It is not a “free lunch,” it is a sanctified food. You offered a dollar or so to the Holy Book to honor it, and this thing ended there. Leaving aside some special circumstances, you justify taking langar after attending the Gurdwara proceedings - service to God.

Langar is free and nobody is charged for it. If someone thinks he or she has paid, such remarks insult Langar - the holy food; a gift from God and the Guru. The people take it with humility and eat it with reverence. Some get one or two Chapatis (Roti - flat-bread) with some Dall (cooked cereal), vegetable, and take these home as Parshad for the family. Devotees may put some money into a Golak - money-box there, to offer their thanks to the Lord for the food partaken, and not for its price.

PROCEDURES IN THE GURDWARA

In the Gurdwaras, discipline is important to maintain the sameness. This has been laid down in the Reht (Code of Ethics) for the faith by the Sikh-Panth - the Sikh world. It is available in the form of a booklet from the bookstores or from S.G.P.C. The Gurdwaras of different sects may have their own modifications. The sameness encourages brotherhood and unity. At homes, the people may have some of their own choices. A Gurdwara starts its program in the morning with the recitation of Sukhmani Sahib and singing of Asa Di Var. In the overseas countries, these are usually replaced with Jappu ji Sahib recitation. In the evening, Rehras is recited.

PROCEDURES IN THE PRAYER HALL

The following procedures in the prayer hall are everyday routine.
 

Guru Granth Sahib - The Sikh Holy Book

In the presence of the Holy Granth, or in the prayer hall, everyone sits on the floor, and all should be treated equally. Some special persons are invited to sit in the front, and may be on the stage itself in special celebrations. Low stools or chairs, on one side, back, or in an enclosure, should be provided for the handicapped.

A thin mattress covered with a cloth sheet may be used to mark the place for Ragis - devotional singers, or for a bride and bridegroom to sit for their marriage ceremony. Ragis may sit on the stage. Some places provide a raised platform for Ragis - devotional singers, to make them visible to the congregation. Such a platform should be lower than the seat of Guru Granth Sahib.

It is appropriate to introduce to the Sangat, and as well to honor the distinguished visitors, guest Ragis (devotional singers), visiting speakers and new comers etc.

Nothing should be discussed, and direct questions-answers should not be allowed in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. A question may be put with permission of the Gurdwara official conducting the proceedings. Provided the question is permissible, non-provocative, and general (not insulting, jeering or belittling in any way), may be allowed. A speaker may invite questions.

Nothing should irritate or agitate the Gurdwara Sewadars (serving there). A Sewadar (a person serving there) who cannot adjust or accommodate, should keep off, or mold him or herself.
 

Parkash Opening the Holy Book

Bringing the Granth to the Prayer Hall. In the morning, Guru Granth Sahib is brought to the prayer hall carried from its room on head, singing the Shabads - the Holy Hymns. If another person is there, he or she follows working a Chaur - hair-wisp, over it. The Granth - Holy Book, is placed on the Peerhee - cot, a low small bed.

Short Invocation. Standing before Guru Granth Sahib, a short Ardas - invocation, is said and then singing or saying appropriate Holy Hymns, it is gracefully, reverently, unwrapped and opened at about its middle. A Palak - cloth-sheet, is placed on each side of the Holy Book, its setting is checked, needed adjustments are made, and is covered with Romalas - cloth sheets, scarves. To learn, watch someone doing it.

Opening the Holy Granth. Working a wisp over it, it is uncovered again and Hukam - Order of the Guru, is read out from where it had already been opened. The Hukam, Vaak, or Shabed, is reading of a Holy Hymn at random. - mostly from about the middle part where at the Granth was opened. As well, it is commonly called a Hukam-Namah, but literally it means a written order.

Hukam - Inspiration. The Hukam is taken (the Holy Hymn is read) from top of the left page (right of the Granth), from its start - may be it starts on the back of this page (at the previous page). In a Gurdwara, it may be kept open at this page and covered for others to read or listen to this first Hukam of the day i.e. that of the morning. In the homes, this page is covered with a few pages from the right (left of the Book), and anyone may take a new (fresh) personal Hukamat any time. This is standard procedure, but its variations are there.

The Holy Presence - In the prayer hall, Guru Granth Sahib - the Holy Book, is kept open on the raised platform, for the Gurdwara-Session. Unless someone is reading out of it, the Holy Book is covered with nice, clean, cloth sheets.

Darshan - Beholding the Guru - Picking up cover of the Holy Book and merely looking at the page is not a `Darshan” - seeing it. The real Darshan is reading or listening to it.

Service to the Guru - Taking this as a service to the Guru, the frame of a door and legs of the palanquin etc. should not be pressed like pressing the limbs of someone. The real service is reading the Holy Book.

Kirtan - Devotional Music - Commonly, Waheguru (God), or Satte-Naamu-Waheguru (True God) is sung together by the principal (leading) singer and congregation. The congregation also participates in singing some Hymns.

Kirtan is always of the Shabads - Holy Hymns: from Gurbani. As for as possible, it should be rendered in the classical meter, or in the style specifically prescribed in the Holy Book ,for the particular Hymn. Most of the Ragis, render it in free or open strains not bound by the musical measures. They usually devise their own styles and tunes. It is good to sing some Hymns in the usual style, and others based on Nirdharat-Raags(prescribed classical measures). A Kirtan or a katha-kirtanis usually for about one hour.

“Hallae de Shabad” style of kirtan is welcome. These are sung with gusto and force as a chorus. The Sangat joins in, and their usual instruments are Dholak or Mirdang (double sided drum), Chimtae (long tongs with bronze plates), Chhaaenae (bronze plates) and kharrtaals (wooden blocks with small bronze plates).Singing of “Jotiaan dae Shabad” - is also practiced. In this style, two groups keep singing in turn - one stanza by one, and the next by the second group. The same stanza may be repeated by both the parties. Mostly, men and women sing a stanza in turn.

Compositions by Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Nand Lal, and some as references from the ancient Sikh books are permitted. The Holy Hymns should not be rendered on the tunes of the ordinary street and movie songs. By listening to such songs, wrong scenes may spring up in the mind. Neutral type, and non-political poems related to the Sikh faith and history, may be recited. political poems may not be permitted. The Gurdwara is a place purely for worship.In general, even outside the Gurdwaras, songs composed mimicking Gurbani, and rendered like a Kirtan, should not be permitted. The people do not differentiate such singing from a Kirtan. Otherwise, songs and poems related to the Sikh faith and their singing like songs has its own value.

Katha - Preaching or Sermon -Mostly it is a talk based on Gurbani, Sikh History, or explanation of a chapter out of some standard book like Suraj-Parkash etc. It may be undertaken after kirtan, or after Hukam but before distribution of Parshad. Kathakar - the preacher mostly sits cross-legged on the floor, or in the Tabya - in service (attendance) behind the Holy Granth. The management may fix up the days and timings of such programs.

Speech - In the presence of the Holy Book, only God, Guru, and Gurbani - Scriptures, should be discussed. Do not take up any other thing. When the Sikhs take Holy Book as their `Living Guru,” then they need to honor it that way. To maintain the sanctity of the prayer hall, it is better to discuss any other thing elsewhere, may be privately.

Any talk or discussion in the Sangat, in which a controversy can come up, should be reserved for after langar hours, so that those who are not interested or want to leave, are not delayed or deprived of the holy food.
 

Ardas
Invocation, or Supplication

Chhoti Ardas - Short invocation. It is said before opening the Holy Book. It includes recitation only of the starting Paurree (step), “Ardas. Ik-Oankar Vaheguroo jee kee fat.eh. Sree Bhagaut.ee jee sahaa-ae......” to “D.assaan' Pat.shaahee-aan d.ee jot.e..... Sree Guroo Granth Sahib ..... Bolo jee Vahaeguroo.” To it is added a supplication to the Holy Book seeking permission to open it, and for the Guru's Hukam. The Holy Book is opened according to the set procedure, reciting Gurbani.

Panthic Ardas - Standard, full length invocation. After the end of the prayer-session, approved Panthic Ardas - invocation ordained by the Sikh World, is made to the open Holy Book.

A Panthic Ardas (full length) should be as short as possible, with no repetitions and unnecessary additions. The stanzas from Gurbani should not be quoted within the main body of Ardas. Their limited number (a few of them) may be used before it.

Ardas, Taking Guru Granth Sahib for Rest - Chhotee Ardas, second time. Guru Granth Sahib should not be closed till Parshad has not been distributed.

When the Gurdwara session, or a program elsewhere is complete, a Shabad (Hymn) is recited from the Holy Book as before (from its left top), in the usual voice. It is reverently closed and wrapped in sheets. A Chhotee Ardas is said again, and a request is made to the Guru to permit taking it to the place of its rest. This Chhotee Ardas is the same as said at the time of opening the Holy Book.

After Chhotee Ardas, Sangat keeps standing, the Holy Granth is carried on the head, going around the cot (platform) from the left (anti clockwise), it is taken to its special room. It is done in the form of a small procession, singing Gurbani, and working Chaur (moving wisp) over it. After respectfully placing it on the bed there, all say Jaikara (slogan), “Jo bolae so nihaal, Satsri-Akal.” See “Sukh Asan.”

Ardas, Offerings - It will be nice if a Chhoti Ardas is made by a Sewadar at the time when the offerings in kind are made. It will protect the Panthic Ardas from becoming too long. Local Sangat can decide it. If such offerings have to be mentioned at the end of Ardas, this should be kept very brief and free from repetitions.

Ardasia. When doing Ardas, he or she should stand with folded hands, make no gestures, and stand calmly, but firmly. He or she should not hold in the hands a Kirpan: sword, arrow, or any other weapon while doing Ardas. Invocation projects humility, but a weapon in hand becomes its antithesis.

Parshad. Krrah Parshad may be prepared by anyone, anywhere, according to its discipline, and brought to the Gurdwara, may be it is for start or Bhog (culmination) of any type of Paath (recitation) of Guru Granth Sahib, may be it is an Akhand Paath - nonstop recitation.

Parshad - Bhog Lao, Parvan Karo - In Ardas, for eatables e.g. Parshad, Langar etc., an Ardasia should not say “Bhog lao jee” - please, eat it, but should request, “Parvaan karo jee” - please, accept it - approve it.

Parshad Kirpan Bhaet - Do not pass Kirpan through Parshad after Ardas, but wait and do it after Hukam. Kirpan Bhaet means acceptance of Parshad by the Guru. Naturally, it should come after Hukam.

Distribution of Parshad - Five portions for the Panj Piarae is taken out after naming each, and these are distributed to the Amritdhari Sikhs, or mixed back into the main Parshad (from which these portions were taken out). After this, a portion of Parshad is taken out to be kept as reserve, and then rest of Parshad is distributed. The reserve may be used by the one who is in Tabya - service, and as well be given to a visitors if Parshad is finished.

In Akhand Paath and Sampat Paath, Parshad is given to the visitors day and night.

Raaj karae-gaa Khalsa “Ageaa bhaee Akaal kee ......, Raj karae gaa khalsaa ..... etc.

Most of the people think that this piece of poetry belongs to the Tenth Master Guru Gobind Singh which it is not. It was composed by Giani Gian Singh and is given in his book Panth-Parkash (Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, 1987), at its page 353. Later, some others added to it the lines like “Raj karae gaa khalsaa” etc.

In Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar, this piece of poetry is not sung at the end of Ardas. A Gurdwarais for everyone from any faith and many avoid singing it lest someone feels hurt. It is another thing, that some may translate Khalsa as the “pure-ones,” but in fact Khalsa means property of the King (Guru) i.e. those who have faith in the Guru (Gurmukhs - devotees). But apparently, it is taken by the most as, “The Sikhs will rule,” although it may not mean this and the real rule be of the spiritual domain.To sing the above `Dohra' - type of poetry, is not essential, but if some need to sing something after Ardas, suitable Hymns or quotes may be selected from Gurbani rather than singing a composition by anyone other than the Guru. There is no shortage of such a material in Guru Granth Sahib, and in the Bani of Guru Gobind Singh. An example is -

Gagan dmamaa baajeou pareou neesaanaae ghaaou
Khaetu ju maandeo suurmaa abb joojhan ko daao
Sooraa so pahechaaneeaae ju larae deen kae haet
Purjaa purjaa katt maraae kabhoo naa chhadaae khaet.u
Kabir-1105-4
Hukam - Order of the Guru

Hukam, or Vaak - order, edict or Word of the Guru. This is inspiration for the day. The person in Tabya - in attendance - sitting behind the Holy Book, will read out from it the Hukam - order of the Guru: a Holy Hymn at random. When taking Hukam, it should be carefully read out and attempt should not be made to say any word out of it without reading. This is to avoid any error in reading or in phonation. His Hukam (revealed Bani) should be as it is written, with no minor error even.

Hukam should be recited in a reasonably loud voice, reverently, steadily, with humility, and without any hurry. The Holy Book is opened at random, usually at about its middle, and Shabad - the Holy Hymn, is recited from its start at the top on the left side page. It may start at the back of that (previous) page, start from there.

Shabad, Holy Hymn, is read from its start to the end however long it may be. Some Shabads are full-page length. If it is from the area wherein the script continues without breaks, the page of the Holy book may be changed. This may also be done if the Hymn is not according to the occasion, but some do not approve it. The page-change may be made to the right or left.

Sant Nand Singh used to take three chances to get a Shabad suitable to the need. Failing in three chances to get the right Shabad (may be in yes or no), he would postpone it to the next day, if the time permitted. The professional Bhai (brother - caretaker of the Holy Granth) roughly know the areas of the Holy Book for the Shabads right for the occasions.

The right Shabad is that which takes up your need, and it may or may not be according to your desire - it may be positive or negative to your wish. Trying more than once to get the decisive Shabad is a personal choice. Usually, the chance Shabad at the very first instance is relied on, and in general the people do not accept trials.
 

Translation of Hukam

If the translation of the Hukam is done, it should be direct, very short, with no elaborations, quotes and stories. If the Holy Hymn is long one, then, only its gist should be given.
 

Katha of Hukam

It is different from the plain, straightforward translation of the Hukam. One may take his or her allotted time to elaborate and comment on the Shabad. It is a descriptive sermon on the Hukam. History, anecdotes, and quotations from Gurbani and other acceptable sources may be added.
 

Paath - Reciting Guru Granth Sahib

Reading of Guru Granth Sahib may be of any type or style - Sehj Paath, Akhand-Paath, Saptahak-Paath, Sampat-Paath etc., for correct phonation of every word, it should be done by actual reading. Ladies can participate in every type of Paath. As a page marker, one may use a paper with a Shabad written on it. Do not dog-ear the corner of page.

Sehj Paath - It is a Sidharan Path - routine recitation with no restriction of time or days. It is a Paath at leisure, without any hurry. There is no set discipline for it.
Akhand-Paath - continuous recitation from its start to end without any break. It usually takes 48 hours, may be slightly less or more. Some think that only Amritdharis should do an Akhand Paath. Mostly, five persons do this recitation, but there is no strict limit. It should be done after full bath including the head wash, and changing to the washed, clean clothes. Ladies can equally take part in Akhand-Paath.
Saptahak-Paath - This reading is usually from the morning to the evening, and is completed in 7 days. Two or more persons may do it. Bhog - culmination of Paath, is on the seventh day in the morning.
Sampatt-Paath - keeping in mind the motive, a certain suitable Hymn is selected from the Holy Granth. It may be written down on a paper. Paath of the Holy Book is started right from the beginning, first by reading the selected Hymn from the paper or by reciting it by heart from memory. Thereafter, this selected Hymn is recited after every Shabad (Hymn)in its sequence in the Holy Book. This selected Shabad is recited also at the end of the recitation of the Holy Book. This is continuous reading without a break and may take 7 to 10 days or even more to complete it. Any number of persons may participate in this recitation. Its Bhog - culmination, is performed in the morning.
Bhog ceremony. Culmination of almost all Paaths is completed before the noon. Bhog of Paath as the last ceremony on a death is commonly performed in the afternoon, but it is not necessary. Akhand-Paath even of a sad occasion is mostly completed in the morning hours.


Madh - Middle of Paath

Parshad on reaching the middle of PaathThe Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib, has 1430 pages. Its middle is considered at page No. 705. Shabad at the bottom of page is, “Aade pooran madhe pooran ante pooran Parmaesurah.”

In every type of Paath, before reaching this Shabad, a fresh Parshad is prepared, Ardas (full) is said on reaching this Shabad, and it is distributed after Kirpan Bhaet.
 

Langar After Paath

Mostly after Akhand Paath and Sampat Paath, Langar (food) is served to the Sangat.Langar is served may be it is the occasion of joy or sorrow, but it is not necessary and is a personal choice. Some may serve snacks, cold drinks, tea, or coffee. Langar or snacks may be served after any Paath. There is no set rule for it.
 

Paathee to Learn Paath-recitation

Paathee is anyone reciting Paath (Scripture). It should be a must that Paath, including recitation of Guru Granth Sahib, is learnt from someone or by any other means - audiotapes, videotapes, CDs, computers etc. The best is to get the live instructions.
 

Who can do a Paath?

Reading the Holy Book can be done by anyone who can and desires to do it. No restrictions. Amritdhari or not, a Sikh or anyone else, everyone can read the Holy Book. The body and clothes should be clean. Mostly, the people open the Holy Book after taking a bath, and changing to the clean clothes. If one is not well, the one may go to the Holy Book after washing the face and hands (feet), provided the body and clothes are clean. Even today, many sit down for the Raul - turn, to do Akhand-Paath, after washing the hair, taking bath and changing to the clean clothes.

Paath and women. Women can do every type of Paath including recitation of Guru Granth Sahib - Akhand-Paath or Sampatt-Paath.. The body and clothes should be clean.

Parshad - Sanctified Pudding
A Gurdwara where Diwan - congregation, is held daily, fresh Parshad is prepared in the morning.

Leftover Parshad. Fresh Parshad is distributed. If some previously prepared Parshad is leftover, it may be added to the fresh left over Parshad. It can be be mixed to the fresh Parshad after Kirpan-Bheat.

It is said, the leftover Parshad should not be reheated. Can it be mixed to the freshly prepared Parshad, may be yes but to the leftover fresh Parshad. These are minor things to need attention.

Parshad from another Gurdwara. Sometimes, Parshad brought to Gurdwara from any other Gurdwara (Amritsar, Hazoor Sahib, Patna Sahib etc.), is mixed with the freshly prepared Parshad and distributed in the Sangat. This way, a small quantity can be given to a large number. This mixing should be done after Ardas, Hukam and Kirpan Bhaet of the fresh Parshad.

Re-offering Parshad. Parshad once offered, should not be offered to the Guru, again. Only fresh Parshad is offered.

Source of Parshad. Parshad is prepared in the Gurdwara, but it may come prepared from anywhere. It may be sent by anyone. Condition is that it should be prepared according to its discipline - clean body, clean clothes, head covered, recitation of Gurbani etc.

Parshad for the Odd Hour Visitors - Mostly, the Gurdwaras keep frosted Phullian - sugared puffed rice, or Patashae - small sugar-cakes, or Makhanae - sugar clusters. This is a handy Parshad for the visitors who come after the regular Parshad (Karrah-Parshad) is finished.

In a Gurdwara, such a Parshad does not replace fresh Karrah-Parshad usually prepared in the morning. Fresh Parshad is served after the Gurdwara session, and if possible after other Gurdwara programs. Everyday fresh Karah Parshad is optional for the Gurdwara where congregation is not held daily.

Pinnee Parshad (sweet cereal balls), or Panjeeree (sweet powder), are given as Parshad to keep for a long time. Chhotee-Ilaechi - green cardamoms, Kooza-Misree - sugar-crystals, or dry fruit - almonds and nuts, may be given to keep for still longer time.

Karrah-Parshad - Preparation It is also called “Tihauli Daa Parshadi.e. prepared with equal parts of three ingredients - Ataa (wheat flour), Ghee (butter oil), sugar, and to this is added three parts of water (. Wheat flour 1 lb, butter oil 1 lb, sugar 1lb, water 3 lb.) -

Sugar - In the United States, a little bit more of sugar makes it tastier, as the beetroot sugar here is not that sweet.

Wheat Flour - Wheat floor should be coarse and not fine or white.Parshad of pure cream of wheat does not stick together well (cohere, coalesce) and its grains easily scatter. About one third to half of Suji (cream of wheat) and coarse whole-wheat flour make a good mixture.

Ghee - Butter oil. Less of butter oil makes it dry and unpleasant to swallow. Some use butter in place of butter oil. Be careful that it is not salted. Parshad is prepared with pure butter or butter oil. Now, often, some take the liberty of using vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils, at least for the usual occasions.

Additions to Parshad - Fruits: dry or fresh, raisins, nuts, saffron, dyes, flavors, etc. are not added to Parshad. It is to maintain uniformity of the preparation, and to keep it affordable by everyone. Parshad is highly revered, it is kept covered and is touched with clean hands.

Parshad for keeping longer, while preparing, it is worked up with a ladle until grease (butter oil etc.) starts separating from Parshad.

Preparation of Parshad - Discipline
 

Cleanliness - Parshad is prepared after taking bath, wearing clean clothes, and with clean hands.
Cover - Head should be kept covered throughout cooking and while you are in the kitchen. No caps or hats. Have a dupattaa (length of cloth), scarf, or kaeskee (short cloth wrapped on head).
Clean Hands - No part of body, even the face, hair, or anything else, should be touched while preparing it.
Attitude - humility, reverence, devotion should prevail. All through preparing it, Jappu ji Sahib, Gurbani (Holy Hymn) should be recited. The Jaap of “Waheguru, Waheguru,” - God, my Lord, or “Satte-Naamu Waheguru” the True Name - God, is continuously recited calmly.
Talking - No non-essential talk while cooking or serving food. No gossips. Keep the mind fixed on God. Remember that you are preparing a holy food for offering to the Lord.
Eating - there should not be any eating, snacking, or nibbling in the cooking area.No one should eat at the kitchen counter. While eating outside, do not touch the cooked food or utensils without cleaning hands with soap and water.
Shoes - If need be, you can use slippers inside the kitchen. They should be reserved for the kitchen and must not be used for going to restroom (bathroom), or out of the Langar hall.
Health is not good - Do not go to Langar and do no cooking with cold, cough, fever, loose motions, or motions with cramps, or with any other infectious disease like mumps, chickenpox etc. Do not cook with injury, ulcer, boil, or eczema on hands. For a cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a napkin, look away from food and try to get away from it, dispose off napkin, and wash your hands with soap and water.


Parshad - Discipline

    Parshad should not be tasted at any stage of its preparation and afterwards.

    No portion of Parshad assigned to God and Guru, should be taken out for any purpose, until it has been offered to Guru Granth Sahib, and distributed after Ardas - invocation, Hukam, and Kirpan Bhaet (Kirpan passed through it).

    If this discipline (cleanliness, purity, not taking or eating a portion out of it) is not observed, Parshad is rendered unfit for offering to the Guru and God, and for distribution to the Sangat.

    Before distribution, Parshad should be cooled down to a comfortable level. If it is too hot, a ladle or spoon may be used to distribute it, and it may be taken on a napkin.

    Rather than using naked hands, it is best to distribute it with a spoon.

When Distributing Parshad
Take care of the following -
    Distribution of the napkins - Hands should be washed with soap and water immediately before distributing the napkins. Mostly children eagerly do this job. Someone should monitor them.

    Parshad - It is a boon from the Guru and Waheguru (the Lord). Immediately before touching it for distribution, hands should be nicely washed with soap and water. The nails should be kept properly trimmed.

    The bowl of Parshad should be held on hand and not against body. If needed, one person may hold the bowl and the other distribute it.

    The server should not try to keep mixing, kneading, pressing Parshad or making balls of it with his hand. He should take out a portion as it is, and give to the Sangat.

    Generally, Parshad is distributed with naked hands. Take care that the hands are healthy and nails are cut, and no medication has been applied to them.

    It may be a good idea to use thin, plastic gloves to serve Parshad.

    It may be okay if Parshad is distributed with something like a service spoon, ladle etc. It is an option but a local choice.There should be sufficient persons for the distribution of Parshadin the sections of men and as well women. If the Sangat is more, some should start distributing from the entry door side - rear of the hall, also.

    Parshad is distributed in equal quantity to everyone and without any prejudice or preference. All should be considered equal. Proportionately small amount may be given to the children, so that they can finish it.

    No talking or saying anything while distributing Parshad. Better, wrap a cloth across the mouth. Even “Waheguru” should be said in the heart (mind), unless the mouth is covered. It prevents its pollution and infection.

    No touching of any body part - not even face or hair, or anything else, when distributing Parshad.

    The Holy Book should not be closed till Parshad is distributed.
    The Sangat should be reminded in every session to pick up Parshad falling on the floor or carpet. Parshad should not get trampled.

    It is a good idea to cover the carpet with cloth sheets before the Sangat arrives, remove and wash them after their use.

Kirpan-Bhaet
Nothing eatable becomes a Guru's Parshad unless a Kirpan (small curved dagger) is passed through it. At Hazoor Sahib things are usually touched with an arrow.

Offering Parshad to the Lord - At the end of the proceedings in a Gurdwara, or at home, passing Kirpan through Parshad should be done after the Hukam has been taken. This use of Kirpan turns it into the sanctified Parshad - a thing accepted by the Guru, gift of the Guru. This is the Sikh way.

At Hazoor Sahib, besides Karrah-Parshad, all other offerings made by the devotees are touched with an all steel arrow after very short supplication by a Sewadar posted especially for this.

Panj-Piarae
Distribution of Parshad

First of all, five portions naming Panj-Piarae (the five loved by the Guru) are taken out in a separate small bowl.

Panj Piarae. These five names are -

Daya Singh
Dharam Singh
Himatt Singh
Mohkam Singh
Sahib Singh
Thereafter, another portion is taken in a bowl and put aside for any urgency, and for the one in Tabya (person in attendance of the Holy Book), or for any newcomer after the Parshad is finished. Parshad taken out in the name of five Panj Piarae is distributed amongst the five Sikhs in the sangat appearing to be Amritdhari, (properly inducted into Sikh faith), or it is mixed back into Parshad from which it has been taken out. Now, Parshad is distributed in the congregation, including those five who got it first.
 

Sodar
Sodar Dee Chaukee - In it, Rehras is recited in a Kirtan-style, in the evening at the time of sunset. After it, Kirtan Sohla is also recited.
 

Sukh-Asan
Guru Granth Sahib Santokhna -taking Guru Granth Sahib for rest.

Guru Granth Sahib must be closed, and should not be left open overnight unless someone is reading it e.g. an Akhand-Path.

Without involving Sangat, a Shabad may be read silently once again, from top of the page on left. It is not essential to read the Shabad of the morning. Variations are there. Perhaps, Namdhari (Kookae) read the Shabad at the bottom of the opposite i.e. right-hand page. This has no special significance.Palkaan - the cloth pieces hanging on two sides of the Holy Book, are removed, and it is closed. If there are extra cloth strips of the short width on front and backsides of the closed Holy Book, coming from the binding, these are wrapped over the front and back of the closed Book held up (wrapped around the edge of the deck of pages). If the binding itself has a flap, it is covered over the top of the Holy Book held upwards on closing, and is not tucked inside binding. The Granth is wrapped in nicely smoothed cloth sheets.

Chhoti Ardas - a short prayer (the first Paurree - first step of Ardas and request for its retiring) is said standing before the Holy Book, and then it is placed on the head of a person and carried as a very small procession, walking around the dias from the right to left for Sukh-Asan - retiring i.e. resting of the Holy Book, all along singing together the Hymn, particularly “Jithae jaae bahae maeraa Satguru so thann suhavaa Ram Rajae (The place is blessed to which my Lord retires), or saying “Waheguru, Satte-Naamu” etc. Throughout, the Sangat keeps standing and singing. As the Holy Granth passes by the people, they reverently bow to it.

The holy Book is placed on the cot in the room. Jaikara, “Jo Bolae so nihaal, Satsri Akaal,” is shouted. After bowing to the Guru, Sangat comes out of the room, and door is closed. Everyone moves to the Langar hall to take food.After Gurdwara Session, the Holy Book should be removed to the separate room used only for it's resting, and is placed on a cot or other dignified bed. The room should be clean, and well ventilated. It should be especially for this purpose, and not used as a store and for any other purpose. It should have a canopy above Guru Granth Sahib. In the room, night-light should be left on.

The Holy Granth should not be left on the cot, or in Palki - palanquin, in the prayer hall.

At homes, a nice closet or almirah is mostly used for this purpose, or it is left on the cot etc. It depends on the availability of the space and facility. The bigger Sikh homes usually have a separate prayer room.
 

Sohela or Kirtan Sohela

This is the last Sikh prayer for the day. It is recited as the last thing at the night before going to bed, and takes a couple of minutes. In a Gurdwara, the person closing the Holy Book in the evening, recites it while closing and wrapping up the Holy Book, provided he or she knows it by heart. If need be, another person may recite or read it. If at home, recitation of Rehras gets late, Sohela may be recited along with Rehras, after it. Otherwise, it is recited before going to sleep.

PROCEDURES IN THE LANGAR

Langar - Community Kitchen. It is a common free kitchen, and in it the food is prepared and served jointly, as a selfless (voluntary) service with a smile.If there is a kitchen, the Langar may be prepared in the Gurdwara. If not, it is brought from homes, prepared singly or jointly. The idea is to have the self-prepared food as a voluntary service, and as far as possible it should not be ordered from a restaurant. Langar is to teach selfless service with love.

Preparing Food - To be acceptable to everyone, Langar is always vegetarian. The purity and cleanliness of the kitchen, mind, body, hands, and preparations is maintained. While preparing food, gossips are avoided, and the mind is kept occupied with Naam-Jaap or with recitation of Gurbani. Jappu ji Sahib is the leading Bani (Scripture) for recitation while preparing langar or Parshad. In the kitchen, head should be kept covered, and no one should eat anything in that area.

Rasad - Uncooked Food
A rough estimate of items needed for Langar

A food prepared for 25, can conveniently be served to 35, that for 50 to 70, for 100 to 125, and for 150 to 175 and a few more. A few minor adjustments might have to be made by adding a little water and appropriate amount of condiments to beans and vegetables with gravy, and a little milk to Yogurt (curds). Chillies, pepers and salt should not be added inconsiderately for whatsoever reason there be.

If the Sangat is more than estimate, easy preparations in the needed amount can be cooked fast. Precooked vegetable fast-foods can be availed. Pre-baked flat breads, Naans, and other breads are freely avaiable. Vegetable pizza can be served. Plain rice can be prepared in a short time. These will cut down the required need of Chapatis to one third. Those who prepare such foods, well know the quantities needed.

Langar Estimate for 150 Guests

Mrs. Parminder Kaur Grewal is expert in the Langar-service. She has given the following estimates for some raw foods. These quantities are for 150 guests. The quantities can be adjusted according to the number of persons.

Ata (wheat flour) 30 lb. It should make 350-400 breads, sufficient without additional rice. The flour should not be pure white. Its breads become hard and tough, soon. Some mix a little Maida - fine white flour to give a good look to the bread. Full cream milk, or Yogurt added to flour keeps breads soft. The kneaded flour may be left for a couple of hours to rise (ferment) to make it soft. For this purpose, adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) should preferably be avoided, and small quantity of vegetable yeast may profitably be added to it. It raises the floor and produces vitamin B-Complex, too. Have the proper mix of flour for making Poorees (deep fried breads).
Rice - 20 cups (10 lb.) of rice will serve 150 persons, without additional breads. To make both breads and rice, half the amount of rice (5-7 lb.) and 10-15 lb. of wheat flour (200-300 breads) should be sufficient. For Zarda - saffron colored sweet rice 5-7 lb., and for Kheer 3-4 lb. of rice should do.
Vegetables - All vegetables together - Gobhi (cauliflower), carrots, green peas, potatoes, Dhaniaa (coriander), Pudina (mint-leaves), green onions, etc. will make a total of 25-30 lb..
Tomatoes, and onion 3-5 lb. each, ginger 1-2 lb., and garlic lb, should be okay.Dall-lentils (pulses) e.g. Maash (black), red beans (Raj Mah), small kidney-beans (black eyed) etc. 8-10 lb..
Condiments, salt, peppers, green peppers should be used with restraint to leave the dishes eatable by everyone. Minimum use of chilies and peppers. Mostly, unnecessary addition of condiments leave the preparation uneatable.
Butter - 4 lb., and if it is butter oil, then about 3 lb.. It will be mainly used for preparing Parshaad. Quantity should be reasonably more if full Langar has to cooked with pure Ghee (butter oil). Vegetable oils should preferably be cholesterol-free. One half to 3/4 gallon oil should be in stock.
Plane Yogurt - to make Pakaaurris (chickpea Yogurt) etc., 3 Gallons.
Mixed Pickle - like `Panch Ranga Achar' etc. 1-2 lb.. Finely cut carrots and onions may be added to it.
Parshad - Wheat flour 3 lb., Salt free butter 3lbs, sugar 3 lb.. One usual cup measures one pound. Adding a small quantity of Suji (cream of wheat) to wheat flour, renders the consistency of Parshad pleasantly grainy. It makes it less sticky, but if it is much more, the flour does not bind together well. If it is butter, it should be a bit more to burn down to butter-oil. Betroth sugar is less sweet and it should be added slightly more. Parshad should not be over sweet, over dry, or over oily.
Discipline- Langar Preparation

Take bath and enter the kitchen with clean clothes, and freshly washed hands using soap and water. No one busy cooking should gossip or snack, and mind should be occupied by Gurbani - Scriptures, Shabads - Holy Hymns, or with the Name of God (Waheguru, Waheguru, Satte-Naamu Waheguru etc.).

No portion of the food assigned to langar should be taken out for any purpose before offering it to the Guru and God, Ardas, Hukam, and passing Kirpan through preparations.

No one should eat inside the langar - kitchen. Keep it in the mind that when preparing langar, you are doing it for the Guru and God. The Langar-containers, or service-pots are not touched with unclean hands, and preparations are kept covered.

Tasting Langar - During its preparation or afterwards, Langar should not be tasted, not even for assessing its salt, spices and sugar. The preparations should have very mild chilies or peppers, so that everyone can comfortably tolerate them. Be careful even if these are green chilies. More of them can be added latter by the person eating it, according to his or her taste.

Salt, pepper, chilies, condiments, sugar, should also be served, like pickles or onions. After eating has commenced, salt etc, can be adjusted after asking those who are eating, or if they themselves inform about it. Mostly, the served food is accepted as it is.

Ardas, Kirpan-Bhaet - Invocation and passing Kirpan through all items. According to the Sikh way, passing Kirpan through them signifies their purification and acceptance by God and the Guru. It turns it into the holy food.

Before serving food Ardas is said. Usually, the prepared food is offered to Guru Granth Sahib, and is removed from there after Ardasand passingKirpanthrough every item, may be except water: a natural commodity. Ardas can be said in the kitchen, and Kirpan passed. Thereafter, all items are returned to their main containers, and service started even before the end of prayer session. Langar service may continue in the Langar hall independent of the service in the prayer hall.

Ready-made Preparations - Sometimes, ready-made Naans - flat breads, are ordered. Rarely, in an unforeseen emergency, vegetable pizza, or anything else like bread and butter etc., or food from a restaurant, might have to be purchased and served.

Langar - food, should be kept very simple, but usually it is not. Commonly, a sweet dish is also there e.g. Kheer - sweet rice pudding, ice cream, fine sweet noodles, or sweets. Some also serve tea, coffee, and maybe cold drinks as well. There is no end to Sewa - selfless service. Unless it is the Gurdwara service, the Sangat provides Langar in turn. Sweets and fruits may be brought by other devotees.

Condiments - Pickles, Chutneys (ketchups, pastes), onions, and other condiments may be served. Salt, peppers and chilies may also be provided.

Grace - Prayer - At homes, a short prayer - grace, is said by some, before and after taking food. A few suitable quotes from Gurbani are recited. In the Gurdwara langar, this tradition can be adopted to the delight of the devotees.

Sitting Arrangements - At some places, low chairs or other seats are provided, particularly for the use of handicapped persons. In some Gurdwaras, tables and may be chairs too, are there for anyone wishing to use them. The main idea of langar is to sit at one level (floor) without any discrimination, and to eat with others. It is an effort to promote equality of all, and a step to eradicate ego.

SERVING LANGAR
Everyone serving in the Langar will himself or herself eat after the Sangat has finished eating.
    It is practical to spread plastic sheets on the floor in front of Pangat - rows, to place utensils or plasticware on them. This will protect the carpet and floor.

    Nothing should be served with naked fingers. Use service spoons, spatulas or ladles. The latex or plastic gloves may be used.

    The glasses for water, tea etc. should be held close to their bottoms, and not at their tops. Fingers should not go inside the glasses.

    Service is given with a smile, without prejudice, and all are treated equally.Service should be prompt, careful, without ignoring anyone or any item.

    In Sangat, no one should be served a different food unless there is a sound reason for it e.g. some health problem. You cannot serve butter to one and give usual food to the other.The choice of selection for eating out of the served food is an individual matter. One may not like to take rice and another may not prefer a Chapatti (Roti, a flat bread). Some may like to eat condiments and onions, and others may not. Do not serve anything not accepted. Take only that which you will eat.

    Give only the amount that is asked for, or only a reasonable quantity. Serve carefully that the given portion gets finished, and nothing is left over. Serve food to children in the right proportion. Their parents should also take care of this.

    Do not talk while serving langar. It is ideal to keep mouth covered with cloth.
    When serving, do not hold service bowls, jugs, breads, glasses etc. against your body.
    When serving, put only that much portion that does not flow over to other compartments of the plate, if such plates are used.
Absentees It is best if a prospective absentee informs before hand of his or her missing the Gurdwara session. This will bring economy in preparing the food and Parshad. Someone should keep a watch and if Sangat goes above estimate, necessary adjustments in the food to be served should be made - adding quick cooking foods - rice, potatoes etc. .

Langar Service Langar is supposed not to be closed, and the food has to be provided to the visitor at all hours of the day and night. But it may not be possible at every Gurdwara, especially in the overseas countries where a resident Sewadar - a volunteer e.g. the caretaker may not be available at all hours. At such places, unserved (leftover) Langar is distributed for taking home and nothing is kept for the off time service.

Sound System For Langar There should be extension of the prayer hall sound system into Langar, for the benefit of the Sewadars (workers) and Sangat there.

SERVICE
Some services

Sewa - Selfless i.e. voluntary Service.

Sewa is selfless service and it is very important in the Sikh World. Cleaning the used utensils in Langar, and shoes of the Sangat in the Gurdwara, are the top Sewas. Help to clean the Gurdwara-building, cooking Langar and serving it, and maintaining Gurdwara-yard, are usual Sewas. Still, an important service in India is serving fresh, clean, drinking water to the people, and even to the animals. Such a water-dispensing stand is called a Chhabeel. The people render selfless service while reciting the Name of God.

Sewa-Panthee Saints - Selfless-Service Saints. One sect of saints is Sewa-Panthee - saints with selfless service as their main path. Such renowned saints have been recognized and honored especially for renovating Gurdwara buildings, setting up educational institutions, establishing hospitals, and for physical and spiritual services to the human beings, and as well to the animals. Such great saints attained miraculous powers through their selfless services.

Sewa is part and parcel of the Sikh life.

You may come across a container with the label Sewa It is a can to put in trash, a `Service.'

Disposable plasticware has mostly eradicated the selfless service of cleaning utensils, or has pushed it to the background. One can transform it into the Sewa of another kind. Electricity has taken away the Sewa of manually fanning Sangat.

 


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