Central to Sikh worship is reverence for and reading from the community’s Scripture, the Adi Granth Sahib, which is treated almost like a living person, seeing it is the successor to the 10 gurus of Sikhism’s founding and early history. There is an official caretaker of this book, who lives on the premises and each evening puts the Adi Granth Sahib to rest in a room near the raised ornate platform where it lies during the day. Early each morning this official caretaker “awakens” the Adi Granth Sahib, bringing it out to again be placed on its “throne” platform for reading.
Gurdwaras have congregational services of worship in which men sit on the right side, women on the left in the sanctuary. There are no pews or chairs, not even in the dining area. Everyone sits on the floor. Shoes are left in the lobby at the entrance to the gurdwara, and worshipers go barefoot. All people present, including visitors, are expected to have their heads covered, in the case of men if not by a turban, then by a kerchief.
Sikh practices in their gurdwaras might seem punctilious to some observers, but shaping their everyday life is the message of the Adi Granth, whose teaching one source summarizes as equality of men and women, monotheism, truthfulness in speech and life, avoidance of vices, living in God’s order, and practicing humility, kindness, compassion and love.
I couldn’t stay for the langar’s meal, but I very willingly accepted a cup of tea — with milk and sugar, of course, and just the right amount of cardamom.
ONLINE: For more on the local gurdwara, go online to http://www.gurunanakdarbarsahib.com/
Marlin Jeschke is professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Goshen College. In 1968-69 he received a Fellowship in Asian Religions, spending five months at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School and five months traveling in Muslim countries of the Middle East and Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia. His “The American Religious Landscape” broadcast can be heard every Sunday at noon on FM 91.1.