Thursday, 3 July 2014

South Asian Culture Basics: The Gurdwara

Whereas Islam weddings are held in mosques, and Hindu weddings in the Mandir, Sikh weddings are performed in the Gurdwara, the religion’s place of worship. There are dozens of Gurdwaras spread across England alone, catering to the spiritual needs of the country’s Sikh Indian population. In Punjab, Gurdwara translates to "residence of the Guru".

At one point in time, the Gurdwara was called a dharamsala, which means "spiritual dwelling" in Sanskrit. There's also a city called Dharamsala in the province of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, which is the Dalai Lama's residence in exile. In the early 17th century, Guru Har Gobind introduced the term "Gurdwara."  

Apart from carpets, the inside of a Gurdwara is plain; there are no figures nor physical symbols of the faith, as Sikh teachings say that God has no physical form. However, the Guru Granth Sahib, or the Sikh book of scriptures, is housed in a Gurdwara. Basically, in Sikhism today, the term "guru" refers to the scriptures.  

While inside the Gurdwara, it's important to observe the sanctity of the place at all times. For this reason, footwear must be taken off, and the feet must be washed before entering. The Gurdwara also functions as an event hall with its own Langar or kitchen where food is served. To avoid offending other religions, vegetarian food is served in the Gurdwara. 

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