During the times of the early Gurus, Sikh places of worship were referred to as ‘Dharamsalas.’
They were a place where Sikhs could gather to hear the Guru speak or sing hymns.
As the Sikh population grew, Guru Hargobind introduced the concept of ‘Gurdwara,’ meaning the gateway through which the Guru could be reached.
Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as Gurdwaras.
Any place where the Guru Granth Sahib is installed and treated with due respect can be referred to as a Gurdwara, whether it is a room in one’s house or a separate building.
Three main functions are carried out in all public Gurdwaras: 1. Kirtans or songs from the Guru Granth Sahib 2. Katha or reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and explanations and 3. The Langar –free community kitchen for all visitors of all religions. Along with these main functions, Gurdwaras around the world also serve the Sikh community through libraries, schools and charitable work in the community.
When entering the Gurdwara, one is expected to remove the shoes and cover one’s bare head as signs of respect towards the sovereignty of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Hands and feet are washed prior to entering the sanctum sanctorum.
Approaching the Guru Granth Sahib, one is expected to bow down and touch the floor as a sign of respect. Cash offerings are usually made at this time to help carry the expenses of running the Gurdwara and community work.
These offerings are voluntary.
All people, irrespective of their status, sit on the floor. One may enter or leave the congregation at any time. Men and women do not generally sit together but on separate sides of the room, both at an equal distance from the Guru Granth Sahib.
All people are expected to stand facing the Guru Granth Sahib when the Ardas (common prayer) is read.
Open to all
Gurdwaras are open to all people of all religions and are generally open 24 hours a day. Some Gurdwaras also provide temporary accommodation for visitors or pilgrims. In the Langar, all sit on the floor and food is cooked and served by volunteers at all times. Only vegetarian food is served so that no person may be offended and all people of all religions can sit together to share a common meal, irrespective of any dietary restrictions.