Amrit Sanskar, Baptism
This is the sacred
ceremony for the initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood. It should be taken only
by those who are fully mature enough to realize the commitment required and the
significance. The initiate may be a man or woman of any caste or previous
religion. Generally they are encouraged to start behaving, acting and looking
like a Sikh before seeking baptism. The baptism is done in a quiet place away
from distractions where Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been installed. The initiate
is required to wash their hair, cover their head, wear clean clothes and the
5K's before presenting themselves before 6 amritdhari Sikhs (those who are
already baptized). Five amritdhari Sikhs will conduct the ceremony while one
reads Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The principals of Sikhism are explained to the
initiate and this is followed by Ardas and taking of the Hukam (opening of Sri
Guru Granth Sahib to a random page and reading of a hymn). Amrit (sweet sugar
water) is prepared in a steel bowl and stirred with a kirpan by the five beloved
ones while Japuji, Jaap, Ten Sawayyas, Bainti Chaupai and 6 verses from Anand
Sahib are recited. This is followed by Ardas and the initiate drinking the amrit
five times in cupped hands and exclaiming Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki
Fateh (The Pure Belong to God, Victory to God). Amrit is then sprinkled on the
hair and eyes of the initiate and any leftover is drunk by all present. This is
followed by an explanation of the code of conduct and discipline required for a
Khalsa. The Khalsa is required to wear the 5K's and abstain from 1) cutting
hair, 2) eating Muslim halal meat, 3) cohabiting with a person other than ones
spouse and 4) using intoxicants such as tobacco. Other breaches of the code of
conduct are also explained before Ardas is once again repeated. This is followed
by taking Hukam and eating of karah prasad (sacred pudding) from a common bowl.
If a person does not have a Sikh name, they take a new name at this time.
In Sikhism death is
considered a natural process and God's will. Any public displays of grief at the
funeral such as wailing or crying out loud are discouraged. Cremation is the
preferred method of disposal, although if it is not possible any other method
such as burial or submergence at sea are acceptable. Worship of the dead with
gravestones, etc. is discouraged, because the body is considered to be only the
shell, the person's soul is their real essence. The body is usually bathed and
clothed by family members and taken to the cremation grounds. There hymns are
recited which induce feeling of detachment are recited by the congregation. As
the body is being cremated, Kirtan Sohila the nighttime prayer is recited and
Ardas is offered. The ashes are disposed of by immersing them in the nearest
river. A non continuos reading of the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is undertaken
and timed to conclude on the tenth day. This may be undertaken at home or in the
Gurdwara. The conclusion of this ceremony marks the end of the mourning period.
This is the non-stop
cover to cover reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is undertaken to celebrate
any joyous occasion or in times of hardship, such as birth, marriage, death,
moving into a new house, and Gurpurbs. The non stop reading takes approximately
48 hours and is carried out be family members, or professional readers in the
presence of the family. The reading must be clear and correct so that it can be
understood by all listeners. After the completion of the reading the Bhog
ceremony takes place. A Hukam is taken by randomly turning to any page and
reading the hymn on that page. Karah parshad (sacred pudding) is also
distributed to all present.
This ceremony evolved in the mid 18th century when there were few hand written copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs were fighting for their lives at this time and hiding in jungles. They would all gather to hear whatever portion of a reading that they could before Sri Guru Granth Sahib would me moved to another location for another audience. Performance of Akhand Path as a blind ritual is highly disrespectful to Sri Guru Granth Sahib and contrary to the teachings of the Gurus.
associated with the lives of the Gurus are referred to as Gurpurbs. These are
usually marked at gurdwaras with Akand Path (continuos cover to cover reading of
Sri Guru Granth Sahib) concluding on the specific day. There is also kirtan
(musical recitation of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) as well as katha
(lectures on Sikhism). Some places also have nagar kirtan, where there is a
procession with Sri Guru Granth Sahib led by 5 Sikhs carrying Nishan Sahibs (the
Sikh flag). Free sweets and langar are also offered to the general public
outside some gurdwaras.
Among the larger Gurpurb
The Indian festival of
lights held around October 25th. Guru Amar Das institutionalized this as one of
the special days when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings at
Goindwal. In 1577 the foundation stone of The Golden Temple was laid on Diwali.
On Diwali 1619 the Golden Temple was illuminated with many lights to welcome
home and celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind from imprisonment in Gwalior
fort. Sikhs have continued this annual celebration with lamps being lit outside
gurdwaras and sweets distributed to all. The largest gathering happens at The
Golden Temple which is lit up with thousands of lights.
Sikhs visit gurdwaras and
listen to kirtan on this day to commemorate the martyrdom of the Forty
Immortals. The largest gathering happens at Muktsar where an annual fair is
held. It occurs on the first day of Maghar Sangrant, around January 14. Forty
followers of Guru Gobind Singh who had previously deserted him, fought bravely
against overwhelming Mughal army forces and were martyred here. Guru Gobind
Singh personally blessed them as having achieved mukti (liberation) and cremated
them at Muktsar.
Hola MohallaAn annual festival of thousands held at Anandpur Sahib. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the Indian festival of Holi. The mock battles were followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihang Singh's carry on the martial tradition with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. There are also a number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. The festival culminates in a large parade headed by the nishan sahibs of the gurdwaras in the region. Hola Mohalla is held around March 17.
This is the time when the
sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next, it is the start of the new
month in the Indian calendar. The beginning of the new month is announced in the
gurdwaras by the reading of portions of Bara Maha, Song of the 12 Months, by
Guru Arjan Dev (pg. 133) or sometimes Bara Maha by Guru Nanak Dev (pg. 1107).
This day just marks the beginning of the new month and is not treated as being
greater or better than any other day.
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