Code of Conduct

Sikh Defined

Definition of Sikh

  • Any human being who faithfully believes in the following is a Sikh
  • One Immortal Being
  • Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh
  • The Guru Granth Sahib
  • The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus
  • The baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and
  • Who does not owe allegiance to any other religion

Gurdwaras, Congregational Etiquette, Rites

Joining the Congregation for understanding of and reflecting on Gurbani

  1. One is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani (the bani bequeathed by the Gurus) participating in
    congregational gatherings. For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh that he/she visit the places where the Sikhs
    congregate (the Gurdwaras), and partake in the study of the Holy Scriptures
  2. The Guru Granth Sahib will be ceremonially opened in the gurdwara every day without fail. Except for special
    events, when there is need to keep the Guru Granth Sahib open during the night, the Guru Granth Sahib will not
    be kept open during the night. It will, generally, be closed ceremonially after the conclusion of the Rehras
    (evening scriptural recitation).
  3. The Guru Granth Sahib will be opened, read and closed ceremonially with reverence. The place where it is
    installed should be absolutely clean. An awning should be erected above. The Guru Granth Sahib should be
    placed on a cot measuring up to its size and overlaid with absolutely clean mattress and sheets. For proper
    installation and opening of the Guru Granth Sahib, there should be cushions/pillows of appropriate kind etc.
    and, for covering it, romalas (sheet covers of appropriate size). When the Guru Granth Sahib is not being read,
    it should remain covered with a romal. A whisk, too, will be there.
  4. Practices such as the arti with burning incense and lamps, offering of eatables to Guru Granth Sahib, burning
    of lights, beating of gongs, etc., is contrary to this Code of Conduct, as well as gurmat (The Guru’s way). However,
    for the perfuming of the place, the use of flowers and scent is not barred.
  5. No book will be installed like and at par with the Guru Granth Sahib. Worship of any idol or any ritual or activity
    will not be allowed to be conducted inside the gurdwara. Nor will the festival of any other faith be allowed to
    be celebrated inside the gurdwara. However, it will not be improper to use any occasion or gathering for the
    propagation of the gurmat (The Guru’s way).
  6. Pressing the legs of the cot on which the Guru Granth Sahib is installed, rubbing nose against walls and on
    platforms, held sacred, or massaging these, placing water below the Guru Granth Sahib’s seat, making or
    installing statues, or idols inside the facility, bowing before the picture of the Sikh Gurus or elders, are considered
    irreligious self-willed egotism, and are contrary to this Code of Conduct, as well as gurmat (The Guru’s way).
  7. When the Guru Granth Sahib has to be taken from one place to another, the Ardas should be performed.
    He/she who carries the Guru Granth Sahib on his/her head should walk barefoot; but when the wearing of shoes
    is a necessity; no superstitions need be entertained.
  8. The Guru Granth Sahib should be ceremonially opened after performing the Ardas. After the ceremonial
    opening, a hymn should be read from the Guru Granth Sahib.
  9. Whenever the Guru Granth Sahib is brought, irrespective of whether or not another copy of the Guru Granth
    Sahib has already been installed at the concerned place, every Sikh should stand up to show respect.
  10. Shoes are not permitted inside the Gurdwara facility, including the Guru’s Kitchen, Langar Hall, Library, and
    Classrooms. As such, one must take off their shoes and store them in the designated areas. If ones feet are dirty
    or soiled, they should be washed with water. For hygiene purpose, footwear must be worn in the toilet /
    bathroom facilities.
  11. No person, no matter which country, religion or cast he/she belongs to, is debarred from entering the
    Gurdwara. However, he/she must not have on his/her person or be under the influence of any form of
    recreational alcohol, tobacco or other intoxicants, which are tabooed by the Sikh religion. Furthermore, they
    must adhere to all rules noted in this Code of Conduct.
  12. In the congregation, there will be no differentiation or discrimination between Sikh and non-Sikh, persons
    traditionally regarded as touchable and untouchable, the so called high and low caste persons, or the high and
    the low.
  13. No person is to sit bare-headed in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib or in the congregation, including
    the Guru’s kitchen and Langar Hall. A ‘hat’ or ‘cap’ is not permitted to be worn as a form of head-covering. For
    Sikh women, joining the congregation uncomfortably draped and with veils drawn over their faces is contrary to
    this Code of Conduct, as well as gurmat (The Guru’s way).
  14. All persons, no matter which country, religion or cast he/she belongs, will be offered, and served, a
    vegetarian meal, as they sit on the floor of the Langar Hall. (Note: Limited table / chair seating will be available
    for people who require such seating – example elderly and injured).


Devotional Hymn Singing by a Group or an Individual

  1. Kirtan means singing of scriptural compositions in traditional musical measures, on any instrument.
  2. In the congregation, kirtan only of Gurbani (Guru Granth Sahib’s or Guru Gobind Singh’s hymns) and, for its
    elaboration, of the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed.

Taking Hukam

  1. In the course of the congregational sessions, only one thing will be done at a time: performing of kirtan,
    delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures, or reading of the scriptures.
  2. Any person, man or woman, is entitled to be in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib during the congregational
  3. Only a Sikh may read out from the Guru Granth Sahib for others. However, even a non-Sikh may read from it
    for himself/herself.
  4. For taking the command (Hukam), the hymn that is continuing on the top of the left page must be read from
    the beginning. If the hymn begins on the previous page, turn over the page and read the whole hymn from the
    beginning to the end. If the scriptural composition that is continuing on the top of the left hand page is a var
    (ode), then start from the first of the slokas preceding the pauri and read upto the end of the pauri. Conclude
    the reading at the end of the hymn with the line in which the name ‘Nanak’ occurs.
  5. Hukam must also be taken at the conclusion of the congregational session or after the Ardas.

Components of Gurdwara Service

Exposition of Gurbani (Sikh Holy Scriptures)

  1. The exposition of the Gurbani in a congregational gathering will be carried out only by a Sikh.
  2. The object of the exposition should only be promoting the understanding of the Guru’s tenets.
  3. The exposition can only be of the ten Gurus writings or utterances, Bhai Gurdas’s writings, Bhai Nand Lal’s
    writings or of any generally accepted Panthic book or of books of history (which are in agreement with the Guru’s
    tenants) and not of a book of any other faith. However, for illustration, references to a holy person’s teachings
    or those contained in a book may be made.
  4. No discourse contrary to the Guru’s tenets should be delivered inside a gurdwara.
    Gurdwara Service

In the gurdwara the schedule of the congregational service will generally be as follows:

  • Ceremonial opening of the Guru Granth Sahib
  • Kirtan
  • exposition of scriptures
  • expository discourses
  • recitation of Anand Sahib
  • the Ardas
  • the raising of Fateh slogan followed by ‘Sat Sri Akal’
  • taking the Hukam


Ceremonies pertaining to Social Occasions

Anand Sanskar (Wedding Ceremony)

  1. A Sikh man and woman should enter wedlock without giving thought to the prospective spouse’s caste and
  2. A Sikh’s marriage should be solemnized by Anand marriage rites.
  3. Child marriage is not permitted for Sikhs.
  4. Consulting horoscopes for determining which day or date is auspicious or otherwise for fixing the day of the
    marriage is a sacrilege. Any day that the parties find suitable by mutual consultation, and available, should be
  5. For marriage, there should be a congregational gathering in the holy presence of Guru Granth Sahib. There
    should be hymn-singing by ragis or by the whole congregation. The couple to be wed are to sit on the floor facing
    the Guru Granth Sahib. The wife-to-be should sit on the left side of the husband-to-be.After soliciting the congregation’s permission, the master of the marriage ceremony (who may be a man or woman) will bid the couple to be wed and their parents / guardians to stand and should offer the Ardas for the commencement of the Anand marriage ceremony. The officiant will then appraise the couple to be wed of the duties and obligations of conjugal life according to the Gurus tenets, as well as an exposition of their common mutual obligations.The officiant will tell the couple to be wed how to model the husband-wife relationship on the love between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul in the light of the contents of circumambulation (lavan) hymns in the Suhi measure(raag) section of the Guru Granth Sahib. Furthermore, the notion of the state of “a single soul in two bodies” to be achieved through love and make them see how they may attain union with the Immortal Being discharging duties and obligations of the householders life. Both bride and groom have to make their conjugal union a means to the fulfillment of the purpose of the journey of human existence; both have to lead clean and Guru-oriented lives through the instrumentality of their union.

    It will also be explained to the bride and groom individually their respective conjugal duties as husband and wife. The groom will be told that the bride’s people having chosen him as the fittest match from among a whole lot, he should regard his wife as his better half, accord to her unflinching love and share with her all that he has. In all situations, he should protect her person and honour, he should be completely loyal and faithful to her and he should show as much respect and consideration for her parents and relations as for his own.

    The bride will be told that she has been joined in matrimony to her groom in the hallowed presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and the congregation. She should ever harbour for him deferential solicitude; she should remain firm in her loyalty to him and serve him in joy and sorrow and in every clime (native or foreign) and should show the same regard and consideration to his parents and relatives as she would, to her own parents and relatives.

    The bride and groom must bow before the Guru Granth Sahib to betoken their acceptance of these instructions.
    Thereafter, the girl’s father or the principal relation should make the girl grasp one end of the sash which the boy is wearing over his shoulders and the person in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib should recite the matrimonial circumambulation stanzas (lavan of the fourth Guru in the Suhi musical measure section of the Guru Granth Sahib). After the conclusion of the recitation of each of the stanzas, the groom, followed by the bride holding the end of the sash, should go round the Guru Granth Sahib while the ragis or the congregation sing out the recited stanza.

    The bride and groom, after every circumambulation, must bow before the Guru Granth Sahib in genuflexion, lowering their forehead to touch the ground and then stand up to listen to the recitation of the next stanza. There being four matrimonial circumambulation stanzas in the concerned hymn, the proceeding will comprise four circumambulations with the incidental singing of the stanza. After the fourth circumambulation, the boy and girl should, after bowing before the Guru Granth Sahib, sit down at the appointed place and the ragis or the person who has conducted the ceremony should recite the first five and the last stanza of the Anand Sahib. Thereafter, the Ardas should be offered to mark the conclusion of the Anand marriage ceremony and the sacred pudding distributed.

  6. Persons of other faiths can be joined in wedlock by the Anand Sanskar ceremony, provided the bride and groom, and their respective friends families abide by the rules noted in this Code of Conduct and most importantly respect the Guru Granth Sahib.To alleviate any doubt, the following are not allowed within this Gurdwara, and are contrary to this Code of Conduct:
  • Bride and Groom sitting on chairs in front of the Guru Granth Sahib (except for wheel-chairs)
  • Any form of modification of the Anand Sanskar
  • Any other religions prayers and / or method of wed-lock
  • Use of any celebratory / alcoholic drinks
  • Kissing, holding hands, music (other than kirtan), dancing, or singing
  • Taking of photos with ones back to the Guru Granth Sahib

Altruistic Work

Voluntary Work and Guru’s Kitchen / Langar

Voluntary service (Sewa) is a prominent part of Sikh religion. Its simple forms are: sweeping, serving water to
the congregation, offering provisions to and rendering any kind of service in the common kitchen-cum-eating
house, dusting the shoes of the people visiting the gurdwara, etc.

  1. The philosophy behind the Guru’s Kitchen / Langar Hall is to provide training to all people in voluntary service
    and to help banish all distinction of high and low, touchable and untouchable from ones mind.
  2.  All human beings, high or low, and of any caste or colour are to sit and eat on the floor of the Langar Hall. No
    discrimination on grounds of the country of origin, colour, caste or religion must be made while making people
    sit in rows for eating. (Note: Limited table / chair seating will be available for people who require such seating –
    example elderly and injured).
  3. The provision of all foods and meals cooked and / or served from the Guru’s Kitchen / Langar Hall and within
    the Gurdwara must be classified vegetarian. To alleviate any doubt, such meals must not include:
  • Alcoholic substances
  • Egg products
  • Meat products (including bi-products), and /or
  • Halal products