Where Unity Is Strength

Rehat Maryada – A Guide To The Sikh Way Of Life


Author:  Kanwaljit Kaur and Indarjit Singh

First published May 1971
Translator’s Note
The original Punjabi version of this translation was drawn up under the auspices of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandakh Committee – the central religious advisory body of the Sikhs – and approved for issue in February 1945.The Rehat Maryada is an attempt by a dedicated group of scholars to summarise the main teachings of the Gurus and outline the Sikh way of life. For further explanation and enlightment one cannot do better than to refer to the Guru Granth (Main Sikh Scripture) and other Sikh scriptures, English translations of which are now available.
What is a Sikh?A Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in one God, the Ten Gurus, the Guru Granth and other scriptures and teachings of the Ten Gurus. Additionally, he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of “Amrit” (the Sikh baptism ceremony).

Essential Beliefs
Sikhism is concerned both with a person’s life as an individual and with his corporate life as a member of the Sikh Community.

The following two sections are devoted to a fuller explanation of both these aspects of Sikhism.



As regards the individual, Sikhism is concerned with:
I. Study of the scriptures and meditation on God
II. Living according to the Gurus’ teaching
III. Active service to the community.

I. Study of the scriptures and meditation on God

1. A Sikh should,
Rise early, bathe and meditate on the one true God.

2. The following scriptures should be read or recited:
(a) Japji Sahib, and (b) Jap Sahib and Ten Swayas Early morning prayer.
(c) Sodar, Rehiras Evening prayer.

This includes: nine shabads from the Guru Granth (from Saren pera ki rakho sarma), Benthi Choupai Patshai Das (from Hamri Karo hath de racha to Dusht dokh tu laio bachai), Swaya Pae gaha jab te tumre, Sagal diwar ko chad ke, the first five stanzas and the last stanza of the Anand Sahib, Mundawni and Slok Muhala Panjwa Tera kita jato nahi.

(d) Sohila (late evening prayer said before retiring).

3. The Ardas
This is a short direct prayer to God and occupies a somewhat similar position in the Sikh religion to the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity. Its format is as follows, with the first eight and last two lines being obligatory:


Having first remembered God Almighty, think of Guru Nanak; Then of Angad Guru and Amar Das and Ram Das; may they help us! Remember Arjan, Hargovind and the holy Har Rai. Let us think of the holy Harkishan, whose sight dispels all sorrows. Let us remember Teg Bahadur, and nine treasures shall come hastening to our homes.
May they all assist us everywhere.
May the Tenth King, the holy Guru Gobind Singh, the lord of the hosts and the protector of the faith, assist us everywhere.
Turn your thoughts, O Khalsa, to the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib and call on God.
The Five Loves Ones, the Master’s four sons, the forty Saved Ones, and other righteous, steadfast and long-suffering souls: think of their deeds and call on God.
Those men and women who, keeping the Name in their hearts, shared their earnings with others; who plied the sword and practised charity; who saw others’ faults but overlooked them, think of their deeds and call on God.
Those who for their religion allowed themselves to be cut up limb by limb, had their scalps scraped off, were broken on the wheel, were sawn or flayed alive, think of their sweet resignation and call on God.
Those who, to purge the temples of long standing evils, suffered themselves to be ruthlessly beaten or imprisoned, to be shot, cut up or burnt alive with kerosene oil, but did not make any resistance or utter even a sigh of complaint; think of their patient faith and call on God
Think of al the different temples, thrones of religious authority and other places hallowed by the touch of the Guru’s feet, and call on God.
Now the whole Khalsa offer his prayers.
Let the whole Khalsa bring to his mind the Name of the wonderful Lord;
And as he thinks of Him, may he feel completely blessed.
May God’s protection and grace extend to all the bodies of the Khalsa wherever they are.
May the Lord’s glory be fulfilled and His dispensations prevail.
May victory attend our Charity and our Arms.
May the God’s sword help us.
May the Khalsa always triumph.
May the Sikh choirs banners, mansions abide forever and ever.
The kingdom of justice come.
May the Sikhs be united in love.
May the hearts of the Sikhs be humble, but their wisdom exalted, their wisdom in the keeping of the Lord, O Khalsa, say the Lord is wonderful.
O true King, O loved father, we have sung Thy sweet hymns, heard Thy life-giving Word, and have discoursed on Thy manifold blessings. May these things find a loving place in our hearts and serve to draw our souls towards Thee
Save us, 0 Father, from lust, wrath, greed, undue attachment and pride; and keep us always attached to Thy feet
Grant to Thy Sikhs the gift of Sikhism, the gift of Thy Name, the gift of faith, the gift of confidence in Thee, and the gift of reading and understanding Thy holy Word
O kind Father, loving Father, through Thy mercy we have spent our day in peace and happiness; grant that we may, according to thy will, do what is right.
Give us light, give us understanding, so that we may know what pleases Thee.
We offer this prayer in Thy presence O wonderful Lord:
Forgive us our sins. Help us in keeping ourselves pure
Bring us into the fellowship of only those men of love in whose company we may remember Thy name
Through Nanak may Thy Name forever be on the increase
And may all men prosper by Thy grace.

On conclusion of the Ardas, the whole congregation bows before the Guru Granth and, rising again, say in unison:
Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Siri Waheguru Ji ki Fateh.
Which is translated as:
“Hail Khalsa of the wonderful Lord who is always victorious.”
This is followed by a spirited Sat Siri Akal, which has been variously translated as “The true God” or “God is truth.”

During the Ardas, the congregation should stand with palms together in prayer, with the person actually saying the Ardas standing immediately in front of the Assembly facing the Guru Granth. If the Granth is not present, the direction faced is immaterial.

If the Ardas is said especially for the benefit of a particular person or group, only they need rise.

4. Congregational Devotion

The Gurdwara

(a) Study of and meditation on the scriptures within the congregation is very important, and Sikhs are urged to visit the Gurdwara as often as possible,

(b) The Guru Granth should be opened for reading daily but should not be left in the open position, unless still in use, overnight.

The Granth is usually closed after the Rehiras but may be kept open as long as the Granthi or another bona fide person is present or likely to be present, so that there is no possibility of the Granth being irreverently handled.

(c) The Guru Granth should be opened, read and closed with reverence. It should be in an elevated position on a form or stool in clean well-lit surroundings. It should be opened with care with small cushions being used for support and aRamala (cover cloth) used to cover it in between readings whilst in the open position. A canopy should be erected over the area in which the Guru Granth is placed.

(d) No articles other than the above mentioned are to be used. Rituals derived from the other religions, such as the ceremonial lighting of candles, burning of joss stocks, idol worship and the ceremonial ringing of bells are completely forbidden. Candles may, however, be used purely for lighting and the use of joss sticks, flowers etc., is allowed for deodorising or purifying the atmosphere.

(e) No other book should be afforded the same reverence in the Gurdwara as the Guru Granth, and no irreligious event may be celebrated there. The Gurdwara can, however, be used for any assembly in the furtherance of the cause of religion.

(f) Such superstitious practices as touching the nose or forehead against the stool or form on which the GuruGranth is placed, the placing of water under the stool, idol worship or even bowing before the pictures of the Gurus, are strictly forbidden

(g) The Ardas should be said before the Guru Granth is moved from one place to another. Anyone who carries the Guru Granth should, preferably, walk barefooted, but shoes may be worn if special circumstances make this desirable.

(h) A shabad should be selected at random from the Guru Granth after the completion of the Ardas.

(i) Whenever the Guru Granth is moved, everyone present should stand up to show reverence.

(j) Shoes must be removed before entering the Gurdwara and the feet, if dirty, should be washed.

(k) A clockwise direction should be adopted when walking round either the Guru Granth or the Gurdwara.

(l) Anyone irrespective of caste or creed, may enter a Gurdwara, provided they do not carry tobacco or anything else specifically forbidden by the Sikh religion.

(m) After entering the Gurdwara, the Sikh should greet the congregation, the living image of the Guru, with the words:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Siri Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
(Hail Khalsa of the wonderful Lord who is always victorious.)

(n) In the congregation, no distinction should be made between Sikh and non Sikh; between social position or caste.

(o) To sit on special cushions, chairs, couches or sofas whilst in the congregation, or to show any other distinction or superiority, is contrary to Sikhism.

(p) No one should sit bareheaded in the congregation, while the Guru Granth is open. It is contrary to Sikh belief for women to cover their faces or to wear purda.

(q) There are four seats of Sikh religious authority:

(i) Siri Akal Takhit Sahib, Amritsar.
(ii) Takhit Siri Patna Sahib.
(iii) Takhit Siri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur.
(iv) Takhit Siri Hazur Sahib.

(r) Only Sikhs who have had Amrit (baptism) and observe the five Ks are allowed in certain areas of the Takhits.

(s) The Sikh flag should be flown from a high place on every Gurdwara. The colour can be either saffron or blue and should be adorned with the distinctive Sikh symbol incorporating the Khanda or double edged sword.

(t) A large drum should be kept in the Gurdwara and sounded at appropriate times.

Kirtan (Singing of Hymns)

(a) Kirtan consists of the singing of hymns from the scriptures composed in classical Indian musical style.

(b) Kirtan performed in the congregation should be sung by Sikhs.

(c) Kirtan should consist of musical adaptations of, either hymns by the Gurus, or the explanations of the Gurus writings by Bhai Nand Lal or Bhai Gurdas.

(d) While composing musical adaptations of hymns, no addition or subtraction may be made to or from the original words.

(e) To bow one’s head before the Guru Granth, to show reverence to the congregation, to read or hear readings from the Guru Granth, is equivalent to being graced by the presence of the true Guru. Simply opening the Guru Granth to look at it, is however a superstition and is contrary to Sikhism.

(f) Only one form of devotion at a time should be practised by the congregation, whether it be the singing of hymns, the reading of scriptures or listening to sermons or religious lectures.

(g) During a service, the person who sits in attendance at the Guru Granth should be a Sikh.

(h) Only a Sikh should sing hymns during a service, but all persons are free to sing or read these for themselves outside the assembly.

(i) The Guru Granth is often opened to read a lesson or message from a page chosen completely at random. When this is done, the lesson chosen is the one at the top of the left hand page, and if it commences on the previous page, the reading should also start there.
If a Var(ode) has been selected, then the whole Pauri(stanza), includingSalokas(staves), shouls be read as far as the sentence that concludes with the words “,i>Nanak Nam.”

(j) Such random readings as described above should be used to conclude a service after the saying of the Ardas

Sidharan Path (Normal reading of the Guru Granth)

(a) Every Sikh should try to keep a separate place in his or her own home for reading and studying the Guru Granth.

(b) Every Sikh should learn ,Gurmukhi and read the Guru Granth.

(c) Every Sikh should read a lesson (Hukum) from the Guru Granth before taking a morning meal. If this is not possible for any reason, the reading should be done later in the day. However, one should not have superstitious fears, if one cannot comply with this requirement or, if one is unable to see or read the Granth at times of difficulty or before undertaking a long journey.

(d) It is desirable that a Sikh should complete a full reading of the Guru Granth in the course of one or two months.

(e) Before beginning a new reading of the Guru Granth, the first five and the last verse of the ,Anand Sahib should be said followed by the Ardas and reading of a lesson. The new full reading of the Guru Granth should then commence with theJapji Sahib.

Akhand Path (Non-stop reading of the Guru Granth)

(a) Akhand Path is done to mark special occasions of great joy, sorrow or distress. The complete reading (carried out by a number of people in a series of shifts) takes approximately 48 hours. The reading must be clear and accurate and not too fast, so that it can be easily understood.

(b) Any person who asks for or arrangesAkhand Path to be earned out should, as far as possible, ensure that the reading is done by himself, his family or friends. If, for any reason, such a person is unable to help with the reading, he should at least listen to as much of the reading as possible. It is wrong for people to ask for Akhand Path to be said, without their being prepared to either read or listen to it. Those asked to help with the reading may be given food and sustenance, according to the means of those that arrange the Path.

(c) No other book must be read whilst Path is being carried out.

(d) Before starting Akhand Path, the first five verses and the last verse of theAnand Sahib should be read followed by the Ardas and Hukum. This should be followed by the distribution of Kara Prashad (Holy Sweet) to the congregation. The Akhand Path can then be commenced.

(e) A completed reading (either continuous or non continuous) of the Guru Granth should be followed by a reading of either the Mundawni or Rag MalaThe Anand Sahib is then read and followed by the Ardas and Hukum. After Akhand Path, Kara Prashad is distributed to the congregation.

(f) At the time of the Akhand Path it is usual to give donations for the upkeep of the Gurdwara and for the furtherance of Sikhism. This should be given according to one’s means.

Kara Prashad

(a) This is made from a mixture of plain flour or semolina cooked with equal quantities of butter and sugar. Hymns should be sung whilst the Kara Prashad is being prepared. After preparation, the Prashad is placed on a small stool near the Guru Granth. The first five verses and the last verse of the Anand Sahib are then said and followed by the Ardas and Hukum, after which the Prashad is ready for distribution. The first five portions symbolise the memory of the first five baptised Sikhs (Panch Piare).

(b) No favouritism or greed must be shown in the distribution or acceptance of Kara Prashad.

Ketha (Exposition or commentary on the Gurus’ teachings)

Expositions or commentaries on the Gurus’ teachings should be given to the congregation by a practising Sikh.


No lecture, the content of which is contrary to Sikhism, may be given in the Gurdwara.

The Service

There is no stipulated form of service. A programme could consist of: readings from the Guru Granth, singing of hymns (Kirtan), explanation of hymns, lectures, the Anand Sahib, Ardas and Hukum.

II. Living According to the Gurus’ Teachings

A Sikh should live and work according to the principles of Sikhism, and should be guided by the following:

(a) He should worship only one God, and should not indulge in any form of idol worship.

(b) Live a life based on the teachings of the ten Gurus, the Guru Granth, and other scriptures and teaching of the Gurus.

(c) Sikhs should believe in the “oneness” of the ten Gurus. That is, that a single soul or entity existed in the lives of the ten Gurus.

(d) A Sikh should have no dealings with caste, black magic, superstitious practices such as the seeking of auspicious moments, eclipses, the practice of feeding Brahmins in the belief that the food will go to one’s ancestors, ancestor worship, fasting at different phases of the moon, the wear- -ing of sacred threads and similar rituals.

(e) The Gurdwara should serve as the Sikh’s central place of worship. Although the Guru Granth is the centre of Sikh belief, non-Sikh books can be studied for general enlightenment.

(f) Sikhism should be distinct from other religions, but Sikhs must in no way give offence to other faiths.

(g) Knowledge of Sikhism is highly desirable for a Sikh and this should be acquired in addition to his other education.
(h) It is the duty of Sikhs to teach Sikhism to their children.

(i) Sikhs should not cut their children’s hair. Boys are to be given the name of Singh and girls the name Kaur.

(j) Sikhs should not partake of alcohol, tobacco, drugs or other intoxicants.

(k) Sikhism strongly condemns infanticide, particularly female infanticide.

(l) Sikhs should only live on money that has been honestly earned.

(m) No Sikh should gamble or commit theft.

(n) Sikhs must not commit adultery.

(n) A Sikh should respect another man’s wife as he would his own mother; and another man’s daughter as his own daughter.

(o) A man should enjoy his wife’s companionship and women should be loyal to their husbands.

(p) A Sikh should live his life from birth to death according to the tenets of his faith.

(q) A Sikh should greet other Sikhs with the salutation “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Siri Waheguru ji ki Fateh” (Hail Khalsa of the wonderful Lord who is always victorious.)

(r) It is contrary to Sikhism for women to wear purda.

(s) Any clothing may be worn by a Sikh provided it includes a turban (for males) and shorts or similar garment.


(a) As soon as a mother is well enough after the birth of a child, she, with her husband and family, should go to the Gurdwara, give Kara Prashad (the amount is immaterial) for serving to the congregation, and read hymns of thanksgiving and happiness. The Hukum (random reading of the Guru Granth) is then read and the name of the child is chosen to begin with the first letter of the first word of the Hukum. The name chosen should be announced to the congregation as soon as it has been decided by the family concerned. A girl’s name should be followed by Kaur and boy’s name by Singh. The first five verses and the last verse of the Anand Sahib are then read and followed by
Ardas and distribution of Kara Prashad.

(b) No superstition should be attached to food eaten at this time,
“Birth and death are according to His will;
It is through His will that we come and go,
There is no impurity attached to food or drink,
It is all the gift of God and should be thankfully received.’


(a) Caste or birth should be of no account in Sikh marriages.

(b) A Sikh’s daughter should marry a Sikh.

(c) The Sikh marriage ceremony should be according to the Anand Karajceremony.

(d) A girl should marry when she attains physical and mental maturity, and no marriage should take place if either the boy or girl is of tender age.

(e) A formal engagement before marriage is not necessary, but if both parties so desire, a token engagement can be made by the girl’s parents visiting the boy’s parents on a mutually convenient day and presenting them, after the saying of the Ardas, with a short sword (Kirpan) and bangle (Kera) for the boy, and a gift of sweetmeats.

(f) The seeking of an auspicious day for the marriage by the use of horoscopes, is contrary to Sikh belief; any date that is mutually convenient is suitable.

(g) Such practices as the tying of head bands, rituals depicting ancestor worship, pretended sulking or sadness, dancing by women of doubtful moral character, the drinking of alcohol, burning of so called sacred fires and similar superstitions derived from old religious practices are completely contrary to Sikh belief.

(h) At the time of marriage, the boy and his family, accompanied by no more than the number of friends and relatives desired by the girl and her family (who normally make all arrangements for the marriage) go to the Gurdwara at the girl’s place, and with the girl’s family, sings hymns of praise to God.

(i) For the wedding ceremony, the congregation sits in the presence of the Guru Granth and hear hymns of praise to God. These may be sung either by the congregation or by professional musicians. The bride and groom should be seated in front of the Guru Granth, with the bride seated at the left of the groom. The person who officiates at the ceremony (this may be any Sikh approved by the congregation) then asks the bride and groom and their parents to stand while he says the Ardas. This is the start of the marriage ceremony proper, and is followed by a short sermon by the officiator, in which he explains the significance of the Sikh marriage ceremony. The love between husband and wife is compared with the love and longing of the human soul for God. The bride and groom are reminded of their respective duties; the love and loyalty they should show to each other, and how the should share both their sorrows and their joys. Both groom and bride are advised to love and respect the other’s relatives as they would their own.

After this short lecture, the officiator asks the bride and groom to signify their assent to the marriage by bowing before the Guru Granth. A scarf is held at one end by the groom and the other end is placed in the bride’s hand by her father or guardian. The Guru Granth is opened to the Lavan (marriage prayers). The officiator reads the first verse and this is then sung by the congregation whilst the couple rise, each still holding their end of the scarf, and walk slowly around their Guru Granth with the groom leading until, on reaching their starting position, they sit down to hear the second verse being read. As before, the congregation then sing this verse and again the couple circumambulate the Guru Granth and this is then repeated for the remaining two verses of the Lavan. The service is then concluded in the usual manner; that is with the singing of the first five verses and last verse of the Anand Sahib, the saying of Ardas and the distribution of Kara Prashad.

(j) Sikhs should not follow such old fashioned practices as refusing to eat at their married daughter’s home.

(k) Whilst a Sikh should normally have only one marriage partner, there is nothing in Sikhism against either widows or widowers remarrying, if they so desire.

(l) Married Sikhs who have had Amrit (baptism) should encourage their partners to do likewise.


(a) No rituals derived from other religions, or from any other source, should be performed when a death occurs. Solace must be found in reading the Guru Granth and meditating on God.

(b) Deliberate exhibitions of grief or mourning are contrary to Sikh teachings. The bereaved should seek guidance and comfort in the hymns in the Guru Granth and try to accept God’s will.

(c) A dead person, even one who dies very young, should be cremated. However if arrangements for cremation do not exist (e.g. at sea) the body may be disposed of by immersion in water.

(d) Cremation may be carried out at any convenient time whether day or night.

(e) The five Ks should be left on the dead body, which should, if possible, be cleaned and clothed in clean garments before being placed in a coffin or on a bier.

(f) Hymns should be said as the body is taken to the Place of cremation.

(g) A close relative should light the pyre and those assembled should sing appropriate hymns from the Guru Granth.

(h) The cremation ceremony is concluded with the Kirtan Sohila prayers and the saying of the Ardas

(i) Prayers for the departed soul should then be commenced at the deceased’s home or at a convenient Gurdwara. These prayers should commence with the usual six stanzas of the Anand Sahib, the saying of Ardas and distribution of Kara Prashad, and should be continued for about ten days. The near relatives of the deceased should take as large a personal part in reading and listening to readings from the Guru Granth as possible.

(j) The ashes of the deceased may be disposed of by burial or by immersion in water, but it is contrary to Sikh belief to consider any river holy or specially suitable for this purpose.

(k) The erection of a memorial in any shape or form is contrary to Sikh belief.

III. Active Service to the Community

It is contrary to Sikhism to consider any form of labour to be below one’s dignity or station in life. Stress is laid on the virtue of doing such work for the benefit of the community or for humanity at large. Sikhs should readily volunteer to perform such tasks as sweeping the floors of Gurdwaras and serving food and water to the congregation.

The serving of food and water to all, irrespective of caste, creed or race is known as Langar, and is a distinctive feature of Sikhism. It is important that no distinction or priorities are allowed in either the seating arrangements or the serving of food. The dual purpose of Langar, besides providing food to the needy, is to emphasize the attached to serving others, and the complete equality and brotherhood of all humanity.



This section relates to the following aspects of Sikhism:

1. The Panth (Sikh community).
2. The Baptism ceremony.
3. Punishment.
4. Decisions on Religious Questions.
5. Appeal against Local Decisions.

1. The Panth

Service to society is perhaps the most important aspect of Sikhism and Sikhism recognises that effective service is best done by collective or organised effort. Every Sikh, in addition to the duties already described, is urged to be an active member of this organisation of Panth. Only Sikhs who have been properly baptised or initiated into Sikhism and who retain their five Ks can be considered full members of the Panth.

2. The Baptism Ceremony

(a) The Baptism ceremony may be conducted in any quiet and convenient place. In addition to the Guru Granth, the presence of six Sikhs is necessary: one to read the Guru Granth and five to administer the Baptism.

(b) Both those receiving baptism and those administering it should bathe and wash their hair prior to the ceremony.

(c) Any Sikh who is mentally and physically “whole” (man or woman) may administer baptism provided that he himself had received baptism and continues to wear the five Ks.

(d) Any man or woman of whatever nationality, race or social standing, who is prepared to accept the rules governing the Sikh community, has the right to receive baptism.

(e) No minimum age limit is stipulated, but those receiving baptism should have attained maturity.

(f) Those undergoing baptism should have the five Ks (unshorn hair, comb, shorts, sword, steel bangle). No jewellery or distinctive marks associated with other faiths may be worn, and the head must be covered.

(g) Anyone seeking rebaptism after having broken his previous baptismal pledges may be given an appropriate penance by the five administering baptism.

(h) During the ceremony, one of the five “Piares” (“five loved ones”—representing the first five Sikhs), stands and explains the main rules and obligations of the Sikh community. These are to love and pray to one God, to read, study and live according to the Sikh scriptures, and to help and serve humanity at large.

Those receiving baptism are then asked if they are willing to abide by these rules. If so, one of the five flares says a prayer for the commencement of the preparation of the Amrit (Nectar) and a random lesson from the Guru Granth is read.

Clean water and sugar or other soluble sweet, is placed in the bowl which must be of steel. The five now position themselves around the bowl in the Bir Asanposition (kneeling on the right knee with the weight of the body on the right foot, and the left knee raised). Having so positioned themselves they commence to recite the following:

The Japji Sahib, Jap Sahib, Ten Swayas (Swarak such walle) Benthi Chopai (fromHamri karo hath de racha to Dusht dokh tu laio bachai) and the first five verses and last verse of the Anand Sahib.

Anyone who is reciting these prayers should place his left hand on the edge of the bowl and stir the nectar with a short sword held in the right. The others involved in the ceremony should place both hands on the edge of the bowl and concentrate or meditate on the nectar.

After the completion of these prayers, one of the five says the Ardas, after which the nectar is served. Only those who have sat through the whole ceremony may be served.

The nectar is received by those being baptised whilst sitting in the Bin Asanposition (previously described) with the hands cupped, right on left, to receive the nectar.

This is received five times in the cupped hands; each time after receiving the nectar, the persons being baptised say “Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa; Siri Waheguru Ji ki Fateh.” This salutation is repeated each time the nectar is sprinkled on the eyes (5 times) and hair (5 times). The remainder of the nectar is then shared by those receiving baptism, all drinking from the same bowl.

After this, all those taking part in the ceremony recite the Mool Mantra in unison:

There is one God; His name is truth
The all pervading Creator,
Without fear, without hatred;
Immortal, unborn, self existent.
One of the five then detail the rules and obligations of the newly baptised Sikhs.

“From now on your existence as an ordinary individual has ceased, and you are members of the Khalsa brotherhood. Your religious father is Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth and last Guru and founder of the Khalsa brotherhood) and Sahib Kaur your mother. Your spiritual birthplace is Kesgarh Sahib (birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh) and your home Anandpur Sahib (the place where Guru Gobind Singh started the Khalsa). Your common spiritual parentage makes you all brothers and you should all forsake your previous name (surname) and previous local and religious loyalties. You are to pray to God and God alone, through the scriptures and teachings of the ten Gurus. You should learn the Gurmukhi script if you do not know it already and read daily the Japji, Jap. Ten Swayas, Sodar Rehiras and Sohila, and should hear or read the Guru Granth.

You must keep the five Ks and are forbidden to:

(i) smoke tobacco or take drugs

(ii) to eat meat killed by ritual slaughter
(i.e. according to Moslem or Jewish rites)

(iii) commit adultery

(iv) cut your hair.

Anyone who contravenes any of these rules has broken their Amrit vows and must take Amrit again, after a suitable penance if the contravention has been deliberate.

Members of the Khalsa must be always ready to work for the community and should donate one tenth of their income for the furtherance of religious or social work.

(j) The newly baptised Sikhs are told not to associate with: —

(i) the followers of Prithi Chand, Thir Mal, Ram Rai or other breakaway groups

(ii) those who actively oppose Sikhism

(iii) those who practice infanticide

(iv) those who take alcohol, tobacco or drugs

(v) those who wed their children for monetary gain

(vi) those who perform any rite or ceremony contrary to Sikhism

(vii) apostate Sikhs who do not keep the five Ks.

(k) Ardas is then said and followed by the reading of the Hukum Guru Granth, are asked to choose a new name in the customary manner.
The ceremony is then concluded with distribution of Kara Prashad, which, to emphasise the new brotherhood, is eaten by those newly baptised, from a common dish.

3. Penance

Those who have erred or broken their Amrit vows should publicly apologise to the congregation and perform whatever penance is suggested by five chosen members of the congregation. This, wherever possible, should be some form of manual work. The penance must be unquestioningly accepted and Ardas is said immediately after its declaration.

4. Decisions on Religious Questions

Only a centrally elected body of Sikhs can take decisions on religious questions concerning the teachings and writings of the ten Gurus, the Amrit ceremony and other rules or codes outlined herein. Other questions relating to the social and political aspects of the Sikh Religion may however, be decided locally.
5. Appeal against Local Decisions

Appeals against local decisions on social and political aspects of Sikhism, can be made to the Siri Akal Takhit, Amritsar.


Guru Granth: The Sikh bible or holy book. Compiled by Guru Arjan m 1604 and finally completed and edited by Guru Gobind Singh, who, shortly before his death m 1708, invested the holy book as Guru. Frequently referred to thereafter as the Guru Granth Sahib—the living voice of the Gurus.

Akhand Path: continuous recitation of the Guru Granth.

Amar Das: The third Guru (1479-1574). Took the first active steps in organising the Sikhs as a community.

Amrit: Sikh baptism ceremony. Also name given to nectar used in baptism ceremony.

Anand Karaj: Sikh marriage ceremony.

Anand Sahib: Name of prayer composed by Guru Amar Das.

Anandpur Sahib: District of Punjab where, in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh started the Khalsa.

Angad: The second Guru (1504-1522). Introduced the Gurmukhi script, thereby improving literacy and thus breaking the Brahmins’ monopoly in this field. Compiled a biography of Guru Nanak based on material supplied by Bala, a lifelong companion of Guru Nanak. Consolidated the institution of Langar started by Nanak.

Ardas: An important Sikh prayer addressed directly to God and occupying a similar position in Sikhism to the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity.

Arjan: The fifth Guru (1563-1606). Compiled the Guru Granth and built the Golden Temple- Martyred in 1606.

Bhai: A respectful form of address; literally, “brother”

Benthi Chopai br>Patshai Das: A religious composition by Guru Gobind Singh.

Gobind Singh: Tenth and last Guru (1666-1708). Created the Khalsa. Completed the Guru Granth. Ended the line of Gurus and ordained the Guru Granth as the Guru or future guide of the Sikhs.

Granthi: The person who looks after the Gurdwara and the Holy Granth.

Gurdwara: Sikh temple or church.
Gurdas: Generally known as Bhai Gurdas. Assisted Guru Arjan to compile the Guru Granth.

Gurmukhi: Punjabi script used and popularised by Guru Angad.

Guru: Literally, a teacher.

Guru Granth Sahib: Name given by Guru Gobind Singh to the Guru Granth.

Hamri karo hath de racha: “Lord, protect us with your hand.” Opening line of Benthi Chopai, a composition of Guru Gobind Singh.

Hargovind: The sixth Guru (1595-1644). Started the military organisation of the Sikhs to fight against religious persecution.

Harkishan: The eighth Guru (1656-1664). Appointed Guru at the age of five but died of smallpox three years later.

Har Rai: The seventh Guru. Consolidated the organisation of the Sikhs on peaceful lines.

Hukum: Literally, “command.” Name given to the reading or lesson chosen at random from the GuruGranth.

Jap Sahib: A religious composition by Guru Gobind Singh.

Japji Sahib: A religious composition by Guru Nanak.

K’s: The five Ks. The five symbols or uniform of a baptised Sikh. Namely: unshorn hair, comb, shorts, sword and steel bracelet. (Kesas, Kanga, Kachcha, Kirpan and Kera).

Kara Prashad: Holy sweet.

Kaur: Literally princess. A name or title given to all Sikh females.

Kera: Steel bracelet. One of the five Ks or symbols of a baptised Sikh.

Ketha: Religious discourse.

Kesgarh Sahib: Place in Anandpur where Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa in 1699.

Khalsa: The order of baptised Sikhs founded by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Khanda: Literally a double-edged sword. Also the name of a distinctive design that incorporates a double-edged sword and is used as the symbol of Sikhism.

Kirpan: A short sword. One of the five Ks or symbols of a baptised Sikh.

Langar: The practice of serving free food (usually at a Gurdwara) to all who enter, in a manner that allows no distinction between those of different religion, race or social position. The practice, first started by Guru Nanak is aimed at developing a spirit of service among the Sikhs and providing food for both the congregation and the needy. An important aspect is that in encouraging people from different parts of the community to sit and eat alongside one another, it helps to break down the divisive barriers of race, caste, creed and social position. It is an important aspect of Sikhism.

Lavan: Circumambulations of the Guru Granth during the Sikh Marriage Ceremony.

Mool Mantra: The opening lines of the Japji Sahib in which Guru Nanak describes the essential attributes of God.

Mundawni: A verse by Guru Arjan, the main compiler of the Guru Granth, in which he describes the spiritual gifts or jewels contained in the Granth

Nam: Literally name. In Sikh theology. God and his attributes.

Nanak: First of the Sikh Gurus (1469-1539). Founder of Sikhism. Taught that true Religion was the same no matter what faith one nominally belonged to. Travelled and preached extensively and wrote many hymns and religious compositions. Nominated Guru Angad to continue his teachings.

Nand Lal: A famous poet and a friend and contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh.

Panch Piare: The first five baptised Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh, in forming the Khalsa in 1699, asked, at a large public gathering, for a volunteer to come forward who was willing to allow himself to be sacrificed in the cause of Religion. A man stepped forward and was taken into a tent by the Guru, who later emerged alone, with a sword dripping with blood, and asked for another volunteer. Four more people were taken in turn into the tent, each time the Guru emerging alone, sword in hand. However, the five later emerged from the tent, radiant and unharmed and were given Amrit (baptism) by GuruGobind Singh who then asked them to baptise him. Guru Gobind Singh’s purpose in asking for volunteers in this dramatic manner was to emphasise that members of the Khalsa must be prepared to give their lives for their faith.

Panth: The Sikh community.

Path: Prayer.

Prithi Chand: Elder brother of Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru. Laid false claims to Guruship.

Purdah: The Muslim practice of women veiling or fully covering themselves whilst in the presence of men.

Rag: An Indian musical motif or fundamental air.

Ramala: A cover cloth placed over the Guru Granth in between readings.

RamDas: The fourth Guru (1534-1581). Founded the city of Amritsar and constructed the pool or tank at the future site of the Golden Temple.

Ram Rai: Elder brother of Guru Har Rai. Laid false claims to the Guruship.

Rehiras: Sikh evening prayers, with contributions by various Gurus. Also known as Sodhar Rehiras.

Sahib: A respectful form of address.

Sat Siri Akal: Variously translated as “the true God,” or “God is truth.”

Sagal diwar to chad ke: “After leaving all other doors, 0 Lord, I have come to thy door.” Opening line of Dohra, a composition of Guru Gobind Singh.

Saren pera ki akho sarma: “Lord, protect those who seek refuge at thy feet.” A line from the Rehiras.

Sidharen Path: Normal reading of the Guru Granth.

Siri Akal Takhit: One of the four thrones of Sikh Religious Authority

Slok: Stave in a Var or ode. See Var.

Slok Muhala Panjwa: Stave composed by the fifth Guru (Guru Arjan).

Sodhar Rehiras: See Rehiras.

Sohila: Late evening prayer said before retiring. Composed by Guru Nanak.

Swaya(s): Religious composition by Guru Gobind Singh.

Swaya Pae gaya jab te tumre: “Ever since, 0 Lord, I took refuge at thy feet.” Opening line of a composition by Guru Gobind Singh.

Srawag Sudh: Religious mystics referred to in a religious composition by Guru Gobind Singh.

Takhit: Literally throne. Throne of Sikh Religious Authority.

Teg Bahadur: The ninth Guru (1621-1675). Martyred by Muslims for upholding the right of Hindus to worship in the manner of their choice.

Tera kita jato nahi: “One cannot comprehend the depths of your Creation.” Opening line of a hymn by Guru Arjan.

Var: An ode. Constituents of a Var are: pauris (stanzas) and Saloks (staves). The pauris express an idea in general terms while the Saloks illustrate this in descriptive terms with examples from particular customs and views prevailing at that time.

Waheguru: God.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Siri,Waheguru ji ki Fateh: Literally, Hail Khalsa of the Wonderful Lord, who is always victorious.

Walle: Belonging or appertaining to,

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