Sikhism > Rehat Maryada

Funeral Ceremonies
(a) The body of a dying or dead person, if it is on a cot, must not be taken off the cot and put on the floor. Nor must a lit lamp be placed beside, or a cow got bestowed in donation by, him/her or for his/her good or any other ceremony, contrary to Guru's way, performed. Only Gurbani should be recited or "Waheguru, Waheguru" repeated by his/her side.

(b) When someone shuffles the mortal coil, the survivors must not grieve or raise a hue and cry or indulge in breast beating. To induce a mood of resignation to God's will, it is desirable to recite Gurbani or repeat "Waheguru".

(c) However young the deceased may be, the body should be cremated. However, where arrangements for cremation cannot be made, there should be no qualm about the body being immersed in flowing water or disposed of in any other manner.

(d) As to the time of cremation, no consideration as to whether it should take place during day or night should weigh.

(e) The dead body should be bathed and clothed in clean clothes. While that is done, the Sikh symbols - comb, kachha, karha, kirpan - should not be taken off. Thereafter, putting the body on a plank, Ardas about its being taken away for disposal is offered. The hearse should then be lifted and taken to the cremation ground, hymns that induce feelings of detachment should be recited. On reaching the cremation ground, the pyre should be laid. Then the Ardas for consigning the body to fire be offered. The dead body should then be placed on the pyre and the son or any other relation or friend of the deceased should set fire to it. The accompanying congregation should sit at a reasonable distance and listen to kirtan or carry on collective singing of hymns or recitation of detachment-inducing hymns. When the pyre is fully aflame, the Kirtan Sohila (prescribed pre-retirement night Scriptural prayer) be recited and the Ardas offered. (Piercing the skull half an hour or so after the pyre has been burning with a rod or something else in the belief that that will secure the release of the soul - kapal kriya - is contrary to the Guru's tenets.) The congregation should then leave. Coming back home, a reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be commenced at home or in a nearby gurdwara, and after reciting the six stanzas of the Anand Sahib, the Ardas is offered and karhah prashad distributed. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be completed on the tenth day. If the reading cannot, or is sought not to, be completed on the tenth day, some other day may be appointed for the conclusion of the reading having regard to the convenience of the relatives. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib should be carried out by the members of the household of the deceased and relatives in cooperation. If possible, Kirtan may be held every night. No funeral ceremony remains to be performed after the "tenth day".

(f) When the pyre is burnt out, the whole bulk of the ashes, including the burnt bones, should be gathered up and immersed in flowing water or buried at that very place and the ground leveled. Raising a monument to the memory of the deceased at the place where his dead body is cremated is taboo.

(g) Adh marg (the ceremony of breaking the pot used for bathing the dead body amid doleful cries halfway towards the cremation ground), organized lamentation by women, foorhi (sitting on a straw mat in mourning for a certain period), diva (keeping an oil lamp lit for 360 days after the death in the belief that that will light the path of the deceased), pind (ritual donating of lumps of rice flour, oat flour, or solidified milk (khoa) for ten days after death), kirya (concluding the funeral proceedings realistically, serving meals and making offerings by way of shradh, budha marna (waving of whisk, over the hearse of an old person's dead body and decorating the hearse with festoons), etc. are contrary to the approved code. So too is the picking of the burnt bones from the ashes of the pyre for immersing in the Ganga, at Patalpuri (at Kiratpur), at Kartarpur Sahib or at any other such place.

Other Rights and Conventions
Apart from these rights and conventions, on every happy or sad occasion, such as moving into a new house, setting up a new business (shop), putting a child to school, etc., a Sikh should pray for God's help by performing the Ardas. The essential components of all rites and ceremonies in Sikhism are the recitation of the Gurbani (Sikh Scriptures) and the performing of the Ardas.

Voluntary Service
Voluntary service is a prominent part of Sikh religion. Illustrative models of voluntary service are organized, for imparting training, in the gurdwaras. Its simple forms are: sweeping and plastering the floors of the gurdwara (In olden times buildings, particularly in rural areas, had mud and not brick paved or cement floors. To give to these floors firmness and consistency, they were thinly plastered with a diluted compound of mud.), serving water to or fanning 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.

(a) Guru's kitchen-cum-eating house. The philosophy behind the Guru's kitchen-cum-eating house is two fold: to provide training to the Sikhs in voluntary service and to help banish all distinctions of high and low, touchable and untouchable from the Sikhs' minds.

(b) All human beings, high or low, and of any caste or color may sit and eat in the Guru's kitchen-cum-eating house. No discrimination on grounds of the country of origin, color, caste or religion must be made while making people sit in rows for eating. However, only baptized Sikhs can eat off of one plate.