Definition of a Gurdwara

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 continued to grow Guru Hargobind introduced the word 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 ones house of a separate building. Three main functions are carried out in all public Gurdwaras. One is Kirtan which is the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, another is Katha which is reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and explanations. The third main function which is carried out at every Gurdwara is 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 in many other ways including, libraries of Sikh literature, schools to teach children Gurmukhi and the Sikh scriptures and charitable work in the community on behalf of Sikhs.


Gurdwara Protocols

When entering the Gurdwara one is expected to remove the shoes and cover ones bare head as signs of respect towards the sovereignty of the Guru Granth Sahib. Hands are washed and in some Gurdwaras there are also feet washes. Approaching the Guru Granth Sahib one is expected to bow down and touch the floor as a sign of further respect towards the Eternal Sikh Guru. Offerings of cash are usually made at this time to help carry the expenses of running the Gurdwara and community work carried out by the Gurdwara. These offerings are voluntary and not compulsory. All people irrespective of their status sit on the floor as a sign of equality as opposed to chairs and the Guru Granth Sahib is always installed on a higher level. 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 out. Gurdwaras are open to all people of all religions and are generally open 24 hours a day. Some Gurdwaras also provide temporary accommodations for visitors or pilgrims. In the Langar all sit on the floor and food is cooked and served by volunteers, this food is available 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.


Selection of famous Gurdwara's



Siri Guru Arjan Dev Ji envisioned a temple that would be made the repository of the Sikh religion, a reflection of its resoluteness and its strength. It would become the hallowed symbol of the indestructibility of the faith. It would be known as the Harmandir.

The plan he conceived for the Harmandir was designed to reflect the clarity, simplicity and logic of the new movement. Its location in the centre of the pool would symbolise the synthesis of nirgun and sargun: the spiritual and temporal realms of human existence.

Siri Guru Arjan Dev reversed the prevalent practice of designing high temple plinths. By building the Harmandir at a level lower than the surrounding land, he wanted to emphasise the inner strength that was provided by the faith, rather than draw attention to its external manifestations.

Unlike traditional temple architecture that provided only one entrance, the Harmandir would have four, one on each side. Its doors would thus be open to all the four castes, for to Siri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, "the four castes of Kshatriyas, Brabmins, Sudras and Vaisyas are equal partners in divine instruction."

The principle of universal participation was extended to the planning and execution of the project. All Sikhs in all congregations had a role in building this noble edifice to their faith. Their participation took two forms: voluntary labour (sewa) at the site, and a donation (daswandh) of ten percent of their income to support the construction. Both these practices have endured ever since. While clearly not all Sikhs give ten percent of their earnings towards the upkeep and improvement of their gurdwaras (Sikh temples), the offerings of the devotees are not inconsiderable. The tradition of voluntary service too has remained unchanged from the time the sarowar and the Harmandir were built.

The Harimandir Sahib (meaning Temple of God) is also commonly known as the Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib (Divine Court). It is situated in the city of Amritsar in Punjab. The Golden Temple is a living symbol of the spiritual and historical traditions of the Sikhs. It is a source of inspiration for all Sikhs and their chief place of pilgrimage. The temple with it's glistening gold covered exterior stands in the middle of a square tank with each side about 150m with an 18m path on all four sides. A 60m causeway traverses the pool to reach the Temple itself which is 12m square and rests on a 20m square platform in the middle of The Pool of Nectar. The Harimandir Sahib has entrances and doors on all four sides. Guru Arjun Dev exclaimed; "My faith is for the people of all castes and all creeds from whichever direction they come and to whichever direction they bow."

Guru Amar Das the Third Sikh Guru asked Ram Das (who would go on to become the Fourth Sikh Guru) to build a central place of congregation for the Sikhs. Guru Ram Das started excavation work in 1577 during his lifetime. Guru Arjun Dev the Fifth Sikh Guru completed excavation of the Tank known as Amritsar (The Pool of Nectar) in 1588. Guru Arjun Dev then started construction of the Temple building itself which was finally completed in 1601. The first edition of the Holy Book of the Sikh's The Guru Granth Sahib was installed there in 1604 with Baba Buddha as the first granthi (caretaker of the holy book). The last Sikh Guru to live in Amritsar was the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. In 1664 Guru Tegh Bahadur the Ninth Sikh Guru visited The Golden Temple but was refused entry by the corrupt temple caretakers, The Masands. The Golden Temple has always been a rallying point for Sikhs throughout it's history. Around 1740 Massa Ranghar, the ruler of Amritsar desecrated 
the Temple by using it as a dancing hall. He was killed by Mahtab Singh. In 1761 Ahmed Shah Abdali blew up the Temple and filled in the Sacred Tank with refuse. The great Sikh martyr Baba Deep Singh laid down his life in revenge. The construction of the Golden Temple as it appears today was begun in 1764 when Jassa Singh Ahluwalia laid the foundation stone. Many of the doors and domes were covered with copper sheets overlaid with gold during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Golden Temple was partially damaged by the military invasion of the Indian Army during June 1984.


Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib

Keshgarh Sahib is situated at Anandpur. It is considered the birthplace of the Khalsa. The Khalsa order was founded here by Guru Gobind Singh on March 30th 1699. Some of the weapons of Guru Gobind Singh are displayed here. The most precious of these is the actual Khanda (double edged sword) used by Guru Gobind Singh to prepare the amrit (sweet water) used in the first Khalsa initiation ceremony. This is the birthplace of the Khalsa.

Sri Anandpur Sahib

Baisakhi 1999 at Anandpur Sahib had been significant as it marked the completion of 300 years of the Birth of the Khalsa. It was on Baisakhi day in 1699 that Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji baptised the ‘Panj Pyaras’ at Anandpur Sahib at the place where Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib stands. Anandpur Sahib comes to life every year on the occasion of Hola Mohalla. This tradition dates back to the times of the 10th Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. The Guru decided that the occasion of the festival of Holi, fun and frolic and colour splashing, be the occasion for the display of the martial spirit of his people and he gave this festival of Holi a more masculine name of HOLA MOHALLA. Each year Hola Mohalla marks the congregation of hundreds of thousands of devotees from all over the country for a festival of colour and gaiety. The Nihangs (members of Guru's army) in their colourful attire are the greatest attraction for the people visiting the Hola Mohalla. In deep blue robes with saffron girdles, high conical turbans decorated with steel rings, flowing beards, twisted moustaches, the nihangs enact mock battles on this occasion armed with spears and swords. Their army halts at many places to show off their art of fencing, tent-pegging and jousting to thousands of people gathered from all over the country at Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Hola Mohalla.

Sri Akal Takhat

Akal Takht literally means Eternal Throne. It is part of the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. The Akal Takht is situated on the other end of the causeway connected to the Harmandir Sahib. It's foundation was laid by Guru Hargobind. It was here that he was ceremonially installed as Guru in 1606. The building of the Akal Takht opposite the Golden Temple has a special meaning. While the Golden Temple stands for spiritual guidance the Akal Takht symbolises the dispensing of justice and temporal activity. During the day the Guru Granth Sahib is kept in the Golden Temple, while at night it is kept in the Akal Takht. Traditionally all Sikh warriors sought blessings here before going to battle. During the 18th century while Sikhs were fighting a guerrilla war in the forests they used to gather at the Akal Takht on special occasions such as Baisakhi and Diwali. Here the community used to have general meetings and approve resolutions. The Akal Takht was the oldest of the Five Takhts, but it was destroyed by the Indian Army during its military invasion in 1984. It's reconstruction is complete.

Sri Goindwal Sahib

This was the first center of Sikhism and was established by Guru Amar Das. The Hindus went on pilgrimage to Hardwar and Benaras but the Sikhs needed a place of their own. Understanding this Guru Amar Das purchased the land and personally helped in the construction of the Gurdwara and Baoli (well) with 84 steps leading down to it. Guru Amar Das said that whoever recited the entire Japji prayer of Guru Nanak on each of the 84 steps with a pure heart before bathing in the Baoli would receive spiritual emancipation.


Sri Hazur Sahib

Takhat Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib is the principal shrine at Nanded. It marks the site where the Guru had his camp in 1708 A.D. after the departure of the emperor Bahadur Shah. The tenth Guru held his court and congregation here. It is the site of his own tent where he was convalescing after he was attacked by assassins. It is the place from where the tenth Guru rose to heaven along with his horse Dilbag.

In 1708 being prescient of the end of his earthly role, the Guru had dispatched Banda Singh with five of his Sikhs to Punjab and Mata Sahib Devan under a separate escort to Delhi before the stabbing incident. He told the rest of his retinue to retire to their homes if they so wished, but he bade one Bhai Santokh Singh to stay on here and keep Guru ka langar going. many others also chose to remain. Together they built a room over the platform where the used to sit while holding his court and installed Guru Granth Sahib on it. They called it Takhat Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh, while conferring Guruship on the holy Book, had himself named Nanded as Abchalnagar (lit. steadfast city) after the first word of a hymn read at random on the occasion.

Sachkhand (lit. region of Truth) had been used by Guru Nanak Dev to mean the abode of God. The present building of the Takhat Sahib was got constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh with money, artisans and labour sent from Punjab during early 1830s.Around the same time the Nizam of Hyderabad raised a contingent of Northern Sikhs as part of his army. Most of these men settled permanently in Hyderabad State. Many militant and righteous Hindus embraced Sikhism in the 18th century. The control of Takhat Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib, which had formerly passed into the hands of Udasi priests was regained by the Sikhs under the influence of the Singh Sabha Movement of the late nineteenth century. Some of the rituals and ceremonies connected with working are peculiar to this Takhat Sahib. In 1956 an Act was passed by the legislature of Hyderabad under which the management of Takhat Sahib and other historical Gurdwaras was legally placed under a 17 member Gurdwaras Board and a five member Managing Committee.  



Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is one of the important historical gurdwara in Delhi. It is dedicated to the memory of 8th Guru Sri Harkrishan Sahib. The gurdwara is located next to Gol Dakkhana. On the north of gurdwara is Baba Kharag Singh Marg while on south is the Ashok road, near Connaught Place. The gurdwara complex hosts one higher secondary school which is having all the arrangement for the studies, Baba Baghel Singh Museum, a library and a hospital. Gurdwara has a trough which stores the holy water known as Amrit(nectar) which when consumed is believed to cure the diseases of the sick. Gurdwara also has a sarovar (holy pond) where the people take a holy dip and pray to the Guru. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee celebrates the birth of Guru Sri Harkrishan Sahib with great reverence. Death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji is also celebrated here. On the east side of the main Gurdwara in the complex is the Langar (community kitchen) Hall, where free food is served to all devotees with no distiction of caste, creed or status.

When Guru Sahib was called to Delhi by Aurangzeb on the behest of his brother Ram Rai, he was entertained royally and hosted by Mirza Raja Jai Singh who made arrangements of the Guru's stay at Delhi in his own palace (bunglow, called bangla in local dialect). Diwan Dargah Mull, Bhai Gurditta Ji, Bhai Mati Das Ji and the mother of the Guru Ji had accompanied him. Raja Jai Singh dedicated this palace in the memory of the Guru Sahib, which is famous today as Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. About Bangla Sahib it is also said that sixth Guru Sri Hargobind Sahib after getting released the 52 kings from the Gwalior fort had stayed here on his arrival in Delhi.



Patna Sahib is situated in Patna the capital of Bihar. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh was born in 1666 and spent his early years before moving to Anandpur. Besides being the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, Patna was also honoured by visits from Guru Nanak as well as Guru Tegh Bahadur.