Several components of a Sikh funeral wholeheartedly honour the traditions and culture that Sikhs follow throughout their lives.
Though not always possible, Sikhs try to hold the funeral as quickly as possible after the person has passed (usually three days).
The Sikh religion originates from the Punjab, located in northwest India. The language spoken is primarily Punjabi, a faith based on protection, generosity, truth and humility.
Sikhism believes in reincarnation and karma, the profound sentiment that the soul never dies. It is through death that the soul can reconnect with Waheguru (the wonderful teacher or the enlightened one). The reunion of the deceased with their God occurs through living a good, honest life.
The Sikh funeral, known as Antam Sanskaar or”the last rite of passage” refers to the union between the departed and God. Though not always easy, the focus of the funeral is to celebrate the individual’s life and the soul’s union with Waheguru.
Before the Service
Before the funeral, the body is cleaned and dressed in fresh clothing. If a turban was worn during life, it must be during death, and the hair should not be cut. Moreover, five principal articles of Sikh faith are observed at this time – Kesh (unshorn hair), Kangha (a small comb), Kachha (shorts), Karha (an iron bracelet), Kirpan (a sword or dagger). The body, once dressed, should also be surrounded by flowers. Many Sikh families honour the deceased with an open casket, which is family-dependent.
The Sikh funeral is known as ‘Antam Sanskaar’ or ‘the last rite of passage’. The ceremony typically happens at a Gurdwara (a Sikh temple), followed by the crematorium and a gathering at the family home afterwards. During the service, traditional prayers are performed – Ardas, Japji and Kiran Sohila; eulogies are also given.
What Is Worn?
White is worn to the funeral. White symbolises mourning in India and is the colour most commonly worn among all Indian faiths during a funeral.
The head is always covered during a funeral as a sign of respect. Women usually wear a headscarf, while men wear a turban, cap or hat.
The deceased will almost always be cremated ahead of the commencement of reincarnation. There is also a period of grieving where a continual reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Akhand Paatth), is performed by Sikh priests (Pundits). This can take between 3 and 10 days, depending on the family’s requirements and convenience.
All good, experienced Asian funeral directors will understand the traditional process of a Sikh funeral. It is vital to the deceased and family that the send-off is as personal and culturally appropriate as can be.
Contact us today if you would like to learn more about Sikh Funerals and how we can help.