«The understanding of death and dying as seen by different religions»
  Death and Dying in Sikhism


Sikh Funerals Sikh symbol image
Sikhs view death as a separation of the soul from the body and is considered part of God's will.

The traditions and conventions surrounding a Sikh death follow the teachings of the faith. Sikhs believe that the soul moves on to meet the supreme soul, God. Death is seen as a time for praising God in accordance with the teachings of code of conduct, the Rahit Maryada. After someone dies, if the body is on a bed it should not be moved and no light should be placed next to it. Prayers are said which acknowledge that the death is an act of God.

The first line is read from the Holy Book and Ardas, prayers, are said: "Nanak Naam Charh di Kala Tare bhane sarbat kabhalu". Sikh scriptures state that relatives should not indulge in wailing and anguish, although this is, naturally, hard. Hymns are sung in preparation for the cremation of the body.The family read the Holy Book continuously for 48 hours or in stages which must be completed within one week and end on the day of the funeral.

Cremation is the accepted form of disposal of the body. The body is bathed and dressed in fresh clothes. Hymns that induce a feeling of detachment are sometimes sung on the way to the crematorium to aid the family in not showing their grief. At the crematorium the prayer known as the 'Kirtan Sohila' is often recited. Ardas, or 'general prayers' are often said before cremation as well. These seek a blessing for the departing soul. A member of the family will then light the funeral pyre. In traditional ceremonies this will be done with a naked flame, but in Britain it is more usual for a family member to push the button for the coffin to disappear.

Men wear black headscarves to the funeral and women wear pale coloured or white headscarves Ashes are collected and scattered in running water or on the sea. Sikhs do not hold any river as holy but may deposit the ashes in a place of sentimental value. After the cremation guests return to the family home and readings are given and hymns sung. Neighbours and families make a substantial meal for the bereaved family. Everyone must bath as soon as they go home to cleanse themselves. A candle, jot, is burned in the home. This is made from Ghee (clarified butter) and cotton and has a sweet smell. This cleanses the home.

The mourning period lasts between two and five weeks. On the first anniversary of the person's death, the family gather and undertake 'Barsi', prayer. They then have a meal. This is not a sad occasion but is seen as a way of remembering the deceased and celebrating their life.