Sikh Funeral Service Rituals

Sikh Beliefs

Sikh Funeral Customs
Sikh temple in the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, in India

Sikhism is an eastern religion that started about 1500 A.D. in the Punjab region of southern Asia. It was born out of the teachings of Nanek, who developed a following after a revelation from God. He was considered the first guru and there have been ten subsequent gurus. All of the Sikh gurus are considered to have had the spirit of Nanek. The last guru, Guru Granth Sahib, is the guru in Scripture form.

The main aspiration of Sikhs is to gain a close and intimate relationship with their deity. They do this by gaining enlightenment through following the teachings of the gurus. There is only one God for Sikhs and he has no form but has many names. Sikhs can get an understanding of God through meditation.

Like Hinduism, Sikhism believes in reincarnation and karma. However, they reject the idea of a caste system. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God, according to their beliefs.

Like Muslims, Sikhs also abstain from alcoholic drinks or any other intoxicating element.

Sikh Funeral Traditions

In regarding the body, death is a natural process of living. It is part of the cycle in Sikhism. This does not apply to the soul, however. The soul uses the body (life and death) in its journey back to God from where it came.

Sikhs prefer cremation over all other ways of disposal. Other methods (including burial in the ground or at sea) are permitted if the cremation is impossible. The cremated remains are typically submerged in a river. The body is just an empty shell to Sikhs. Therefore, there is typically no monument erected for the dead.

Crying out, wailing, or other public displays of emotions are disapproved of. Even the closest of relatives try to stay detached from the emotion of the occasion. The body is taken to the place of worship before cremation. There, hymns are sung and prayers recited.

At the site of the cremation, more hymns are sung and speeches are made about the deceased. At the close, a prayer is said. At that time, the youngest son or another close relative will start the cremation. He will either start the fire or start the process mechanically if that is available.


Sikh Quick Reference Guide
Length of Service 30 – 60 minutes
Flowers? Sometimes. Consult with family first.
Food? Yes, but no meat
Dress Code? (Men/Women) Head covering
Source of Readings? Guru Granth Sahib
Open Casket? Yes
Return to Work? (Days) Depends
No. of Days to Mourn? A few weeks
Embalming?  Generally not necessary
Cremation?  Preferred
Body/Organ Donation?  Permitted

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