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Sikh funerals

If you find yourself wondering what to expect of the Sikh funeral process, our guide will explain what typically happens at a Sikh funeral and the preparations that occur before a Sikh cremation service.

Sikh beliefs about death

Sikhs believe in transmigration (karma) of the soul and that death is a natural part of life. They believe human life is an opportunity to break the soul’s cycle of reincarnation and return it to Waheguru, the Sikh name for God.

What are Sikh funeral rites?

Sikh funeral rites are a set of traditional religious ceremonies that occur during or around a Sikh funeral. Traditionally, these include but are not limited to:

  • Following Sikh rules surrounding a person who is dying (such as not removing the person from their bed before death or not wasting their clothes)
  • The preparation of the body, including bathing and a change of clothes
  • The cremation service such as prayers and chants
  • Religious readings after a Sikh funeral

The Sikh Funeral Process - What happens before a Sikh funeral?

Arrangements for a Sikh funeral begin immediately after death. Similar to other religions, preparing the body plays an important role; the deceased is usually washed and dressed in clean clothing by close family members prior to the funeral.

The ‘Five Ks’, also referred to as articles of faith, should not be taken off. These include the kangha (a small wooden comb), kirpan knife, kara (iron bracelet), kesh (uncut hair) and a special Sikh garment known as the kachera.

What happens at a Sikh funeral service?

What happens at a Sikh funeral is ruled by the stipulations if the religion.

A Sikh funeral service typically takes place at a Gurdwara either before or after the cremation, though it can be held at the family home or at the crematorium. Prayers are usually recited during the service, including a community prayer called Ardas.

What happens at a Sikh cremation ceremony?

Traditionally, cremation is preferred for Sikh funerals, though burial is also accepted if the circumstances do not allow for cremation. At a Sikh cremation ceremony, ashes of the deceased are usually buried or scattered in a river, but this depends on location and family circumstance.

What happens after a Sikh funeral?

Sikhs do not follow any periods of mourning after the death of a loved one. Instead, there is a either a continuous reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which can take three days, or the reading is done over 10 days.

Sources: Sikhs.org and Sikhiwiki.org

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