A Gurdwara is a place where Sikhs assemble for congressional worship. It serves the same purpose as the church for Christians and the mosque for the Muslims. Gurdwaras are not limited to the Sikhs, but people from other faiths and those who do not profess to any religion are allowed to enter. All Gurdwaras are designed with a large hall where volunteers serve free vegetarian food to all. They may also have a nursery, meeting rooms, sports ground, and medical facilities. A Gurdwara is identified by a tall flagpole bearing the Sikh flag, often standing in front of the building. Guru Nanak built the first Gurdwara in 1521-22 at Kartarpur in what is now Pakistan. In the past, the term “Guru” described a religious leader of the Sikh, but the modern definition refers to the Sikh scriptures known as the Guru Granth Sahib. The presence of the Guru Granth Sahib gives the building the religious status.
Visiting The Gurdwara
There is no particular day to visit the Gurdwara. Sikhs in India visit the holy place on any day before or after work while Sikhs in the West worship on Sundays to fit the pattern of work. Visitors are required to cover their heads and remove the footwear before entering the worship hall. It is forbidden to enter the building with or while under the influence of drugs including tobacco and alcohol. Sikhs are required to bow to the Guru Granth Sahib and touch the floor with their forehead as a show of respect and submission to the truth contained in the holy book. All offerings including food and money are placed in front of the sacred book and are used to run the free food kitchen service offered by the Gurdwara. The offerings are not considered charity but sharing of God's blessings. Four doors lead to the Gurdwara; the Door of Livelihood, the Door of Peace, the Door of Grace, and the Door of Learning. The doors are placed on alternate sides of the building and represent the four points of the compass signifying that every person is welcomed. Everyone sits on the floor as a sign of respect and equality.
Inside The Gurdwara
There are no statues, idols, or any other physical representation of God because the Sikhs believe God exists as a spirit and does not require a physical description. There are also no incense, bells, candles or other ritualistic devices. The Guru Granth Sahib is the focus of attention and the sole object of reverence. The Holy Scripture is transferred to a sacred room during the night and carried in procession to the main worship room at dawn in preparation for the day’s worship.
The Five Takhts
There are five gurudwaras known as Takhts for they are very significant to the Sikh community. These are Akal Takht Sahib in Amritsar, India; Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib, India; Takht Sri Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, India; Takht Sri Patna Sahib in Patna, India; and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Marathwada, India. Most of the world's significant gurudwaras are located in India as the country is where the religion was born and is today home to 90.2% of all Sikhs in the world. Other notable gurudwaras are the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple in Amritsar, India and the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi, India.