Society: Sikhism: Ceremonies:
Human life is the most important gift given by God to
unite with the Ultimate Reality. It is upto the mortal to end the continuing
journey of births and deaths by meditating on the Name of God.
Death is the cessation of life. It is the ceasing of all
functions of life. Death is a fall of mechanism of body by:
It is the extinction of body and the sense organs.
After breathing, heart beat and brain activity stops, the life-force gradually
ceases to function in body cells. Death is the antithesis of life. It is
recognized as the last passage in the journey of life which is followed
by wailing, funeral and mourning with the bereaved to console them.
old age or natural death.
All normal human-beings know that they will die someday
but death is a great mystery. Death is reality and it comes to all
whether young or old, rich or poor. Whosoever is born must die. There
is fixed time for death. Human being is combination of body, mind and soul.
Body is alive if soul is there. If soul is there, the mind, intellect and
breath is there. If soul is gone, body is dead. Death can destroy
the body but not the soul.
No one knows what death is like. The only thing we know
is that death is not like sleep. When we sleep all our bodily functions
are active but when a person dies, all bodily functions become inactive.
Guru Nanak Dev says,
Every one asks for long life and no one wishes
Death may occur due to various diseases and disorders but
life cannot continue without the supply of oxygen to the body. Death may
be natural or accidental. No body knows how death takes place and what
direction the soul goes.
bhuqw jIvxu mMgIAY muAw n loVY
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.63)
Death is terror for an ordinary person but people who
know true living, do not fear death. Lovers of truth, find bliss in death
as it would unite them with the Supreme being.
According to Sikhism, death is the name of forgetting
Guru Nanak Dev says,
“If I remember Him, I live; If I forget Him,
Sikhism stands infallible for the concept of human
liberty, equality and fraternity. This concept gave birth to a new thought
against privileged heirarchy of elite. From this thought erupted the immense
consequences of civil liberties against human oppression in the world.
It gave birth to new changes that the sovereignty rested with the
people and that the government is merely agent of the people and for the
people. The Sikhs felt pleasure in dying for a good cause
Have these Sikh bravos died ? No, they are eternal
Death Comes to All -
Nobody is an exception
"Death is the great secret of life. Don't cry
for the dead, their agony is over".
The whole world is under the sway of death. Death comes to
all. Who is born, must die but there is difference between deaths.
Death of a Gurmukh results in union with God while the death of a
Manmukh puts him in the unending life cycle in the shape of
Whosoever is born shall die and depart. All shall
take their turn.
jo AwieAw so clsI sBu koeI
AweI vwrIAY ]
All human things are subject to decay
And, when fate summons, monarchs must obey.
Mac Flecknoe. 1.1
Whosoever is born, is destined to die.
jo phucY so clxhwru ]
Whatever is seen, that all shall vanish, like
the shadow of cloud.
Guru Tegh Bahadur says,
O’ slave Nanak, he who knows the world to be unreal abides
under Lord’s protection.
jo dIsY so sgl ibnwsY ijau
bwdr kI CweI ]
jn nwnk jgu jwinE imiQAw rihE
rwm srnweI ]
Whosoever is born, he must perish today or tomorrow.
jo aupijE so ibnis hY pro Awju
kY kwil ]
The sultans and kings, the rich and the mighty,
have marched away in succession.
The inevitable must happen. Why do you worry, fret and fume.
Trust in God and be at ease.
In a moment or two, we shall also depart. O my heart,
understand that you must go as well!
sulqwn Kwn mlUk aumry gey kir
kir kUcu ]
GVI muhiq ik clxw idl smJu
qUM iB phUcu ]
With whom should I make friendship, the whole
world is to perish.
iksu nwil kIcY dosqI sBu jgu
Rama, king of Ayudhya is gone, Ravana is gone
and gone are their families.
Nothing abides, nothing lasts for ever, the world
is but an vacuous dream.
rwmu gieE rwvnu gieE jw kau
bhu prvwru ]
khu nwnk iQru kCu nhI supny
ijau sMswru ]
Death comes to all and all must suffer separation.
Guru Nanak Dev says in Japji Sahib,
sBnw mrxw AwieAw vyCoVw sBnwh
Human being does not have strength to take birth
and live as he desires and he does not hold power to die. Birth and death
is in the hands of Almighty Lord.
joru n jIvix mrix n joru
All shall go to their bridegroom’s house
and all shall have ceremonial permanent departure after marriage.
sBnw swhurY vM\xw siB muklwvxhwr
nwnk DMnu sohwgxI ijn sh nwil
We are men of but one breath and know not the
appointed time and moment of death.
Bhagat Ravi Das says,
hm AwdmI hW iek dmI muhliq
muhqu n jwxw ]
(Dhanasari M 1, p 660)
The day which comes, that day shall pass off.
Man must march on, nothing remains stable. Our companions are going, we
too must go. You have to go far off. Death is hovering over your head.
Awake thou, O silly man, why art thou asleep ?
jo idn Awvih so idn jwhI ]
krnw kUcu rhnu iQru nwhI ]
sMgu clq hY hm BI clnw ]
dUir gvnu isr aUpir mrnw ]
ikAw qU soieAw jwgu ieAwnw
None of the kings and nobles, nor any of the
poor, the rich and beggars is to stay here. When comes one's turn, then
no one remains stable here. Everyone has to leave this world.
We know that death comes to all but why we are so much for
saving our life which must end one or the other day. When death
is end of everything why should not a mortal overcome it through Nam Simran(meditating
on the name of God). He must leave everything which is meaningless and
attain ultimate goal to seek unity with the Supreme Soul.
rwxw rwau n ko rhY rMgu n quMgu
vwrI Awpo AwpxI koie n bMDY
Remember that death is awaiting you at every moment. Never
fail to fulfil your duties. Have pure conduct so that you are welcomed
in the divine court.
Why you say, “this is mine, that is mine”. Seek
the Lord who gave you. You must assuredly die and leave behind a hundred
thousand and millions of money.
myrI myrI ikAw krih ijin dIAw
so pRBu loiV ]
srpr auTI clxw Cif jwsI lK
The mortal come naked, they depart naked and
in between they make ostentations (Pompous display).
Guru Nanak Dev says,
Awvih nµgy jwih nµgy
ivcy krih ivQwr ]
Profitable is the dying of the brave persons,
whose death is approved by the Lord.
Why death comes
mrxu muxsW sUirAw hku hY jo
hoie mrih prvwxo ]
Guru Arjan Dev says,
Just as the peasant sows his crop and harvests
it whether ripe or unripe, in a similar way the sickle of death does not
care for a human being at any age, whether old or young.
Who owns our
Soul and Life?
jYsy ikrswxu bovY ikrswnI ]
kwcI pwkI bwiF prwnI ]
The soul and life is owned by God and why should
we forget Him.
Philosophy of Death
ijs ky jIA prwx hih ikau swihbu
mnhu ivswrIAY ]
It is story of a woman in ancient India whose son had
died. She walked from place to place wailing, crying and weeping; asking
for help to bring her son back to life. Arriving at place of a saint, she
asked the saint to help her out who said, "Don't worry, leave your son
here and go out and find a mustard seed from a house that has not experienced
death. When you bring it back, I can help you". The woman searched from
house to house, but each had experienced death. She finally realized what
the saint meant. She turned to religion to find answers to her questions.
She understood, “Death is natural, whosoever is born, must die”.
and Wailing after death is not appreciated in Sikhism
After the death, the near ones weep and cry. There
is Siapa. The Gurmat does not favor the decoration of the pyre of dead
body, burning of Chandan wood and performance of un-necessary rites and
According to Sikh Reht Maryada, when some one shuffles
the mortal coil, the survivors must not grieve or raise a hue and cry or
indulge in breast beating. To induce a mood of resignation to God's
will, it is desirable to recite Gurbani or repeat “Waheguru”.
After death wailing, crying and fainting are common. Excessive
show of grief is contrary to the Sikh teachings. Weeping, crying,
Siapa or wailing is prohibited in Sikhism. However, in certain cases
weeping, crying or wailing is seen as an expression of grief. Sometimes
it is considered to be therapeutic as it prevents internalization
Grief is expressed across various cultures in differing
ways keeping in view age, sex and socio-economic status. Males cry
less than females in all cultures. Biologic differences including hormones,
cognition and the structure of the lacrimal system in each sex can
account for different levels of grief and its expression. Sikhism recommends
that spiritual and emotional consolation in grief must be found through
singing or listening of Shabad Kirtan and by reciting Gurbani. The emphasis
is made on Nam Simran (meditation).
Whosoever is born must die. one day. This is the universal
principle. Death is sorrowful for an ordinary and worldly person
but it is a bliss to a Gurmukh in Sikhism.
"the death which frightens the world, gives me
bliss. It is the death which is blessed with the supreme bliss and it is
in death that one can unite with God"
In Sikhism, weeping, crying, lamentation and breast beating
is prohibited as it is considered to be against the will of God.
kbIr ijsu mrny qy jgu frY myry
min Awnµdu ]
mrny hI qy pweIAY pUrnu prmwnµdu
If it is apprehended that a person is not likely to live,
the family members are notified of the serious condition. On death of a
person in the family, friends and relatives are informed of the mishap.
In India, where there is no arrangement for treatment of miasma of the
dead body, it is cremated as early as possible so that dead body does not
stink. At other places, the day, time and place of funeral is fixed and
all the concerned are advised to join the cremation ceremony.
There is no prescribed ritualistic ceremony to be performed
on death. However hymns are recited after the death. On the day of funeral,
the dead body is bathed and dressed in new clothes. It is wrapped on the
wooden frame named Arthi and taken to funeral ground (Shamshan Ghat) in
a procession. The sacred hymns are sung in the procession. Ardas is performed
in the Shamshan Ghat before pyre is lit. According to tradition, the eldest
son or other nearest relation of the deceased shows fire to the pyre. The
congregation sits and recites hymns. Kirtan Sohila is recited and Ardas
is performed. The ashes are collected later on and disposed of in water.
There is a rare tradition in some cases to flow the dead body in
The ceremonies are normally performed to mark the event
and ease the family way for the fhe family to deal with the loss,
emotional pain, tragedy and sufferings. The berieved family
is sometimes not prepared to deal with the loss of death of a loved one.The
ceremonies enable relatives and friends to share their grief and sufferings
with each other and thus the ritual becomes meaningful also.
In Western world, crematorium is booked and the dead body
is offered to electrical or gas crematorium oven.
After funeral, the congregation goes to Gurdwara for supplication.
Sometimes, the congregation goes to the house of the deceased to console
the family. People continue pouring into the house of the bereaved family
for condolence. Akhand Path or Khullah path is performed in memory of the
dead person. Kirtan is performed after the Bhog and free langar is offered
as per practice and tradition. The donations are made by the family
for community purposes.
According to tradition, if the death is of the head of
the family, then eldest son is recognized as the new head in presence of
the community by having a turban tied on his head. Shradhs are not permitted
After the death of Guru Amar Das, his grandson Sunder
Das wrote an account about the death ceremony:
In the end the True Guru said, “after me, sing
the praise of Pure Lord, alone. Call in only saints of the Lord of beauteous
hair, instead of Pandit and read God’s gospel instead of Puran. Read only
the God’s gospel, hear only the God’s Name. The Guru likes the Lord’s love,
instead of lofty bier, barley rolls, food on leaves, Hindu funeral rites,
lamps and throwing the bones into the Ganges. The True Guru spoke, as it
pleased God and he got blended with God, the Omniscient Lord.
This was a clear departure from the Hindu social practices.
There is no doubt that if the Guru had desired the Hindu practices to be
continued at the time of his own death, he should have suggested them during
his life time, to be followed by his Sikhs as well.
AMqy siqguru boilAw mY ipCY
kIrqnu kirAhu inrbwxu jIau ]
kyso gopwl pMifq sidAhu hir
hir kQw pVih purwxu jIau ]
hir kQw pVIAY hir nwmu suxIAY
bybwxu hir rMgu gur Bwvey ]
ipMfu pqil ikirAw dIvw Pul
hir sir pwvey ]
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