Sikhs believe in the transmigration of the soul; where death is a natural process in the soul’s path to reuniting with God (Waheguru). Sikh funerals, known as Antam Sanskar (“the last rite of passage”), focus on celebrating the soul rejoining Waheguru.
If you need help planning a Sikh funeral, here is a guide on Sikh cremation services, funeral rituals, and Sikh funeral etiquette.
What happens before a Sikh funeral service?
When a Sikh person dies, funeral arrangements will begin immediately.
On the day that the person dies, the bereaved family will read Sukhmani Sahib, from the Sikh holy scripture, to console themselves on the death of their loved one.
A member of the family will wash and dress the body of the person who has died. If the person dies in hospital, the body will be moved home, where these preparations can take place before the service. For initiated Sikhs, the five articles of faith (“the five K’s”) should be left on the body: the kangha (a small wooden comb), kirpan knife, kara (iron bracelet), kesh (uncut hair) and the kachera (Sikh undergarment). The family may then decide to surround the body with Sikh funeral flowers.
How long after death is a Sikh funeral?
A Sikh funeral usually takes place within three days of the person dying. If there’s a delay in the funeral for any reason for example, if the death goes to the coroner, the funeral service should be planned for as soon as possible.
What is a Sikh funeral service like?
The focus of a Sikh funeral ceremony is on the celebration of the soul’s reunion with God. A Sikh funeral service will typically take place at a gurdwara, but could also take place at the family home or crematorium. The service will consist of hymns and Sikh funeral prayers. These prayers are known as Sikh funeral shabads, and will usually include the recital of the group community prayer called Ardas.
The service could take place before or after the cremation, or in some cases, the burial.
What happens at a Sikh cremation?
Traditionally, Sikhs prefer cremation to burial. Normally it is the family, close friends and relatives who will attend the cremation. If there is not a service around the cremation, a few prayers may be recited at the time.
The cremated ashes are then either scattered or buried. As Sikhs do not believe in placing headstones or plaques, many choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one in a river or the sea.
How long does a Sikh funeral service last?
Sikh funeral services will usually last between 30 minutes and an hour. This time allows for the hymns and prayers to be recited.
What do you say at a Sikh funerals?
Sikh funerals are not as sombre as other funeral ceremonies. The recitals of Sikh funeral shabads and hymns are designed to remind the mourners of the soul’s most important journey to reunite with Waheguru. Public displays of emotion or grieving are unlikely to be seen during the service.
Non-Sikh guests are not expected to participate in prayers and readings, so they can stay silent and follow the movement of the rest of the congregation.
Do you send flowers to a Sikh funeral?
There are specific types of Sikh funeral flowers used to surround the body of the person who has died, so it is best to check with the family before sending any.
What should I wear to a Sikh funeral?
Both men and women should wear smart clothes to a Sikh funeral service, and should avoid showing too much skin. The Sikh colour of mourning is white, but subdued colours are also acceptable, with no patterns or bright colours.
Sikhs will always cover their heads for a funeral. Non-Sikhs may also be expected to do the same, with a hat for men and headscarf for women. Some gurdwaras provide scarfs for covering heads when attending a ceremony.
What happens after a Sikh funeral service?
After the cremation, the ashes are collected for scattering at a later date. The close family and relatives will then either return to the gurdwara or to their home. Here the family will continue reading from the Guru Granth Sahib, completing the entire reading (Akhand Paatth) within ten days. The Akhand Paath ceremony provides consolation and support to the bereaved family.
How much does a Sikh funeral cost?
Many funeral directors and crematoriums can accommodate a Sikh funeral. Cremations tend to be the cheaper option for funerals in the UK, but this will depend on the crematorium and the size of the service before or after.
Our funeral directors can help you arrange a Sikh cremation service for your loved one. We’re experienced in arranging funerals for all, regardless of faith, religion or culture.
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