Rituals and Customs
Births and naming are carried out in different ways by different faiths. The Christians have christening, the Jews circumcision, and the Sikhs have the naming ceremony.
After the birth, the parents take the child to the gurdwara. Hymns are sung that express gratitude for the birth of a baby. The Adi Granth is then opened at random and the child is given a name beginning with the first letter of the first word on the left page. The parents take time to reflect then choose a name. Then more hymns are sung.
Marriage can still be arranged between the families of the bride and groom. But Sikhs now accept the right of the man or the woman to reject the person chosen for them. However, marriage is still seen as the joining of two families.
Traditionally, the bride wears red and gold, with her head covered with a red scarf, her hands and feet decorated with patterns, and a good deal of gold jewelry. The groom sports a colored turban and scarf and carries a long sword.
The Sikh conducting the marriage ceremony explains the ideals of marriage to the couple. The bridegroom's sister (or other prominent female in his life) drapes a long scarf around the groom's shoulders and places the right end in his hand. The father of the bride then takes the left end of the groom's scarf and arranges it over the bride's shoulders and puts the left end in her hand.
A wedding hymn, the Lavan of Guru Ram Das, is sung. While that is happening, the couple walks around the Guru Granth Sahib four times. As they finish each circuit, they bow to the holy book. The families follow the couple to show support for them. The bride and groom are then free to go to their new home.
Death could be a new beginning for a Sikh because they believe in the cycle of reincarnation. It is not necessary to mourn excessively since the deceased lives on in another body.
Hymns may be read by family and friends from the Guru Granth Sahib and prayers for the peace of the soul will be said, followed by evening prayers. The period of mourning usually lasts ten days. During that time, relatives visit to offer their condolences. The body is washed and dressed before the service.
In India, it may be cremated on a funeral pyre, but taking the body to the crematorium is also acceptable. The ashes are usually scattered in a river or the sea. If the ceremony takes place in India, the ashes are scattered in a sacred river, such as the Ganges.
Festivals and Ceremonies
Many ceremonies are held to celebrate the births and deaths of the ten gurus, two to commemorate the deaths of martyrs, and a festival for the anniversary of the Baisakhi, the date the Khalsa was founded, which was originally a harvest festival. The five major observances include Baisakhi, the birthdays of Gurus Nanak and Gobind Singh, and the martyrdom of Gurus Arjan and Tegh Bahadur.