A Sikh gurdwara may simply be a terraced house or a marvellous temple like this in Amritsar. A Gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship and gathering which is available to anyone, no matter their colour, beliefs or gender: 'Know that we are all born from the same clay'. The Gurdwara is important because it houses the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) Additionally it is the area of worship and the langar, a community centre for the sangat (Sikh community) and the place where ceremonies such as marriage happen. The Guru Granth Sahib is very important because it is today's Guru for Sikhs, and it was appointed eternal by Guru Gobind Singh (the previous guru). In addition, it contains all the teachings, the history of the religion as well as the Gurbani (words of god). Guru Nanak started the first Sikh assembly in a dharamsala (inn), where he sang hymns, and taught. He also insisted that all followers should be willing to worship, and eat together. The second Guru, Guru Angad, raised the idea of educating teenagers, by teaching Punjabi in the Gurmukhi script. Children would gather to learn the script of the Guru's hymns. Har Rai said that dispensaries should be there to provide free medicines to the poor. Guru Har Gobind gave the places of worship the name 'Gurdwara' from two Punjabi words: 'Guru' (god) and 'Dwara' (doorway). Gurdwara literally means 'doorway to god' and this is is symbolised through the occurrence of the Guru Granth Sahib. This is the basic history of how a gurdwara had become. All gurdwaras look different, and they can be any shape or size.
A gurdwara is marked with a Nishan Sahib which is the symbol of the Khalsa army and it is a sign that this is the place of the Guru and the Khalsa. It is a kesri (saffron) coloured flag on an extremely tall pole so that the host to worship can be seen from miles away. The pole is also wrapped in a kesri coloured fabric as the color symbolises courage and sacrifice. The Khanda (Symbol of Sikhism) is printed onto the flag, and it's really contains 4 weapons. The double edged sword is symbolic of the teaching that Sikhs must fight for truth, the two kirpans represent the spiritual and earthly worlds, and the chakra or circle reminds the Sikhs that god is one. This reminds everyone that Sikhs experienced to fight to guard their religion. Above the door of the entry to the Gurdwara is the most important concept within the Guru Granth Sahib - the Mool Mantra. This is a verse about the nature and work of God, and Guru Nanak spoke this verse after he came back from heaven. The purpose of the Mool Mantra being above the door is so that as soon as you enter the Gurdwara, or even before, you're already considering god. Also the Ik Onkar (another Sikh symbol) is usually above the door. It means 'God is one'. Having this above the door links to Guru Nanak's teaching: Nam Japna, considering god all the time. Since it says in the Guru Granth Sahib 'Pray, pray, pray and obtain peace'.
When entering the gurdwara you are anticipated to eliminate your shoes and cover your head as an indicator of respect towards the Guru Granth Sahib. There is always a cloakroom, whether it is a room or simply a shelf or space set aside where you can leave your shoes. It is because no dirt is going in to the diwan hall. Also shoes are usually manufactured from leather, and respecting the beliefs of Hindus, Sikhs also assume that you shouldn't kill cows. It would be very disrespectful to take leather into the diwan hall. There's also washrooms separate for men and women, where hands are washed and in some gurdwaras there's also feet washes. People should be clean if they are to enter the existence of the Guru, as a sign of respect.
The Diwan hall (Darbar Sahib) is probably the main room in the gurdwara because it is the place of hymns, the place of prayers, and the place of worship. The feature that attracts your eye is the takht (throne) at the heart of the room. The reason there is a throne is basically because the Guru Granth Sahib is treated just like a human Guru. It is treated like royalty. There is a Palki (gold canopy) above the Manji Sahib (platform) on which the Guru Granth Sahib is positioned. Again the canopy is gold to treat the Guru like royalty. It really is showing that the Guru Granth Sahib is treated such as a living Guru giving an audience. Romallas are also brought as offerings by the sangat (community) for the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of respect. A Sikh volunteer sits behind the Guru Granth Sahib holding a Chauri (created from horse hair mounted on a wooden or steel handle), and she or he waves it from time to time as a token of respect. The chauri is a symbol of the authority of the living Guru. Approaching the Guru Granth Sahib on the red carpet you are expected to bow down and touch the ground as a sign of further respect on the eternal Sikh Guru. The red carpet is symbolic that today's Guru is treated as royalty, and that it's special. Because you walk down the carpet you think of God. Before the Takht there is a golak (collection box) where offerings of cash are usually made to help carry the expenses of running the gurdwara and community work. These offerings are voluntary and not compulsory. The offerings are created to show respect to God. There is also a platform for the Ragis (musicians) to elevate them the easier to hear their music and Shabads (hymns), but not as high as for the Guru Granth Sahib. They will sing Shabads and can play their harmoniums and tablas (instruments). The Khanda symbol and the Mool Mantra will again be in the Diwan hall. This is reminding Sikhs of these history and the type of God. There might be some pictures of the previous ten Gurus, however, many Gurdwaras don't have them because they think that the Diwan hall should be simple, and clear of distractions. Sikhs believe you mustn't worship Gurus; they are not more important than God, and by having pictures of the Gurus they could be a focus of worship rather than God. Gobind Singh also said: 'Those who call me Supreme Being shall fall into the pit of hell'. Everyone regardless of their status sit on the ground as an indicator of equality, as opposed to chairs. Because as it says in the Sikh holy book 'Everyone has the same human form, everyone has the same soul'. The Guru Granth Sahib is usually installed on an increased level showing respect to the much honoured Guru. One may enter or leave the congregation at any time. Women and men do not sit together but on separate sides of the room, both at the same distance from the Guru Granth Sahib. The granthi is someone who reads the Guru Granth Sahib and can be a man or a female, showing equality. It really is their job. Nanak also taught that everyone must do employment that benefited society - Kirat Karna.
Another sign of the book being treated as a living Guru is the fact it has its bedroom (Babaji's room) where it is 'put away to sleep'. Babaji is a respected way of calling seniors. The ceremony of laying the Guru Granth Sahib to rest is called Sukhasan. The book will will have a four poster bed, to show how authoritative it is, and how it is honoured. On the bed the Guru Granth Sahib will be covered by Romallas which can be beautiful cloths donated by the sangat as a sign of respect to the book. The Ik Onkar symbol will maintain the area, as will flowers and decorations. You will see more than one copy of the holy book, since a lot of people would want to borrow the book for ceremonies such as marriage, and funerals. These spare copies may also be kept in the Babaji's room. This room would be the most beautifully decorated room in the gurdwara, and it will also be the highest. Again this is to respect the book, also to treat it as a full time income, human Guru. The Babaji's room is one of the most important rooms in the gurdwara.
An essential part of any gurdwara is the langar (Kitchen and dining area). The Guru designed an institution where all people would sit together, on the floor as equals, to consume the same simple food. It is here that all people high or low, rich or poor, male or female, all sit together to talk about and enjoy the meals together. Within the langar all take a seat on the ground and food is cooked and served by volunteers, this food is offered by all times. Everyone can do sewa (help) by washing the laundry, cleaning up, helping to cook; everything is counted as sewa and by doing so you are fulfilling a part of your duty. It's very good to do sewa because enjoy it says in the Guru Granth Sahib, to be a good person, you've got to help others: 'the hands of the Gurmukh are blessed for they toil in the service of God and the Sangat'. This links to some other one of Nanak's teachings: Kirat Karna - helping others. Only vegetarian food is served so that no individual is offended and all religions can sit together to talk about a meal. There may be some tables and chairs, but whilst eating everyone should sit at the same height showing equality. Speakers will be linked to the Diwan hall, so that those making langar can listen to the bani (the service). Gurdwaras aren't just a host to worship, but a place of gathering and community as well.
Most gurdwaras will have a classroom which looks like any typical classroom with desks and chairs. Children will come here usually once a week to find out about their religion and the Sikh history, to learn Punjabi (if not their first language) and learn the written form of Gurmukhi. The teachers are called giannis. There could be some guest/visitors bedrooms that are even available to non-Sikhs who are too poor to afford other accommodation. Nanak believed that an important quality to develop in Sikhism was that of hospitality, welcoming visitors, Sikhs and non-Sikhs. Also there will be a dispensary, which is a free clinic usually found in poorer regions of the world, e. g. India. Har Rai believed that the sick and the indegent should get free medicines as service to the humanity. That is again associated with Nanak's teachings, Vand Chakna (Charitable thinking).
The main purpose of the gurdwara is usually to be a location where Sikhs can study the Guru Granth Sahib and also to praise God. It is also used as a community centre for youth clubs and women's meetings. The gurdwara also serves an education centre and teaching local Sikhs about their faith and language. Any traveller is welcome to a free meal at the Gurdwara and can find temporary accommodation here. Respect and honour is proven to the Guru Granth Sahib and God in every way possible, and the importance of the Guru Granth Sahib is fully demonstrated.