9. Death Ceremony | Sikh Code | v2

Death Ceremony

"Death comes to all, and all must suffer separation." (SGGSJ Ang 595)

[Some of these may not apply to those outside of Punjab/India. The translation is made according to the original text, thus take this into account when thinking of a funeral in other countries.]

If an Amritdhari is dying and has lived their life in accordance to the Rehat Maryādā laid down in Gurmat, then their living and dying has been worthwhile.

But if a person is not Amritdhari or has committed a cardinal sin they should have re-taken Amrit from the Panj Pyare.

Gurbani is to be continually recited by the bedside of the dying person. If the person is entangled in worldly affairs and the false love of friends/relatives is effecting him/her then the 2nd Aṣṭapadī of Sukhmani Sahib is to be recited:

Where there is no mother father, children, friends or siblings, for support."
(SGGSJ Ang 264)

This is to be recited continuously and if the person is highly spiritual (i.e. meditates and has knowledge of Gurmat) then the 21st Aṣṭapadī is to be read:

When this world had not yet appeared in any form."
(SGGSJ Ang 290)

After the death of the person, you should not cry, wail or beat your chests in bereavement. The person is not to be lowered from their bed, Maharaj orders us: Guru Amar Das Ji said that;

If one cries upon my death (passing), it will not be pleasing to me."
(SGGSJ Ang 923)

If you cry after the dead, the tears that you cry become an ocean in the after-world. The tears blow out the light of the soul and the ‘path’ becomes shrouded in darkness. For this reason crying and wailing is prohibited.

For the good of the deceased Gurbani Nitnem is to be recited as much as possible - with which the departed will be assisted in the after-world. Gurbani kirtan is to be recited:

When a Sikh dies. he must he bathed, His Kachera must be changed and his turban tied. While doing this Sri Japji Sahib must be continuously recited."
(Rehatnāma Bhai Dayā Singh ji. p.76)

Whilst washing the deceased's body, Japji Sahib is to be recited at all times. When the Kachera is changed, one leg is to be removed first and then the dry, fresh Kachera put on.

The 5 Kakār- Kirpan on Gātra, Kachera, Kangha in hair, Kara on arm and a Kurta/Chola put on, a turban around the head and a parṇa around the neck are to be put on the deceased.

In addition to this a Kamar-Kasa/waistband is to be tied and a second fresh dry Kachera is to be tied around the waist with another cloth. All clothes should be of good quality and well-tailored.

After performing Ardas the body is to be taken to the funeral pyre/crematorium.

For the respect of Gurbani the head of the deceased is to be placed towards the Rāgīs and his/her feet in the opposite direction, the feet are not to be placed in the direction of those reading Gurbani. If Rāgī Singhs cannot be booked then "Satnam – Vaheguru” is to be recited aloud along the way.

On the way to the pyre, the body is not to be put on the floor, a watch is not to be broken, there is to be no crying/wailing, spilling of water, bowing down and the bowling of a piece of kitchen-wear etc. are all prohibited.

If there is a Gurdwara on the way then the body can be placed on the floor outside the Gurdwara, so a final salutation to the Guru can be made.

The pyre is to be made of wood, which shouldn’t have been used to move cow-dung; i.e. fresh wood is used. If possible sandalwood and ghee/pure butter are to be placed on the pyre.

After placing the deceased on the pyre, one Singh is to recite Japji Sahib whilst facing the head of the deceased. The others are to prepare the pyre and listen to the prayer. When the pyre is ready and Japji Sahib completed, Ardas is to be performed:

"Oh True King bless this person, forgive all the sins that they have committed in their life. Bless the deceased with abode in your blessed feet, give strength to the family to accept your will, give us permission to set the pyre alight."

The pyre is then lit. Screaming and wailing is not allowed and matches are not to be set alight and needlessly thrown. Satnam Vaheguru or Kirtan is to be continuously recited.

When the pyre is half burnt Kirtan Sohila is to be recited and Ardas performed. The skull of the burning body is not to be cracked open.

Upon returning from the cremation place, everybody should go straight to the Gurdwara and have Ishnana. If this is not possible, then the hands, feet and face should be washed.

Karah Parshad is to be prepared and brought into the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib jī, after which Śabads about death are to be recited. Ardas is to be performed and the Karah Parshad distributed.

Reciting Gurbani on behalf of the deceased is essential. If possible, a Sehaj Pāth is to be started on the day of the cremation.

If one has the capability of organising an Akhand Pāth, then it is to be started on the 8th day after the cremation and the Bhoj on the 10th day, after which Rāmakalī Sadh is recited, Ardas performed and Karah Parshad distributed. During the making or preparation of the Karah Parshad all forty verses of the Anand Sahib are to be recited (as is normal).

Superstitions about doing something on the 12th, 13th or 17th day after the cremation are not to be performed. The Khalsa is supreme, therefore doing something on the 10th day is in accordance with the Guru's command.

Women are not to cry and wail. They should accept God’s will. All the family of the deceased should sit and listen to the Pāth. The family is to serve the Granthis to the best of their abilities. At the time of the Bhoj, good clothing and money is to be presented as an offering in front of Guru Sahib Ji.

After the second day, Jaitasarī di Vār (two Salokas daily) and Sahaskritī (six Salokas daily) should be recited and the meanings explained each morning.

If there is no one available to make these discourses, then the whole of 'Jaitasarī di Vār' and ’Sahaskritī' is to be read on the day of the person's death.

If the person died somewhere else, all of ‘Jaitasarī di Vār,‘ ‘Vadhans di Vār' and 'Sahaskritī Salokas' are to be recited then after collecting up the ashes. The tenth Guru, the Father of the Khalsa, made this a rite of the Khalsa, enshrining it into the Rehat.

The ashes are to be collected as they are and are not to be foiled with.

The tying of strings, placing nails in soil etc. are prohibited (superstitions). Flowers, Kirpan and Kara are not to be picked out of the ashes.

All the ashes (and bones) are to be collected and taken to either Kiratpur Sahib or Goindwāl Sahib and scattered in the river. If this is not possible, then they can be scattered in any nearby flowing river or canal. Flowers are not to be placed in the Ganges and a shrine/memorial stone is not to be made.