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What Happens at Sikh Funerals?

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Sikhism, a monotheistic religion, has unique customs and rituals associated with its funerals. As a faith that emphasises the importance of community and spirituality, Sikh funerals are typically solemn and meaningful events that bring together family and friends to honour the deceased. If you are unfamiliar with these types of Asian funerals, read on to find out what to expect.

Pre-Funeral Rituals

Upon the passing of a Sikh individual, their family will usually begin preparations for the funeral. A key aspect of these preparations is the ritual bathing and dressing of the deceased, which is typically carried out by close family members or friends. The body is then dressed in clean, modest clothing and often adorned with the 'Five Articles of Faith' that are central to Sikh identity. In the period leading up to the funeral, family and friends may gather at the deceased's home to recite prayers and hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the central religious scripture of Sikhism.

The Funeral Service

Like other Asian funerals, a Sikh funeral service is usually held at a temple, in this case, a Gurdwara. Some also take place at the deceased's home, especially in rural Australia where there aren't so many temples. The service is led by a Granthi, a religious leader who recites prayers and hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. Mourners are expected to dress modestly and cover their heads, with men typically wearing a turban or headscarf and women donning a headscarf or shawl. During the service, the congregation will listen to hymns and prayers, often joining in the recitation of the central Sikh prayer, the Ardas. The service is focused on remembering the deceased's life and offering comfort to the grieving family, with an emphasis on the Sikh belief in the cycle of life, death and rebirth.


In Sikhism, like Asian funerals conducted for Hindus, cremating the body is preferred. Sikhs believe this will expedite the soul's release from the physical body and return it to the universal spirit, or Waheguru. Following the funeral service, the body will be taken to a crematorium, where family members and friends may participate in the cremation process by reciting prayers.

Post-Funeral Rituals

After the cremation, the family will gather the ashes and, in accordance with Sikh tradition, immerse them in a body of flowing water, such as a river or the ocean. This act symbolises the return of the physical body to nature and the soul's ongoing spiritual journey. In the days following the funeral, the bereaved family may host a gathering at their home or a Gurdwara, where mourners can offer condolences and share memories of the deceased.

To learn more about different types of Asian funerals, reach out to a local service provider.