Sikhs Observances and ceremonies :Observant Sikhs adhere to long-standing practices and traditions to strengthen and express their faith. The daily recitation from memory of specific passages from the Guru Granth Sahib, especially the Japu (or Japji, literally chant) hymns is recommended immediately after rising and bathing. Family customs include both reading passages from the scripture and attending the gurdwara (also gurduara, meaning the doorway to God). There are many gurdwaras prominently constructed and maintained across India, as well as in almost every nation where Sikhs reside. Gurdwaras are open to all, regardless of religion, background, caste or race.
Worship in a gurdwara consists chiefly of singing of passages from the scripture. Sikhs will commonly enter the temple, touch the ground before the holy scripture with their foreheads, and make an offering. The recitation of the eighteenth century ardas is also customary for attending Sikhs. The ardas recalls past sufferings and glories of the community, invoking divine grace for all humanity.
The most sacred shrine is the Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, famously known as the Golden Temple. Groups of Sikhs regularly visit and congregate at the Harimandir Sahib. On specific occasions, groups of Sikhs are permitted to undertake a pilgrimage to Sikh shrines in the province of Punjab in Pakistan, especially at Nankana Sahib and the samadhi (place of cremation) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore.
Ceremonies and customs : Guru Nanak taught that rituals, religious ceremonies or empty worship is of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages. However, during the period of the later gurus, and due to increased institutionalisation of the religion, some ceremonies and rites did arise. Sikhism is not a proselytizing religion and most Sikhs do not make active attempts to gain converts. However, converts to Sikhism are welcomed, although there is no formal conversion ceremony.
Upon a child’s birth, the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left-hand corner of the left page. All boys are given the middle name or surname Singh, and all girls are given the middle name or surname Kaur. Sikhs are joined in wedlock through the anand karaj ceremony. Sikhs marry when they are of a sufficient age (child marriage is taboo), and without regard for the future spouse’s caste or descent. The marriage ceremony is performed in the company of the Guru Granth Sahib; around which the couple circles four times. After the ceremony is complete, the husband and wife are considered “a single soul in two bodies.”
Baptism and the Khalsa : Khalsa (meaning pure) is the name given by Gobind Singh to all Sikhs who have been baptised or initiated by taking ammrit in a ceremony called ammrit sañcar. The first time that this ceremony took place was on Vaisakhi, which fell on 30 March 1699 at Anandpur Sahib in India. It was on that occasion that Gobind Singh baptised the Pañj Piare who in turn baptised Gobind Singh himself.
Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear the Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakke or pañj kakar), or articles of faith, at all times. The tenth guru, Gobind Singh, ordered these Five Ks to be worn so that a Sikh could actively use them to make a difference to their own and to others’ spirituality. The 5 items are: kes (uncut hair), kangha (small comb), kara (circular heavy metal bracelet), kirpan (ceremonial short sword), and kaccha (special undergarment). The Five Ks have both practical and symbolic purposes.