The Gurdwara is the Sikh place of learning and worship where the community gathers. Visitors of any background can seek shelter, comfort, and food through the institution of langar, a free community kitchen open to all. Because the Sikh faith does not have an ordained clergy, any woman or man from the congregation may lead religious services.
The Sikh scripture is at the center of Sikh life, and it is also placed at the center of the gurdwara space. The entire Guru Granth Sahib is written as poetry and music, so the majority of a worship service is conducted in song. Community members and musicians lead the congregation in singing and chanting, and often community leaders will take a few moments to explain basic ideas and lessons from the selections. After the ceremony, the congregants gather for a meal together that is called langar. Everyone sits on the floor as a sign of equality, and people of all backgrounds and identity groups are welcome to join.
There are a few basic aspects of etiquette to know when visiting a gurdwara. Visitors must take off their shoes and cover their heads before entering the worship space. Both of these practices are signs of respect. Upon entering the space, Sikhs bow before the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of submission to the teachings — this is not obligatory for observers. All congregants then sit on the floor together to participate in the worship and singing. Everyone is welcome to participate as they see fit. Most commonly, visitors prefer to sit, observe, and enjoy the music.
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