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Sikhs

Daily Prayer and Worship

The Sikh beliefs are based on the teachings of the Ten Gurus (Supreme Teachers) and the Guru Granth Sahib (The Sikh Holy Book). The religion believes in one God (Ek Onkar) who is the eternal source of light and creator of all being. The spiritual message taught by Guru Nanak had 3 aspects to it:-

  1. Meditation - which now involves chanting hymns composed by the Gurus
  2. Honest toil - earning a livelihood by honest means
  3. Sharing - giving to the poor and needy. Contributing one tenth of their income for good causes

Daily prayers are called Nit-Nam and devotion is a very important part of Sikh life. The morning prayer consists of:- Jap Ji, Jap, Chaupai, Sawaye and Anand Sahib. These five are recited or read by all God believing Sikhs. This prayer can be recited anywhere after a shower or bath and before breakfast.

The evening programme consists of Rehras sahib and Kirten sohila. The former is recited or read before supper and the latter before retiring to bed.

A Sikh patient will have with him a smaller version of the Holy Book, containing the morning and evening prayers. This is called Gutka and is wrapped in a clean cloth and should be kept in a clean place and respected.

A Sikh patient who is baptised can be recognised by his 5 Ks.

  1. Kesh - long hair which is uncut
  2. Kangha - comb to keep the hair clean
  3. Karra - a steel bangle worn on the right wrist
  4. Kirpan - a small sword
  5. Kachehra - underwear

The need for Sikh patients to wear the 5 Ks should be respected unless they have to be removed for medical purposes only.

Any patient who is too ill to recite the hymns should be allowed to listen to an audio cassette, or any member of his family or the priest should be able to recite for him.

A baptised Sikh is not allowed to shave the hair from any part of the body. If this is necessary for an operation then the patient or his next of kin should be consulted. For medical reasons a Sikh will allow the minimum of hair to be removed.

Male Sikh patients will wear a smaller version of a turban just to cover their hair while in hospital. The female will wear a chuni or dupatta at all times.

Holy Book

The Guru Granth Sahib is the Holy Book of the Sikhs. It is considered as the living Guru. It is written in the Gurmukhi script of Punjab, and contains the writings of the first five and the ninth Guru. It also contains verses from the saints of the 14th and 15th centuries regardless of their religion, caste or creed.

The Guru Granth Sahib is kept wrapped in cloth at home and in the Sikh temple, where it is set on planquin and is opened for prayer each morning by the priest. At the end of the day the Granth Sahib is closed after evening prayer, Rehras sahib and Kirten sohila, and put away to rest.

Holy Days and Festivals

The main holy days for Sikhs are the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the faith, in November, and the Vaisakhi day, the birth of the Khalsa, on the 13th April each year. They also celebrate the birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Guru, the martyrdom of Guru Arhan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru, the first installation of the Guru Granth Sahib and the martyrdom of the ninth Guru, Teg Bhadur Hi.

Many also celebrate the festivals of Diwali and Rakhi.

Diet and Hygiene

In the Sikh religion it is forbidden to eat Halal, Kosher and beef. It is important that even when cooking, the same utensils should not be used to cook for Sikhs which have been used to cook or store Halal, Kosher or beef.

The meats which the Sikhs eat are chicken, lamb, pork and fish. Some Sikhs are vegetarians. Vegetarian Sikhs do not eat fish or eggs either. The same care as for Hindus should be applied in these cases.

All Sikhs are required to bathe every morning.

Some Sikhs do not use toilet paper, but like to wash after urination and defacation, so a vessel should be provided in the toilet which can be a small plastic bottle or jug. This practice is the same as Hindus.

Gender Issues

As with all Asian patients, Sikh women are likely to prefer to be seen by the female health care staff. Consideration should be given to their modesty when being dressed for x-ray or surgery. Long dressing gowns should be provided to meet the above requirements.

The dress of the Sikh woman is mostly Salwar or Kameez. They can wear a sari if they wish. According to Sikh tradition Sikh women cover their heads with chuni or dupatta as a sign of respect and modesty.

Sikh women patients will feel more comfortable in a ward which has women patients only, and the same applies for the men.

Visiting

It is a Sikh custom for the family, friends and other members of the community to visit the sick relatives. It is an act of faith and family way of life. It would be helpful if visitors were not limited to two per bed, as this may cause offence to people who are concerned about the health of the patient.

The elderly patients need visitors for moral support and assurance.

Birth

The Sikh faith believes in rebirth and that the soul is reborn in many different forms and bodies. During pregnancy the mother is encouraged to go to the Sikh temple to congregate and read or recite the holy hymns from the Sikh scriptures. This helps the mother and the baby to take grace from God before the baby is born, and to provide the new born with a suitable atmosphere.

After birth the child is brought home and when the mother is able and well, they will take it to a Sikh temple for the naming ceremony.This ceremony is mostly done on Sunday during the service.

Death

A dying Sikh may receive comfort from reciting hymns from the holy book and patients or relatives may request the service of a Sikh priest during the last stages of the patient's life. The relatives should be asked to contact the priest of the temple to which they belong, and if no contact is made then the nearest temple should be contacted through the duty chaplain.

If no relative or family is present at the time of death, then they should be contacted as soon as possible. The body of the deceased should be covered, and must not be sent to the hospital mortuary before the immediate family or relations arrive. The body of the deceased can be handled by the hospital staff, preferably women by females and males by males and the following steps should be taken:

  • Close the eyes
  • Close the mouth
  • The face of the deceased may be displayed on numerous occasions prior to the funeral - a peaceful expression is desired, therefore it is appreciated if the face is cleaned, straightened if necessary and the eyes and mouth closed.
  • Limbs should be straightened and the body covered in a plain white sheet or shroud without religious emblems.
  • The five symbols (the 5 Ks) should not be removed.

Sikh faith necessitates the carrying out of the funeral as soon as possible after death. It is therefore important to assist in the providing of a death certificate at the earliest possible opportunity thereby enabling the funeral to take place.

All the funeral arrangements are made by the family, who will appoint a funeral director to do all the necessary work.

Sikh religion and faith requires the body to remain totally intact after death. If the need arises on medical terms for a post-mortem then permission should be asked from the next of kin. There are no restrictions for the post-mortem but the Sikhs would rather refrain from this if at all possible. However, there are no religious objections to blood transfusion or organ transplant.

Finally, during the preparation of the body for funeral, the body is washed by the relatives and family members. Women wash females and men wash the males. All this is carried out at the funeral directors. The body is then brought to the Sikh temple for the last prayers and rites and then taken to the cemetery for cremation. It is noted that all Sikhs, whether male or female, over the age of five years are cremated.

After the funeral the ashes are collected and scattered in a river or sea.

Chaplains

A Sikh chaplain can be contacted or alternatively, Sikh priests are available from the local Sikh temples. If anyone has difficulty then they should contact the duty chaplain on 01274 542200.