In the Sikh religion, a Gurdwara is the primary place of worship. Most established Gurdwaras consist of a Darbar Sahib, or the main hall where the Sikh Holy Scripture and perpetual Sikh Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, is placed on a throne centrally. Verses are read out, sung, and explained by the Raagis. Gurdwaras can be typically spotted from a great distance, thanks to the Sikh flag known as the Nishan Sahib.
While Amritsar's Harmandir Sahib is the most iconic Gurdwara, there are numerous other Gurdwaras in India and abroad that have garnered a lot of acclaim. Unlike churches, mosques, and temples, Gurdwaras don't need to conform to any particular architectural style,though most Gurdwaras established in the recent past have been known to resemble the Harmandir Sahib.A Gurdwara is best visited for observing the following key aspects of Sikh religion and culture
Visiting a Gurdwara is something that everyone can do. Gurdwaras do not place any entry restrictions. People of any faith, cultural and religious backgrounds can enter, and would be treated the same as Sikhs. Even though divided seating between men and women is not compulsory, men and women generally sit on separate sides of the Darbar Sahib, but at an equal distance from the Guru Granth Sahib. Thus, visiting a Gurdwara would reveal how much equality is valued within the Sikh culture.
Apart from the Darbar Sahib, Gurdwaras also consist of the langar rooms, where free vegetarian food is cooked and offered to all who are present. All people visiting a Gurdwara can expect a community lunch, where people from different walks of life are catered to. In this process, the illusions of difference between rich and poor, and high and low are removed.
The langar also promotes the importance of service or ‘Seva’ in Sikh culture. According to Sikh belief, all Sikhs are required to donate a certain percentage of their individual harvests and also their time to provide services to the Gurdwara. These services include keeping the Gurdwara floors clean, preparing food and serving it, and offering to carry out other housekeeping duties for the Gurdwara's welfare.
Visiting a Gurdwara does not only mean visiting a place of worship. A lot of Gurdwaras are home to libraries, with religious texts describing the faith and inner workings of Sikhism. Visiting a Gurdwara is also a great idea for learning the Gurmukhi script, which is a pre-requisite for understanding the Guru Granth Sahib.
Certain Gurdwaras also offer accommodation to visitors on a temporary basis. Gurdwaras are at their colorful and festive best during the anniversaries of various Sikh Gurus, along with the festival of Baisakhi.