The Final Rite
The Sikh funeral is known as ‘Antam Sanskaar’, which translates as ‘final rite’ or ‘the last rite of passage’. The service does not focus on the pain or grief of losing a loved one, but treats it as a celebration of the soul.
Sikhs believe in transmigration (karma) of the soul and that death is a natural part of life. They believe human life is an opportunity to break the soul’s cycle of reincarnation and return it to Waheguru, the Sikh name for God
Once a loved one has passed away the family will plan for them to be moved to a funeral home.
The family will then visit the gurdwara and arrange a non-continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib (Sahaj Path), this can take place at the family’s home or at the gurdwara itself.
The Sahaj Path is timed to conclude within 10 days of the loved one’s death.
Here in the UK the Sahaj Path is usually concluded on the day of the funeral
In preparation for the cremation (usually day before or day of funeral)
The body is washed with Yoghurt and soap with those present reciting the Gurmantar Waheguru or Mool Mantar, the loved one is lovingly dressed in clean clothes complete with Five Ks (for baptised Sikhs)
What Are the 5 Ks
Kesh – Uncut hair this has be regarded as a symbol both of holiness and strength. Baptised Sikh men and women will never cut or trim their hair.
Kara – A steel bracelet symbolises that God has no beginning or End. It acts as a reminder that a Sikh should not do anything of which the Guru would not approve. The kara is made from Steel rather than gold or silver, because it is not an ornament.
Kanga:- A wooden Comb. This symbolises a clean mind and body, since it keeps the uncut hair neat and tidy.
Kachha :- This is a pair of breeches that must not come below the knee. It was a particularly useful garment for Sikh warriors of the 18th and 19th centuries, being very suitable for warfare when riding a horse.
Kirpan – A ceremonial sword, there is no fixed style of Kirpan and it can be anything from a few inches to three feet long. It is kept in a sheath and can be worn over or under clothing. The Kirpan symbolises Defence of Good and weak. The struggle against injustice.
For a Sikh the fact that the Guru has instructed the Sikhs to wear the 5 Ks is an entirely sufficient reason, and no more need be said.
The symbols have become greatly more powerful with each passing year of Sikh history.
Every Sikh remembers that every Sikh warrior, saint, or martyr since 1699, and every living member of the Khalsa, is united with them in having adopted the same 5 Ks.
Day of Cremation
On the day of the cremation, the loved one is taken home and to the gurdwara, the congregation will sing shabads (hymns) from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Chaupai sahib Path is Sung and Simran, the Granthi ji (Priest) will then conclude the service with the Ardas.
The family will then make their way to the crematorium, and once again Shabads are sung and here they will recite the Kirtan Sohalia Path and the final prayer is called the Antim Ardas
The eldest Son or a close family relative starts the final cremation process, if the service was to take place in India they would light the funeral pyre, in the UK they press the button.
The family will then return to the Gurdwara to pay tribute after the cremation, a Sahaj Path Bhog is carried out (final readings of the guru granth Sahib)
The family and relatives collectively gather to pray for the departed soul.