Did you know that there are between 500,000 to 700,000 Sikhs living in the United States? The Fresno Bee estimates that around half of those individuals live here in California. Yet, many people still mistake practitioners of Sikhism for members of the Islamic or Hindu religions. When it comes to Sikh funeral customs, we make a clear distinction where other funeral homes may not.
At Callaghan Mortuary & Livermore Crematory, we recognize and follow the traditions of all faiths and creeds. With more than a century of funeral experience, we provide families with the help they need.
When death presents itself to your family, you can have faith in us. Our Livermore mortuary will be there for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so reach out for a complimentary consultation. Let us help you plan the funeral your loved one deserves.
What Is Sikhism?
Founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev, Sikhism originated in the Punjab region of India. Guided by a succession of Gurus, this religion believes in one deity who has many names—Waheguru the Wondrous Giver of Knowledge. It is a dedication to becoming more like God that drives the Sikh. Serving humanity, good deeds, and meditation are part of this process. Sikhs also believe in equality regardless of background, gender, race or religion. To learn more about Sikh culture, visit The Sikh Coalition.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sikh Funerals
What Should I Wear to an Antam Sanskaar?
Dress modestly with minimally exposed skin. Wear a head covering such as a hat or headscarf. The family will very likely wear white, the color of mourning, but guests can wear other colors.
Should I Bring a Gift or Flowers to the Service?
This will often depend on the family’s wishes, so it is a good idea to ask beforehand. It is also traditional to bring food to the mourning family after the funeral. Just be sure the food is appropriate, usually vegetarian—no meat.
Is There a Mourning Period After the Funeral?
Accepting the will of God is a significant part of the Sikh faith. To that end, Sikhs usually do not have a mourning period. However, families do subscribe to reading the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib after the Antam Sanskaar. This reading can last for just three days or over ten days.
If I Am Not Sikh, What Funeral Etiquette Should I Observe?
In general, non-Sikhs are not expected to participate in readings or prayer. So, staying respectfully silent, and sitting and standing with the congregation is a good plan. Talk to the decedent’s family for more guidance on what would be appropriate.
Our Livermore Crematory and Funeral Home Can Serve Your Needs
Callaghan Mortuary & Livermore Crematory understands that each family has its own unique funerary needs. Our dedication to those needs is what sets our California funeral home apart from others. We understand the values of Sikh families and want to help with your Antam Sanskaar. Whether that’s helping transport the decedent’s body to a Gurdwara, or providing the equipment for cremation, we want to be of service.
Antam Sanskaar, or “last rite of passage,” is the name of the Sikh funeral. Before a funeral begins, Sikh families observe several traditions. Family and friends gather by the deathbed reading scripture and praying to console the dying person. After passing, the family will transport the body to the funeral home or the Gurdwara–the Sikh house of worship. There, preparations for cremation will begin.
The decedent’s body will undergo cleaning and dressing according to the Five Kakaars. These five articles of the Sikh faith are as follows:
- Kesh – Uncut hair symbolizing many concepts such as strength, holiness, acceptance of God’s creation and a simple life.
- Kara – A iron/steel bracelet that represents restraint, a bond to the community and God having neither beginning nor end.
- Kanga – A wooden comb representing a clean body, mind and staying tidy.
- Kaccha – An undergarment symbolizing chastity that also has ties to the Sikh warriors of the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Kirpan – A ceremonial sword connected to spirituality, defending the good and the weak, and resisting injustice. It can also be a metaphor for God.
Upon completion of these preparations, services may begin. There may be speeches, hymns and a viewing of the body. This part of the funeral often depends on the customs of particular families. After this ceremony, the eldest son or close relative will initiate the cremation. Family, close relatives and friends can attend the cremation itself.
The ashes are either buried or scattered (often in a body of running water) afterward. Since the body is merely the shell that contains the soul, Sikhs do not mark graves with monuments or stones.