Center for Faith and Vocation

Guru Nanak Sikh Society

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1911 Hobart Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 786-2331

Institutional History/Information

In May 1994 at its founding, the gurudwara (Sikh place of worship) was a residential home. The home was demolished in 2000 and the current larger building was constructed to accommodate growing numbers in the community. Additional property was purchased in 2007 to further the expansion of the gurudwara. The diwan hall is large enough to hold around 500 sangat, or members. The langar hall is housed in the basement of the facility. There is a full kitchen located in the langar hall, equipped with all the necessary elements to prepare large quantities of food. The most recent additions to the temple include a spacious hall attached to the original langar hall. This new room was built to accommodate the growing number of patrons in Indianapolis. There are also plans to construct a special room to house the Adi Granth within the diwan hall.

Followers of Sikhism greatly value community service. They respect the beliefs and opinions of others and reach out to people in their community regardless of religious background. This can be seen in their practice of serving langar meals to any visitor who comes to the gurudwara to observe their worship services.

Service Style

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Sikh services are informal and worshippers usually come and go at their own leisure. Upon entering the room of worship, which is called the diwan hall, adherents approach the altar with an offering of money or food. When they reach the altar, they bow down on their knees and put their heads to the ground, before rising and having a seat on the white sheets covering the carpet. The service is primarily led by a group of musicians who sit on a platform on the side of the altar. Throughout the service, this group chants sacred prayers accompanied by various instruments. During this time of musical chanting, the priest is available for individual conversation at the front of the room to explain the content and meaning of the prayers. However, at one point during the service, the priest himself stands to offer a sermon, along with various prayers and chants. The service is primarily conducted in Punjabi, one of the many languages spoken throughout India, and the mother tongue of most Sikhs (especially those in India). Women and men sit on different sides of the diwan hall with their legs crossed, leaving an aisle open in the center for additional worshippers to enter and exit throughout the service.

A special room in the gurudwara is designated to house the Adi Granth, the principle sacred text of the Sikh faith, which is treated as an honored guest. Although the book is kept in this room when services are not in session, during services, the text is displayed on a specially decorated altar in front of the congregation. The book is treasured by the members of the temple, who take turns sitting behind the book, praying over it and protecting it from dust or other impurities throughout the service. This is done by waving a chauri, or a duster made of animal hair over the book. It is important not to show any disrespect toward the book by offering unclean gestures, such as sitting with ones feet pointed in the direction of the sacred text.

Towards the end of the service, a sweet, dough-like food known as karah prasad is taken from the altar and shared by the entire congregation, signaling the conclusion of the service.

Demographics

Many middle-aged Sikhs in Indianapolis migrated directly from India; though many also migrated from California. Most of the children had been born in North America. Many Sikhs are moving from larger cities around the continent to Indianapolis. The ratio of men and women at the temple was relatively equal, and there was a diverse age range amongst the congregation.

Sikhs are open minded and willing to share their beliefs with others in the community. They believe that all people should follow an individual path that God has chosen for them, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, etc. The Guru Nanak Sikh Society is currently planning to hold discussions and events promoting interfaith relationships with other religious groups in the community.

What to Expect

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Upon entering the gurudwara, guests are expected to remove their shoes and place them on the provided racks. After this, members wash their hands and cover their heads with a scarf or a bandana. Head-coverings are not provided at the temple, so it is important to remember to bring one. The dress for men is relatively casual, mostly consisting of jeans or khakis and a collared shirt. Most women wear traditional Indian clothing, including long, beaded shirts and embellished head scarves. However an outfit of khakis and a blouse is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Guests should proceed down the hallway towards the langar hall, or kitchen, from 10:30-11:30 on a Sunday morning, where a large breakfast is prepared by one family and served to anyone who comes to the temple. After breakfast, members go upstairs to the diwan hall, where the worship service is in progress. Although there is not a specific time limit for the service, a typical service will last approximately three hours. At the conclusion of the service, the congregation returns to the langar hall, where a family has prepared a large lunch consisting of authentic Indian food. The langar room is filled with long narrow rugs on which people sit cross-legged to eat their meals. Each week one family goes to the gurudwara to prepare langar meals for the entire congregation. One of the three daily prayers recited by Sikhs is that no person should go hungry. The sharing of langar meal demonstrates this belief. All of the food shared during the langar meal is served from one community pot. All members eat from the same original dish, representing the abolition of the caste system, a key belief of Sikhs. After lunch, members disperse. Plan on spending a total of four and a half to five hours at the gurudwara, and on being warmly welcomed!