Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Sikh Religious Observance

sikhs: religious observance The gurdwara is at the very heart of the Sikh community and much of the social as well as religious activity of the community takes place there. Anyone who is confined to a hospital bed may be visited frequently by their family, friends and the congregation of the local gurdwara, who will bring ritual food, dust, water and clothing to bless them and maintain their links with the community.

If the patient is on a medically restricted diet, you may have to keep an eye on visitors; food plays a very important part in these visits! If the patient cannot eat the food, it is still important that they receive it: it has been blessed for them and the symbolism is important.

At the heart of religious practice for Sikhs is the Guru Granth Sahib – the book of writings of the ten gurus, gathered together by the last of the Gurus and recited at every opportunity. Every Sikh carries a copy of this book with them, and it must be treated with the greatest of respect. Do not put it on the floor, near to shoes or feet, and keep it clean and safe.


Although Sikhs have ceremonies for many of the important milestones in their life, their personal religious practices are usually confined to three daily prayers with a ritual wash beforehand (dawn, evening and before sleep), meditation on the name of God, reading the Guru Granth Sahib and visits to the gurdwara. A patient may also ask to play keertan (holy music) as part of their religious practice; you may need to arrange headphones for them to do so without disturbing other patients.

the five Ks

For Sikhs who have been baptised into the Khalsa (Amritdhari Sikhs), the five Ks will be of great importance. These are long uncut hair (kesh), a small sword (kirpan), a steel bracelet (kara), a wooden comb used to keep the long hair in order (kangha) and long cotton underpants (kacchera). Both men and women will wear these items, and if any – or all – of them have to be removed, they must be treated with the same respect as is shown to the Guru Granth Sahib.

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