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Rehat Maryada

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Rehat Maryada

The Sikh Rehat Maryada[1][2][3] (alternate transliterations include Sikh Rahit Marayada and Sikh Reht Maryada[4]) is a code of conduct for Sikhism. This document was preceded by the Gurdwaras Act of 1925, which laid down the definition of a Sikh.[5] In 1915 and later in 1931, attempts were made to create a modern standard rehat ("code"). In 1950 the current Sikh Rehat Maryada was produced based upon the work of Sikh scholars, seeking to better standardise Sikh practices throughout the international community. The Damdami Taksal have their own version of the Sikh Code of Conduct, the Gurmat Rehat Maryada[6]

Preceding codes

Sikh Rehat Maryada is based on earlier codes (Rehat nama), to include:

  • Tanakhah-nama (Nasîhatnâme) Samvat 1776 (1718-19 CE), ten years after the death of Guru Gobind Singh.
  • The Prahilad Rai Rehat-nama
  • Sakhi Rehat ki: About 1735 CE
  • Chaupa Singh Rehat-nama: 1740-1765 CE (1700 CE according to Piara Singh Padam). Chaupa Singh was a member of the Guru's retinue. He was entrusted with the care of infant Gobind Das by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Some members of Chaupa Singh's family became martyrs with Guru Tegh Bahadur in Delhi and others served under the 10th Guru.
  • Desa Singh Rehat-nama: late 18th century
  • Daya Singh Rehat-name.

Principal points

The Sikh Rehat Maryada addresses key issues such as the definition of a Sikh, personal and communal obligations such as meditation and volunteer service, rules for gurdwara services to include appropriate music and festivals, and the conduct of assorted Sikh ceremonies.[7]

Definition of Sikh

A Sikh is defined as any person male or female who faithfully:

  • Believes in the existence of One eternal God
  • Follows their teachings of, and accepts as their only Spiritual guides, the Guru Granth Sahib and the ten human Gurus
  • Believes in the baptism (Amrit Sanchar), as promoted by the tenth Guru
  • Does not owe allegiance to any other religion

Sikh living

There are two aspects to a Sikh living. One is the adherence to a personal discipline and the development of a strong family life. The other is the involvement in communal life and to ensure community well-being and infra-structure for support of the weak within the community local and globally. This is the practical aspect of the three pillars of Sikhism promoted by Guru Nanak called Wand kay Shako (share and consume).

Personal life

  • Naam Japna[8] - Meditation on God's Name and the recital of the holy scriptures:
    • To arise in the early hours and recite Gurbani in the morning (Five Banis), evening (Rehras) and night (Kirtan Sohila) followed each time with the Ardas prayer. To remember God at all times and to recite his name whenever possible. (Naam Simran)
    • Seek only the support of the Almighty Lord before beginning any new task or venture. (Ardas)
  • Kirat Karni - Leading ones life in accordance with the Guru's teachings:
    • Engage in an honest profession or other work or course of study.
    • Promote the family way of life giving time to children in an active way so as to ensure their proper awareness of the Sikh way of life.
  • To live humbly and with love in an extended family group encouraging Gurmat principles and offering moral support within this extended structure.
  • Seva – Undertake free voluntary service within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc.
  • At every opportunity to spend ones free time to free community work and devote at least 10% of ones wealth in time or money to support community projects.
    • To positively support weaker members within the community.
  • Disciplined Life: The Sikh is commanded by the Gurus to lead a disciplined life and to not follow blindly rituals and superstitions which bring no spiritual or material benefit to the person or community.
    • Follow the teachings of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib
    • Do not eat meat that has been slaughtered in a ritualistic way and refrain from using all forms of intoxicants. Some interpret the code more broadly and believe that all non-vegetarian food (meat, eggs, fish) must be avoided. Alcohol and tobacco is strictly prohibited.[9]
    • Refrain from rituals, superstitions and other anti-Sikh behavior such as gambling, etc.
    • Apart from one's wife (or husband) to treat all females (or males) as daughters, sisters or mothers (sons, brothers or fathers) depending on their age.
    • To practice and promote complete equality between the genders; castes; races, religions, etc.

Communal life

The Sikh has a duty to actively contribute to the community outside the family unit. Time needs to be given to the greater Sikh community and the even wider world community. It is the duty of the Sikh to hold a continuous dialogue with all members of the larger community, to treat them as equals, and respect their religions and their customs.

Meditating and scriptures

It is the duty of all Sikhs to engage in personal and communal meditation, Kirtan and the study of the holy Scriptures. Meditating and understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib is important to the proper development of a Sikh. One must study Gurmukhi and be able to read Gurbani and understand the meaning of the text. Translations and other material may be used to assist the Sikh but must not be the primary text for the Sikh. The Sikh has to revert to the Guru Granth Sahib for the all spiritual guidance in ones life – from birth to death.

Congregation and scripture

It is believed that a Sikh is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani when engaged in congregational gatherings. For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh to visit Gurdwaras, the places where the Sikhs congregate for worship and prayer. On joining the holy congregation, Sikhs should take part and obtain benefit from the joint study of the holy scriptures.

No one is to be barred from entering a Gurdwara, no matter in which country, religion or caste he/she belongs to. The Gurdwara is open to all for the Guru's darshan (seeing the holy Guru) and Langar. However the person must not have on his/her person anything, such as tobacco or other intoxicants, which are tabooed by the Sikh religion. Shoes must be removed, one's head must be covered, and respectful clothing is a must.

Service in gurdwaras

During a service in a Gurdwara and while congregational sessions are in session, only one activity should be done at a time in one hall in the presence of the Guru - performing of kirtan, delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures or the reading of the scriptures.


Only Sikhs are allowed to perform Kirtan (Spiritual hymn singing) in a congregation and only hymns (Shabads) from the holy scriptural compositions in traditional musical measures should be sung. Only Shabads from Gurbani (Guru Granth's hymns) and the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed. It is improper to sing Kirtan to rhythmic folk tunes or popular film tunes.

Ardas and Guru's Hukam

Before taking a Hukam from the Guru, an Ardas must be done where all the congregation would stand for the Ardas and then sit down and carefully listen to the Hukam of the Guru.

Akhand Paath and Sadharan Paath

Akhand Paath: Is the non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib carried on during difficult times or during occasions of joy and celebration. The reading takes approximately forty eight hours of continuous and uninterrupted reading by a relay of skilled Gurbani readers. The reading must be done in a clear voice and with correct and full pronunciation. Reading the Gurbani too fast, so that the person listening in cannot follow the contents, is discouraged and is considered as disrespect for the Scriptures and the congregation (Sangat).

Sadharan Paath: This is a non-continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and one can take from seven days to many months to complete the full reading of the 1430 Anga (Pages) of the text.


The important Sikh festivals that are celebrated are:

  • Gurpurbs – Birthday and other important anniversaries (martyrdom, etc.) from the lives of the Gurus;
  • Vaisakhi – First Amrit Sanchar and Harvest festival

Living according to the Guru's Way

To live and promote the tenets stipulated by the Gurus.

  • Belief in One God
  • Equality of All the Human race
  • Respect for All, irrespective of gender, age, status, color, caste, etc.
  • Self-Control – Kill the Five Evils; no rituals or superstitions; no gambling, tobacco, alcohol, intoxicating drugs, etc.
  • Self-Improvement – Promote the Five Virtues
  • Maintenance of a distinct external image – 5 Ks and Bana

Sikh ceremonies

Voluntary Service (Seva)

Seva (voluntary service) is an important prominent part of the Sikh religion and all Sikhs must get involved in this communal service whenever an opportunity arises. This in its simple forms can be: sweeping and washing the floors of the Gurdwara, serving water and food (Langar) to or fanning the congregation, offering provisions or preparing food and doing other 'house keeping' duties.

Guru ka Langar (Guru's free food) is a very important part of Sikhism. The main philosophy behind the langar is two-fold : to provide training to engage in seva and an opportunity to serve people from all walks of life and to help banish all distinctions between high and low castes.

Communal life

Sikhism offers strong support for a healthy communal life and a Sikh must undertake to support all worthy projects which would benefit the community and promote Gurmat principles. Importance is given to Inter-faith dialogue, support for the poor and weak; better community understanding and co-operation.


  • Piara Singh Padam. Rehatname. Patiala, 1974
  • W.H. Mcleod. Sikhs of the Khalsa : History of Khalsa Rehat. Oxford Press 2003
  • Sikh Rehat Maryada - A Guide to the Sikh Way of Life. Published by the SGPC and re-printed by many Sikh missionary groups.

External links

  • Rehat Maryada at
  • Damdami Taksal Rehat Maryada
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