Rehat Maryada

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The Rehat Maryada is the Sikh Code of Conduct as released by the SGPC. See the full text of the code at Rehat Maryada (Full), its history at History of Rehat Maryada.

In 1950 the "Sikh Rehat Maryada" was finally approved by the Sikh Community and the document has been accepted as the official version which provides guidelines for all Sikh individuals and communities around the world. Its implementation has resulted in a high level of uniformity in the religious and social practices of Sikhism. There is still some debate about the complete acceptance but it serves as a good base for most Sikh communities worldwide.

The following is a summary of the main issues covered by the Sikh Reht Maryada: (see SGPC site])

Khanda – a symbol of disciplined conduct
  • 1. Definition of Sikh
  • 2. Sikh Living
    • Sikh's Personal Life
    • Sikh's Communal Life
  • 3. Meditating and Holy Scriptures
  • 4. Sadh Sangat and Reflecting on Gurbani
  • 5. Service in Gurdwaras
    • Kirtan
    • Ardas & Guru's Hukam
    • Akhand Paath and Sadharan Paath
    • Festivals
  • 6. Living by the Guru's Way (Gurmat Rehni)
  • 7. Sikh Ceremonies
    • Baby Naming Ceremony (Naam Karan)
    • Baptism Ceremony (Amrit Sanskar)
    • Marriage Ceremony (Anand Sanskar)
    • Funeral Ceremony (Antim Sanskar)
    • Other Rites and Conventions
  • 8. Voluntary Service (Sewa)
  • 9. Communal Life & Other Matters

1. Definition of Sikh

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

  • i. believes in the existence of One eternal God
  • ii. Accepts as their only Spiritual guide the Guru Granth Sahib and the ten human Gurus and follows their teachings.
  • iii. Is preparing to take the baptism Amrit Sanchar as promoted by the tenth Guru, and
  • iv. does not owe allegiance to any other religion.

2. Sikh Living

There are two important aspects in living as a Sikh.

  • The adherence to a personal discipline and the development of a strong family life.
  • The involvement in the life of ones local community; ensuring the well-being of even its weakest and infirm members - both locally and globally, for all of mankind. This is the practical aspect of the three pillars of Sikhism promoted by Guru Nanak called Wand kay Shako (Share and consume).

Personal Life

  • i. Naam Japna - Meditation on God's Name and the recital of the holy scriptures:
  • a. 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)
  • b. Seek the support of only the Almighty Lord before beginning any new task or venture. (Ardas)
  • ii. Kirat Karni - Leading ones life in accordance with the Guru's teachings:
  • a. Ones profession, work or course of study must be honest work done with honesty and integrity.
  • b. Promote the family way of life giving time to ones children in an active way so as to ensure their proper awareness of the Sikh way of life.
  • c. To live humbly and with love in an extended family group encouraging Gurmat principles and offering moral support within this extended structure.
  • iii. Sewa – Undertake free voluntary service within the community at Gurdwaras, community projects, hospitals, old peoples homes, nurseries, etc.
  • a. Take every opportunity to devote ones free time working in ones community without thought of recompence and to devote at least 10% of ones wealth in money (or in ones time) to support community projects.

B* b. To positively support weaker members within the community.

  • iv. Disciplined Life:

The Sikh is commanded by the Gurus to lead a disciplined life and not to blindly follow rituals and superstitions which bring no spiritual or material benefit to the person or community.

  • b. Eat simple food in moderation and refrain from any food or drink that causes determent to the body or mind like alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.
  • c. Refrain from rituals, superstitions and other anti-Sikh behaviour (such as gambling, smoking or the use of alchoholic drink or illegal drugs).
  • d. To treat all those of the opposite sex, apart from ones marriage partner (wife or husband) as one would her/his own daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father - depending on their age.
  • e. To treat all other humans as equals and work towards the day that men and women of castes; classes, races, and religions treat each other with grace, respect and equality.

Communal Life

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

3. Meditating and Holy 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 SGGS 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 of the SGGS and other material may be used to assist the Sikh but must not be the primary text for the Sikh. Sikhs must use the SGGS as the spiritual guide in their life – from birth to death. The ability to read and understand Gurmukhi is essential in accomplishing this task.

4. Holy Congregation (Sadh Sangat) and Reflecting on Gurbani

It is believed that a Sikh is more easily and deeply affected by Gurbani when engaged in a congregation (Sangat). For this reason, it is necessary for a Sikh to visit Gurdwaras, the places where the Sikhs congregate for worship and prayer, and join in the holy congregation, 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, whatever the religion, caste, class, sex, race or nationality he or 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 banned by the Sikh religion.

5. Service in Gurdwaras

While a congregational session is taking place, only one activity should be done at a time in the hall in which the SGGS is installed, whether the performance of kirtan, delivering of discourse, interpretative elaboration of the scriptures or the reading of the scriptures.


Only a Sikh is 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 sang. Only Shabads from Gurbani (Guru Granth's or Guru Gobind Singh's hymns) and the compositions of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed. It is improper to sing hymns to rhythmic folk tunes or popular film tunes.

Ardas & Guru's Hukam

Before taking a Hukam from the Guru, an Ardas must have been 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 at difficult times or on 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, with correct and full pronunciation. Reading the Gurbani, so fast that persons listening in cannot follow the contents, is discouraged and amounts to disrespect to the Scriptures and the congregation (Sangat).

Sadharan Paath: This is a non-continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and one can take from 7 days to many months to complete the full reading of the 1430 pages of the text.


The important Sikh festivals that are celebrated are:

  • Gurpurbs – Birthdays and other important anniversaries (martyrdom, etc) from the lives of the Gurus
  • Vaisakhi – First Amrit Sanchar and Harvest festival
  • Hola Mohalla – a Sikh festival estabished by Guru Gobind Singh, it follows the Hindu festival of Holi by one day, but unlike Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powder, and morals are relaxed, Hola Mohalla is an occasion for Sikhs to demonstrate and teach their martial skills and engage in simulated battles, all in a festive communal gathering.

6. 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

7. Sikh Ceremonies

8. Voluntary Service (Sewa)

Sewa (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, cooking or serving water and food in the Guru's communal Kitchen/Eating Facility (Langar), washing dishes, fanning the congregation, dusting the shoes of the people visiting the Gurdwara, etc.

Guru ka Langar (Guru's Kitchen/Eating Facility) is a very important part of Sikhism. The main philosophy behind the Langar is two-fold : to provide training to engage in Sewa and an opportunity to serve the Sikhs and to help banish all distinction of high and low, touchable and untouchable from the Sikhs' minds.

9. Communal Life & Other Matters

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, and so on.


  • Piara Singh Padam, Rahitname, Patiala, 1974
  • Sikhs of the Khalsa : History of Khalsa Rahit, W.H.Mcleod, Oxford Press 2003

External links