Gurdwara Defined: The Guru's Gateway

The Sikh Place of Worship

Gurdwara San Jose
Gurdwara San Jose. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Definition:

Gurdwara is a compound word composed of several elements:

  • Guru meaning enlightener, or the guide from darkness into light.
  • Dwara or duaar meaning doorway, gateway, or portal.
  • Dua meaning blessings, or benediction.

In Sikhism the word gurdwara refers to the Sikh place of worship. The gurdwara houses the Guru Granth Sahib, which is Sikhism' sacred scripture, and everlasting guru of the Sikhs.

At the gurdwara worship service, divine instruction offering the means to enlightenment is conveyed through kirtan, the hymns of Gurbani that are sung from Guru Granth Sahib during services. Thus whoever comes to the gurdwara to worship enters the spiritual portal of the guru's door, or the gateway of the guide to enlightenment. 

A variety of spiritually oriented activities and events may take place at the gurdwara. All gurdwaras have a free kitchen where all who visit are welcome to partake of guru ka langar, a sacred meal that is prepared by volunteers immersed in prayer and meditation. Everyone regardless of gender, rank, race, or religion is welcome to worship with Sikhs at any gurdwara.

Deeper Spiritual Significance of Gurdwara:

The greatest significance of the word gurdwara is found in its spiritual context. The soul accesses a divine portal capable of transporting it from the subconscious state of spiritual ignorance to the elevated consciousness of self realization and enlightenment.

Immersed in hearing the divine instruction of shabad, the consciousness experiences transmutation and is released from the  effects of ego and darkness of worldly ego attachment. The soul which becomes spiritually illuminated is capable of achieving liberation and salvation. Having entered the aperture of consciousness, the door of enlightenment known as dasm duar, or the tenth gate, the inherent relationship of the soul and the divine is revealed.

Recognition dawns that there is no separation, no self. The soul attains the spiritual realization of becoming one with Waheguru.

Pronunciation and Spelling:

Words of Gurmukhi origin are spelled phonetically and when transliterated using Roman characters resulting English spellings may vary.

Pronunciation: Gur sounds like grr. Duara or dwara sounds like dew - are - awe.

Alternate Spellings: gurudwara, guroodwara, gurooduaraa

Examples From Scripture:

References to gurdwara as  the enlightening guru's gateway to consciousness occur throughout the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib.

  • "Guroo duaarai hoe sojhee paa-e-see ||
    Entering the Guru's Gate, one obtains understanding." SGGS||730
  • "Gurduaarai laa-e bhaavanee eknaa dasavaa duaar dikhaa-i-aa ||
    Entering the Guru's Gate, one is blessed with loving faith, and the Tenth Door is revealed." SGGS||922
  • "Guroo duaarai aakh sunaa-ae ||7||
    Entering the Guru's Door, utterance is heard." ||7|| SGGS||930
  • "Gur duaarai har keertan sunee-ai ||
    Entering the Guru's Gate, the Lord's adoring praise is heard." SGGS||1075