11 Things You'll Learn at Gurmat Camp

Children's Camp Activities For Sikh Youth

Gurmat camps and Sikh spiritual retreats offer religious studies about every aspect of Sikhism. Gurdwara hosted children's camp are primarily geared towards Sikh youth, however anyone wanting to learn about Sikhism is always welcome. Day camps feature classes in a variety of religious study subjects and are usually held on a weekly basis, often after Sunday worship service is over. Overnight camps held at summer solstice, and during summer, or winter, school vacations may take place on the gurdwara premises, or in a traditional camp setting, and last anywhere from overnight up to a week or two.

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Gurmat camp provides sangat and experiences that can create friendship bonds which last a life time. Camp programs include Sikhism oriented activities and opportunities for communal service which welcome the participation of even the youngest kids willing to pitch in, with a focus on religious studies and lessons relating to worship services and Sikh lifestyle.

Eleven Gurmat Camp Activities

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Simran (Meditation)

Gurmukhi Sign Reminder Reads
Gurmukhi Sign Reminder Reads "Simran Karo" - Do Simran. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Day camps and overnight camps both place emphasis on meditation in the form of naam simran. Overnight camps begin the day very early with showers. After bathing, and dressing, kids cover their heads with scarves or turbans and meet in the main hall. Meditation begins early just before daybreak. Campers sit cross legged on the floor facing the Guru Granth Sahib and quietly murmur "Waheguru" repeatedly.

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Nitnem (Daily Prayers)

Sacred Nitnem With Velour Hardcover and Printed Carboard Slip Cover
Sacred Nitnem With Velour Hardcover and Printed Carboard Slip Cover. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Campers learn to read and recite nitnem, a set of the required prayers. The five morning prayers begin with Japji Sahib. Camps provide Nitnem gutkas as well as prayer books in Gurmukhi with English letter format for campers who are not yet proficient in reading Gurmukhi.

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Shabad Kirtan (Hymns of Praise)

Children Perform Shabads Camp Learned at During Worship
Children Perform Shabads Camp Learned at During Worship. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

Campers are taught to play shabads and perform kirtan. Some camps may have formal instructions where campers are taught to play the vaja, or tabla and learn one shabad together as a group following a structure based on classic teaching methods. Other camps are less formal and campers learn various shabads from each other in groups of two or three. Campers sing the shabads that they learn during the day on stage during evening programs.

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Itihaas (Sikh History)

Ten Gurus of Sikh History
Ten Gurus of Sikh History. Artwork © [Satnam Singh]

Campers learn about important people and events of Sikh heritage and history, through story telling, or Itihaas. Children are taught the names of the Ten Gurus and the five beloved Panj Pyare.


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Paath (Devotional Reading)

Sikh Child Assisting With Care of Guru Granth Sahib
Sikh Child Assisting With Care of Guru Granth Sahib. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

Campers are taught the fundamentals of the

Gurmukhi alphabet to enable them to begin and advance in learning to "do paath", and engage in devotional reading, of Gurbani, or Sikh scriptures including:

  • Nitnem - Required daily prayers
  • Senchia - Study volumes of Guru Granth Sahib
  • Hukam - Read random verse of Guru Granth Sahib.
  • Sehaj Paath or Akhand Paath - Read the entire scripture Guru Granth Sahib


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Vichar (Discussion)

Kathaa Preaching
Kathaa Preaching. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Campers will have opportunities to learn about Sikhism basics such as the three principles, listen to katha, preaching narratives of the Sikh tenets, and engage in vichar, or spiritual discussions focused on Sikh beliefs, and the divine attributes of Ik Onkar, one creator present in all of creation.

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Maryada (Protocol)

Sikh Children Washing Hands Before Entering Gurdwara
Sikh Children Washing Hands Before Entering Gurdwara. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Campers have opportunities to learn Maryrada, or social conventions which include respectful gurdwara protocols:

  • Cover hair
  • Remove shoes
  • Clean hands
  • Perform Ardas
  • How to serve Prashad
  • How to read a random Hukam during the worship ceremony.
  • Proper handling of prayer books and the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib.

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Rahit (Code of Conduct)

Sikh Child Wearing Five Articles of Faith
Sikh Child Wearing Five Articles of Faith. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

Campers may be introduced to Rahit, the Sikhism code of conduct and Gurmat principles, the tenets for spiritual and secular Sikh living. Campers interested in initiation will be given the opportunity to acquire and wear the five articles of faith:

  1. Bangle
  2. Wooden Comb
  3. Short sword
  4. Undergarment
  5. Unshorn hair and short turban

Campers may elect to participate in initiation should an Amrit ceremony be held at the conclusion of the camp.

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Seva (Selfless Service)

Sikh Children Help Prepare Langar
Sikh Children Help Prepare Langar. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Campers are given opportunities to participate in seva, or various kinds of communal service that even young children may help with:

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Gatka (Martial Arts)

Sikh Boys Practice Gatka with Sticks
Sikh Boys Practice Gatka with Sticks. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Activities for campers may include learning Gatka, a martial arts form sometimes referred to as sword dancing. Beginners learn Gatka moves with sticks advancing to weaponry as they gain skill and proficiency.

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Yoga (Meditative Exercise)

Sikh Children Stretch in Yoga Warrior Pose
Sikh Children Stretch in Yoga Warrior Pose. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

Some Sikh camps offer opportunities to learn meditative yoga wellness stretching exercises in fitness training programs oriented towards the Khalsa warrior.

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Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "11 Things You'll Learn at Gurmat Camp." ThoughtCo, Jun. 24, 2014, thoughtco.com/things-youll-learn-at-gurmat-camp-2993507. Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2014, June 24). 11 Things You'll Learn at Gurmat Camp. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-youll-learn-at-gurmat-camp-2993507 Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "11 Things You'll Learn at Gurmat Camp." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-youll-learn-at-gurmat-camp-2993507 (accessed December 17, 2017).