Funeral Rites Across Different Cultures: Sikhism

Sikhism is a religion founded in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent in the late 15th century.  Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that stresses the equality of all men and women.  Sikhs believe that good or bad actions in this life determine the life form into which a soul takes upon rebirth.

Sikhs mourn quietly and privately, and public displays of emotion are discouraged.  Friends and family members gather to sing hymns and recite funeral prayers.  It is funeral etiquette to wear modest clothing, with white traditionally being the color associated with mourning.  As a mark of respect, head coverings are worn by both genders (men wear a hat or turban and women wear a headscarf) and shoes must be removed upon entering a Sikh home.

To the Sikh culture, death is a natural process; it is only the physical body that dies, whereas the soul lives on through transmigration.  Sikhs prefer cremation over other forms of disposal such as burial.  Sikhs believe that the physical body serves no other purpose than to house the soul.  Burial is sometimes allowed if a person’s body can’t be cremated.

Sikhs believe that death is a natural cycle of life and the body is merely clothing for the soul that is shed once death occurs.

Woodlawn continues to be a non-sectarian cemetery without a specific religious affiliation.