Kids Corner

Sikhing Answers

Sikhing Answers




Today, we launch a new regular feature.

A question will be posed to our readers, inviting you to provide your answers.

That is, each one of you - young and old - is invited to share with us what YOU believe is the correct answer. There is no presumption of a right or wrong answer, and nothing is sacrosanct - that is, please feel free to tell us what you honestly think, believe or conjecture.

Each question will remain open for answers for ONE WEEK at the end of which, we’ll close the question, and have a moderator review all the answers, do some research as well, and collate it all in order to come up with a concise and definitive answer.

Once the moderator formulates the “final answer”, it’ll be posted, and all the answers provided to date to that particular question will be deleted.

This is not an academic exercise. Sikhi being a layperson’s religion, we encourage all to provide what they know through their personal knowledge and research.

All we ask is that:

1  you steer away from academic or esoteric lingo
2  not regurgitate what you unearth on google, wikipedia, etc. 
3  be very short, and to the point

We’ll fine tune this process as we go along and, before long, hope to have several questions on the table at the same time, with their closing dates staggered so as to allow you to concentrate on one question at a time.

The answers are to be posted at the bottom of each question page, where space has been provided for “Comments”.

We suggest that you encourage each of your children to participate separately, as can each adult in a family or household.

Thus, we will teach each other.



What is the reasoning behind removing our shoes and washing our feet before we enter the divan hall of a gurdwara?



Posted January 24, 2012
Closing Date: January 31, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Gurdip (U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 1:48 PM.

Refraining from all established answers, a real thought from the heart would like to say that the reasoning behind washing hands and removing our shoes before entering the Divan Hall is all for purity. While our mind may be impure, filled with much "dirt", I feel that the removal and washing is to cleanse yourself before the Guru outwardly and to show respect and humility.

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), January 24, 2012, 2:19 PM.

Our upbringing tells us that anything 'dirty' or unkempt is not good for our senses or physical health. In 'practical' Sikhism, nothing can happen without cleanliness. That is why we enter the Divan Hall with clean and bare feet.

3: R. Bedi (India), January 24, 2012, 2:22 PM.

Maybe to prevent dirt from getting inside the gurdwara hall and to give a feeling of cleanliness. Also, we are supposed to have parshad later, so we need our hands clean!

4: Harinder (Uttar Pradesh, India), January 24, 2012, 2:48 PM.

It is an Indian custom. People in India usually enter temples after removing shoes. The Western, Martian and intergalactic Sikhs can decide there own customs.

5: Sukhi (U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 2:57 PM.

The act of removing shoes and washing hands before entering the Divan Hall somehow gives a feeling of preparing oneself to enter into a state of calmness or state of meditation. Entering the Divan Hall does give a sense of calm. Apart from that, cleanliness of not only the person but also the Divan Hall is another reason, as already pointed out.

6: G. Singh (New Delhi, India), January 24, 2012, 3:10 PM.

No one wants his/her home to be dirty. How can one Guru ka Sikh permit GuruGhar to be dirty. Secondly, removing dirt outside is also symbolic and reminds us to clean our heart and thoughts, as we do with dirt, freeing them of kam, krodh, lobh, moh and ahankaar.

7: Gurpal (Wolverhampton, United Kingdom), January 24, 2012, 3:17 PM.

If we are sitting on the floor and our hands may touch the floor while sitting in a variety of ways, then we need to our remove shoes and leave them outside. Shoes carry fecal bacteria (e.g., dog feces) and mud from pavements and roads. If we were sitting on chairs, then removing shoes would not be necessary. Feet-washing before entering the gurdwara is common in India, but not in the West - probably because of general cleanliness of the environment.

8: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington, U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 3:18 PM.

I want to thank you for starting "Sikhing Answers". It's much needed to educate ourselves and others about these everyday things in the gurdwara, Sikhism and the Sikh way of life in general. Re removing shoes: it's much more comfortable to sit cross-legged in the gurdwara without shoes than with shoes. Spiritually and meditatively, it's easier to connect when we are physically and mentally more relaxed. In eastern practice, removing shoes is a sign of humility and washing feet removes any dirt or stink, and feels very soothing.

9: Harman Singh (California, U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 3:19 PM.

It has to do with cleanliness. We use our hands to eat and serve inside the gurdwara, so they must be clean and washed, just like we wash out hands before eating. Removing shoes serves a similar function, to keep the Darbar Hall clean. Besides, have you tried sitting cross-legged with your shoes on? It is extremely uncomfortable. In short: hygeine and comfort, so that our mind can focus on the Guru.

10: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 3:51 PM.

The act of removing shows and, ideally, even washing hands, feet and face prior to entering any abode, but especially a house of worship, is a common practice in eastern cultures. The logic behind this is that the extremities of the body are the most prone to being dirty due to normal activity. As a matter of hygiene and cleanliness inside a home/ place of worship, people would always clean their exposed skin (i.e. hands, feet and face). We make do with simply washing hands in the West because today's environment is much cleaner here than when and where the practice originated. The practice is also symbolic of the fact that we need to have a clean mind and heart when receiving the teachings from the Guru.

11: Ranjeet (Southampton, United Kingdom), January 24, 2012, 5:30 PM.

Perhaps the answer lies within the historical context. Punjab was the major centre for pan-subcontinental horse trading and breeding. Typically, your feet would have been covered with the dung and excrement that littered all highways, thus your shoes/sandals were things that you wouldn't even take indoors, let alone in front of your Guru.

12: R.S.Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, U.S.A.), January 24, 2012, 5:31 PM.

Is it humility? A statement of getting down to earth from our pedestals? (The cleanliness answer doesn't make sense because the gut reaction on smelling someone's shoes could in fact remind us of God. More like - OMG! or "God Help Me!" :)

13: Harvinder Singh (London, United Kingdom), January 24, 2012, 7:29 PM.

1) maintains cleanliness. 2) because we sit on the floor. 3) gives a sense of liberation (can relax). 4) draws the line between inside and outside (private and public).

14: Jasmeen Kaur (Australia), January 24, 2012, 7:39 PM.

It shows respect towards our Guru Sahebans and Divan Hall. It reminds us that we need to cleanse ourselves internally/ spiritually, and as long as we don't do that, no matter how much we wash, we remain unclean. So, it reminds us to try and be clean in every sense before we step before the Guru.

15: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 24, 2012, 8:10 PM.

Shoe removing is common on the subcontinent, even while entering our own or someone else's home. The same is the practice in temples, mosques and gurdwaras all over. While entering a gurdwara, the practice of washing hands and feet is there because at times, if there is no sevadaar, you can yourself take the hukam, take parshad or even langar. This was common in the old days. Even today, I personally do this sometimes, as all gurdwaras remain open from early morning till late evening and sometimes you don't find any sevadaar to help you. In short, you can help yourself and help others too. Entering gurdwara with seva bhav, the mind clears automatically for those moments.

16: Jasvir Kaur (California, U.S.A.), January 25, 2012, 1:52 AM.

I believe when we are entering the 'House of God' we take our shoes off as a sign of respect and to maintain purity and cleanliness. We are taught that these virtues are highly important.

17: Parmjit Singh (Canada), January 25, 2012, 2:09 AM.

I've always wondered what the reasoning is behind otherwise presentable people wearing dirty shoes inside a Western place of worship. (So many questions! Do they spit indoors also?) Excellent feature and a good question.

18: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 25, 2012, 6:01 AM.

"Charn pakhaar karo-o gur sayvva baar jao-o lakh baree-aa" [GGS:207.3] - "I wash the Guru's Feet and serve Him; I am a sacrifice to Him over and over, endlessly." So you see, shoes must be kept outside. This is a common practice in most regions. A Pakistani Muslim would 'qadam bosi' his Pir, that is kiss his feet.

19: Devinder Singh (India), January 25, 2012, 8:07 AM.

It is the weather that also helps shape the respective customs in the East and West. The weather outside is cold and snowy in most European countries. So you step out well covered, including a hat which you remove on entering a warm Church. Since the floor would be cold to bare feet, you enter with your shoes, since there are also pews to sit on (you don't sit cross-legged on the carpet). The floors were usually wooden to keep the temperature comfortable. In the East where you usually sit on the carpet (though the practice has changed in the homes), it makes sense to keep the dirt of the street from entering the house. For the same reason, no footwear was allowed in the kitchen.

20: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), January 26, 2012, 2:18 PM.

Thanks for starting this feature. Please keep it regular by posting more questions on Sikhi. I want to draw your attention to a few of my own. 1) A few days ago, while distributing langar one veer was saying "daala ji, daala ji!" One innocent child very loudly asked his mother as to why they are saying 'daala' and not 'daal'. 2) One sehajdhari woman in our colony asked me that though we play dholki and other instruments while doing Shabad Kirtan, why do we prohibit hand-clapping. Regarding the question on the table: a) We not only remove shoes but also avoid taking our luggage, goods, etc. into the Divan Hall. In the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, we want to be at ease and unburdened. Shed of our worldly possessions to the extent we reasonably can, it reminds us we came to this earth empty handed and have to go empty handed. b) If health conditions permit it, sitting cross-legged is best for listening to kirtan, being meditative, etc. And if we do not remove our shoes, it will be difficult to sit comfortably in that position. c) Once we remove our shoes, we must wash our feet even at home, because of feet odour. d) Washing our hands, feet, face, etc. helps one feel fresh and attentive. That is why we bathe everyday, at least once. Many puraatan gursikhs used to wash their hair daily as well, for the same reason.

21: Ravinder Singh Khalsa (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), January 27, 2012, 12:57 PM.

To keep the white sheets white ;) In reality, it's a couple of things in my opinion: 1) It's a respectful gesture to take off shoes since they carry dirt, bacteria, etc. 2) It's easier to sit on the ground so your shoes, sandals, etc. don't dig into you. 3) Imagine sitting on the floor where someone brought in dirty shoes and you have to sit in the dirt, hence ruining your clothes, etc. 4) For the people that handle/ clean the shoes, it says in gurbani, it is the dust of the feet of saints, so to some folks it's a blessing to perform such a seva. It nurtures humility. 5) Offers an avenue of seva and interaction with others. I don't think it's got anything to do with leaving material goods outside, otherwise we'd be walking in naked. This also leads to another note or two re the nutty fringe: e.g., people's objection to socks per se. P.S. - I know a little about taking off shoes because we learned at our birthing class that in order to give children a bacteria-free environment we should remove our shoes at the front door. It's similar to what we do in Sikhi.

22: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 27, 2012, 9:20 PM.

In gurbani, charan dhoor (dust of feet) is not physical. It is about nimrataa (humility) and spiritual aspiration.

Comment on "Sikhing Answers "

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.