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Religious Traditions and Cremation Beliefs: Sikhism


Several world religions incorporate cremation into their belief system. Learn about the world religions that encourage their followers to be cremated.

Cremation is becoming more accepted in Judaism, Catholicism, and other major world religions. However, many Eastern religions have always embraced cremation as part of their worldview. 

This multi-part series explores religious beliefs about cremation. Whether to release the body from its earthly restraints or begin reincarnation, we invite you to learn how cremation is essential to sacred funeral rituals for millions of believers worldwide.

About Sikhism 

There are 25 million Sikhs worldwide, making it the fifth-largest major world religion. Their beliefs center around a single divine being called Weheguru (God). In the Punjabi language, where the religion originated around 500 years ago, “wahe” means wonderful, and “guru” is familiar to English speakers as meaning teacher or enlightener.

Cremation Hastens Reunion with God

Sikhs consider the human body an empty vessel when someone dies and that cremation hastens the process of detaching the soul from the body. The faster the soul disengages, the sooner it will be reunited with God. Sikhs embrace reincarnation and view the cycles of life, death, and rebirth as natural events. There are no great shows of emotion at a Sikh funeral. 

Preparing a Loved One for Cremation

Ideally, a Sikh is cremated within three days of passing. A Sikh faith leader called a gyani performs the last rites known as “Antam Sanskaar.” On the evening before the funeral, family members of the same gender as the departed wash the hair and body first in yogurt and then with soap and warm water. If the funeral is held at a Sikh temple (called a Gurdwara), the body does not enter the main prayer hall. Mourners must wash their hands, remove their shoes, and cover their heads before entering the Gurdwara. 

<<Do you wonder if cremation is in-line with your religious beliefs? Click here to read “Understanding Religious Attitudes Toward Direct Cremation without a Service”>>

The Karkars, the five articles of faith worn by a Sikh in life, remain with the body through cremation or burial. The Karkars consist of uncut hair (covered by a turban), a short sword or knife, a steel wristband, a wooden comb, and shorts worn as undergarments. The closest family member usually witnesses the cremation. If there are several witnesses, they might chant ‘Waheguru’ as an expression of devotion. 

Sikhism is one of many world religions incorporating cremation into its belief system. Use the links below to learn about religious traditions and cremation in other faiths:




Cremation and Your Beliefs

Sikhs prefer cremation to burial as part of their belief systems. They favor direct cremation because it allows them the flexibility to conduct their last rites in their respective places of worship or at a funeral home. Direct cremation also occurs more quickly than traditional cremation or burial, which also respects certain beliefs. 

Deciding between cremation and burial is a personal choice. You can choose cremation and still be buried in a family plot, scattered at a favorite place, or transformed into a memorial diamond. Cremation offers many options. Tulip provides simple, dignified, and affordable cremation services. Please contact our expert care team with any questions or if you are ready to start preplanning.