For Sikhs, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is a living Guru, the spiritual embodiment of the ten Gurus. It is not just a scripture, it is the living light and wisdom of the Gurus in their own words. This is why Sikhs respect the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a Living Guide, as their exalted King, “Sacha Pateshah.”
Since ancient times, it has been the custom for a person to show veneration to a King by removing their shoes and covering their head in the presence of the King. When Sikhs and others enter a Gurdwara, they practice these same disciplines as a sign of their reverence and respect for the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This also allows Sikhs to sit in a meditative posture, so they can receive the teachings of the Guru.
Sikhs wash their hands and feet at the entrance to the Gurdwara as an act of reverence before coming into the presence of their Guru. And they also wash them to help experience opening themselves to the flow of the divine energy through the Shabad Guru. There are 72,000 nerve endings in the feet and hands, which can absorb the energy from the Guru.
Sikhs also wash their hands before serving Gurprasad, or performing any of the duties specifically to assist in caring for the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
When Sikhs enter the Gurdwara, they remove their shoes and leave unwashed material items outside the doors of the Gurdwara. They also cover their heads to indicate that they “stand under” the power of God and Guru.
By wearing turbans, Sikhs crown themselves in the court of God, a crown of divine privilege, worn by those who acknowledge the gift of God’s presence within themselves and within all creation.
When bowing to the Guru, Sikhs place their forehead on the ground in front of the Guru, and they place their destiny at the “feet” of the Guru. Where you bow your head you will be blessed.
When Sikhs honor the Guru, they believe they gift themselves an experience of the timeless and changeless grace of their own God-Consciousness, for which each one of us has come to this planet and has been granted a human body and breath.
When sitting in Gurdwara, Sikhs sit on the floor and never point the soles of their feet towards the Guru.
Sikhs also honor the Sadh Sangat, or the gathering of devotional people, in the court of the Guru. For, as Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru stated: “The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the physical presence of the power of God and the power of the Ten Gurus, and this same power resides in the Sadh Sangat – the holy company, or ‘community of conscious people seeking Truth.'”
Guru Nanak taught that just as dishonesty and treachery is found in the company of thieves, God and Guru shall be found in the company of the holy (the Sadh Sangat).
~Resource: Living Reality (1994) by Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa.
Note: additional information about the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and the 10 Gurus has been shared in previous Sikh Dharma 101 lessons.