Veneration Of Dead Brings No Good To Dead Or Others

It’s not that the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects only religious Karamkaand (rituals), but the Truth is It rejects all sorts of Karamkaand (rituals).

For example, the SGGS rejects all Karamkaand (rituals) related to a dead person (the topic of this post) — cremation, death anniversaries, “Siradh” (“ਸਿਰਾਧ”, pronounced “Siraadh“), and so on.

First off, consider the following verses:

  • ਜੇ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਉ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਚੜਾਵੈ॥ ਉਸ ਤੇ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਵਨ ਫਲ ਪਾਵੈ॥ ਜੇ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਉ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਮਾਹਿ ਰੁਲਾਈ ॥ ਤਾਂ ਮਿਰਤਕ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਘਟਿ ਜਾਈ ॥੩॥ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਹਉ ਕਹਉ ਪੁਕਾਰਿ ॥ ਸਮਝਿ ਦੇਖੁ ਸਾਕਤ ਗਾਵਾਰ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਘਰ ਗਾਲੇ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਭਗਤ ਹੈ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖਾਲੇ ॥੪॥੪॥੧੨॥ If someone anoints a corpse with sandalwood, what can the corpse obtain from it? If a corpse is rolled in manure, (notwithstanding, the corpse) has nothing to lose. ||3|| Says Kabeer, I proclaim this out loud — behold, and understand, you ignorant, Saakat (one separated from Prabh – Mool, Source, Joti, Truth…). The love of duality has ruined countless homes. Only those are ever Happy who are Bhagat of Raam (Mool, Source…). ||4||4||12|| (sggs 1160).

Here, the Gurbani is telling us that all Karamkaand (rituals) carried out during cremation is a sign of Saakat-hood (separation from Mool...) and ignorance (Baavar Gaavar).

Furthermore, it would not make any difference to the dead if we offer feasts on their name or if we celebrate their death anniversaries. But still, people imitate seeing other people – “Dekhaa Dekhee!

Clearly, the Gurmat (the Way of the Wisdom of the SGGS) does not want us to believe in “Siradh-ਸਿਰਾਧ” or celebrate death anniversaries.

Extremity Of Hypocrisy

Consider the following verses:

  • ਜੀਵਤ ਪਿਤਰ ਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਕੋਊ ਮੂਏਂ ਸਿਰਾਧ ਕਰਾਹੀ ॥ ਪਿਤਰ ਭੀ ਬਪੁਰੇ ਕਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਕਊਆ ਕੂਕਰ ਖਾਹੀ ॥੧॥ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਕੁਸਲੁ ਬਤਾਵਹੁ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਕੁਸਲੁ ਕੁਸਲੁ ਕਰਤੇ ਜਗੁ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਕੁਸਲੁ ਭੀ ਕੈਸੇ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਮਾਟੀ ਕੇ ਕਰਿ ਦੇਵੀ ਦੇਵਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਜੀਉ ਦੇਹੀ ॥ ਐਸੇ ਪਿਤਰ ਤੁਮਾਰੇ ਕਹੀਅਹਿ ਆਪਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਨ ਲੇਹੀ ॥੨॥: (People) do not honor their ancestors (mother, father, etc.) while they are alive, but (they) hold feasts in their honor after they have died. Tell me, how can (their) poor ancestors receive that food? That food is eaten up by Crows and dogs. ||1|| If only someone would tell me how (someone) can attain real happiness (by holding feasts in the honor after their ancestors have died!) The world is perishing speaking (in doubt that holding feasts in the honor after their ancestors who have died, will grant them) happiness and joy. ||1||Pause|| Making gods and goddesses out of clay, people sacrifice living creatures (goat, etc.) to them. Such are your dead ancestors, (you offer them what you want, but they) cannot ask for what they want. ||2|| (sggs 332).

Let’s consider the term “Siraadh-ਸਿਰਾਧ” in the forgoing verse. It came from the Sanskrit “Shraadh“, meaning “faithful”. Therefore, we should be “faithful”, caring and greatful to our loved ones or elders when they are alive, not after they are dead. False display of faithfulness through nonsense Karamkaand is of no avail to the dead or the survivors!

The foregoing verses expose our ignorance of the Gurmat (the Way of the Wisdom of the SGGS) and hypocrisy. That is, although we perform all sort of nonsense Karamkaand (rituals) after family members are dead, but we don’t take care of them when they are alive!

But after they are dead, people arrange special feasts for priests etc., believing that they would reach the ancestors.

Also, consider the following Shabad of Baabaa Nanak:

  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਜੇ ਮੋਹਾਕਾ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹੈ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹਿ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਅਗੈ ਵਸਤੁ ਸਿਞਾਣੀਐ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਚੋਰ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ ਵਢੀਅਹਿ ਹਥ ਦਲਾਲ ਕੇ ਮੁਸਫੀ ਏਹ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗੈ ਸੋ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਿ ਖਟੇ ਘਾਲੇ ਦੇਇ ॥੧॥: Je mohaakaa gharu muhai … (sggs 472).

Since there seems to be a much deeper message than the worldly or dictionary sense translation available in the market or Teekaa, let’s briefly try reflecting on each verse separately:

ਜੇ ਮੋਹਾਕਾ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹੈ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹਿ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਦੇਇ ॥: Je mohaakaa gharu muhai gharu muhi pitaree daei: Owing to our foolishness, selfishness, greed, desires (Trishnaa), cravings, lust (Kaam), etc., many of us don’t hesitate to steal, plunder, or take what rightfully belongs to another. Further, we make offerings and donations in hope for sanctifying such corrupt living, ill-gotten wealth, or to show off our superficial religiosity. For example, first, some of us may amass wealth with dishonest means, then — in a futile bid to sanctify it — we may utilize some of the ill-gotten wealth in making offerings to the dead family members, giving to the religious institutions, building Gurdwars, building hospitals, Langar distribution (free common kitchen); and so on. Bigger the offering or donation, bigger the corruption behind it! In this mode of ignorance, whatever one does is neither good for him nor for his ancestors, etc. So, if someone so acts it would constitute acting contrary to the the Gurmat.

ਅਗੈ ਵਸਤੁ ਸਿਞਾਣੀਐ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਚੋਰ ਕਰੇਇ ॥: Agai vasatu sinjaaneeai pitaree chor karaei: The Gurbani indicates in the foregoing verse that when one offers plunder and theft to ancestors, in a futile bid to sanctify his corruption, he unnecessarily drag them in this corruption. As an English idiom goes, it’s like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”! The Gurmat does not approve such Soch (thinking).

ਵਢੀਅਹਿ ਹਥ ਦਲਾਲ ਕੇ ਮੁਸਫੀ ਏਹ ਕਰੇਇ ॥: Vadheeahi hath dalaal kae musafee eh karaei: The dictionary meaning of this verse available in the market or internet is: “The hands of the go-between are cut off; this is the Lord’s justice.” This translation does not bring out the gist or deeper meaning of this verse. To the contrary, it gives rise to the impression or doubt that the Divine is having a strong desire for revenge! The very first line of the SGGS indicates that Parmeshar (Divine) is Nirvair — without animosity or vengeance. Then what is indicated by this statement: “The hands of the go-between are cut off; this is the Divine justice”? Simply put, we inflict sufferings upon ourselves through our own actions. How so? When indulged in Mayaic efforts (Bhav Saagar), every individual is answerable to his actions, both good and bad. By this, it is understood that each one will have to face the consequences of all Mayaic efforts — the mind punishes itself by its own tendencies.

ਨਾਨਕ ਅਗੈ ਸੋ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਿ ਖਟੇ ਘਾਲੇ ਦੇਇ ॥੧॥: Nanak agai so milai ji khatte ghaale daei ||1||: This verse highlights the importance of Truthful Living (Gurmukh Lifestyle), following a strict code of ethics to earn an honest living, and sharing from an honest earning…! Sikhi is a Way of life based upon the Wisdom of the SGGS. This is what avails hereafter!

Then, what about celebrations of the death anniversaries of the Gur-Sahibaan?

The Gurmat (the Way of the Wisdom of the SGGS) is very consistent throughout, without any contradictions.

The Gurbani declares that the Guru never dies!

Then, how can one celebrate death anniversary of somebody who is NOT dead! The Gurbani asks: “Who can say the Guru is dead”:

  • ਹਰਿਬੰਸ ਜਗਤਿ ਜਸੁ ਸੰਚਰ੍ਯ੍ਯਉ ਸੁ ਕਵਣੁ ਕਹੈ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੁ ਮੁਯਉ ॥੧॥: Says Harbans! The Glory (of the Guru) has propagated (spreaded, etc.) all over the world; who can say that the the Guru is dead? (i.e., the Guru Lives forever – ਜਾਗਦੀ ਜੋਤਿ)||1|| (sggs 1409).

It seams like the Pujaaree Group does not much bother to find out as to what the Gurmat has to say about this practice in Sikhi.  Now, pause for a moment and think how they can tell public not to believe in “Siradh-ਸਿਰਾਧ”, etc. !

Gurmat’s Counsel

The Gurbani is the Eternal Package of Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan, the Divine Knowledge…). It urges us to bring about a storm of Spiritual Wisdom in life, which will destroy the ignorance (Durmat or evil mindedness, Bharam or doubt, Abidiaa or false knowledge/Maya etc.). It’s with this mindset (i.e., Gurmukh-hood) that is based on the Wisdom of the SGGS, we would be able to truly love, care, and respect everybody including our elders when they are alive, instead of waiting to do something after they are dead!

In other words, since a life can end anytime, we should spend as much time as we can, loving and caring people and enjoy each moment with them before it’s too late. If we offer feasts after their demise, then all we are doing is feeding the priests, animals, birds, etc. It will never reach the dead.

Understandably, the Gurmat’s Counsel (the Way of the Wisdom of the SGGS) is NOT to believe in “Siradh-ਸਿਰਾਧ” or celebrate death anniversaries.

Instead — to mend the mind — the Gurbani’s counsel is to churn the Gurbani through in Shabad-Vichaar and then live the Wisdom of the SGGS in daily life.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨੁ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸਾਲਾਹ ॥: O Nanak! Instruct the mind through the Gur-Shabad’s Counsel (or Advice, Wisdom…). (sggs 23).
  • ਪਿੰਡੁ ਪਤਲਿ ਮੇਰੀ ਕੇਸਉ ਕਿਰਿਆ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ॥: The Divine (Naam) is my offering of rice balls on leafy plates, and the Creator’s true Naam is my funeral ceremony (sggs 358).
  • ਜਿਸੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਸਭਿ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਨਾਸਹਿ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੋ ॥: Remembering Him (Hari, Prabh, Gobind, Raam, Mool…), all faults (defects…) are gotten rid of, and elders are delivered (sggs 496).

Once the worldly mind dies in the Gur-Shabad, it transcends Maya’s attachment and its reincarnating nature stands transformed into the Divine Nature (Joti-Saroop, Gurmookh-hood). This is accomplished through the Shabad-Vichaar, not through any Karamkaand (rituals) or any other worldly pursuits. Such is the Gurmukh Lifestyle — free of Karamkaand (“ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥” sggs 841).

  • ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥: The ultimate action is Reflections on the Shabad – Shabad Vichaar ||3|| (sggs 158).
  • ਘਰ ਕੇ ਦੇਵ ਪਿਤਰ ਕੀ ਛੋਡੀ ਗੁਰ ਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਲਇਓ ॥: I have renounced the gods and ancestors of my house, and taken to the (Gur-) Shabad (sggs 856).

Bhagat Kabeer Sahib has similar Message for those who offer feasts to lifeless idols:

  • ਭਾਤੁ ਪਹਿਤਿ ਅਰੁ ਲਾਪਸੀ ਕਰਕਰਾ ਕਾਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਭੋਗਨਹਾਰੇ ਭੋਗਿਆ ਇਸੁ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਕੇ ਮੁਖ ਛਾਰੁ ॥੪॥: Rice, pulse, semi liquid sweets, pancakes, pudding — the (priest) enjoys these, nothing goes in the mouth of idol (because a lifeless image or object cannot eat!). ||4|| (sggs 475).


  1. Dear Prof. Harbans Lal Ji,
    If there is no after life or soul, then how does one interpret the Gurbani lines “ਜੇ ਮੁਹਾਕਾ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹੈ ਘਰੁ ਮੁਹਿ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਅਗੈ ਵਸਤੁ ਸਿਞਾਣੀਐ ਪਿਤਰੀ ਚੋਰ ਕਰੇਇ ॥ ” ? in my view and many translations “ਅਗੈ” refers to the next world or afterlife and “ਪਿਤਰੀ” refers to ancestors.

  2. There is no evidence that there is left any specific soul of any person after death. So, there is no benefit to anyone except to clergy who often put money in their pocket.

  3. Sorry, I don’t read it that way at all!

    Thank you Bhai Sahib Gurinder Pal Singh Ji for taking the time to respond to this post. Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!

  4. This blog though largely correct seems confused about its key point. Key Question is can any of our acts help our loved ones after they have passed away? It agrees that if we donate the ill gotten wealth in name of our ancestors, they also become partners in crime. We are thereby harming them. By same logic, Why will then they not become beneficiaries if we donate honestly earned money or materials in their
    name? We are not talking of benefit or harm to their physical body, but to their soul.

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