For religious Sikhs the Guru Granth Sahib is a holy scripture which enshrines divine words and the historical Gurus’ revelatory experiences. By tradition the scripture was endowed with spiritual authority and agency of a Guru in a human succession line. Wherever the Sikhs have settled in the world the scripture is staged at the center of their devotional life. The Sikh place of worship – a gurdwara or the “Guru’s Gate”– is by definition a space in which Guru Granth Sahib is made present. The scripture is installed daily on an elevated throne like a royal sovereign and at night ceremonially taken to a special bedroom for rest. Through religious behaviors and performances the Sikhs bring the sacred text to life and mediate the spiritual messages dwelling within its pages.
Considering the significations of Guru Granth Sahib – as a living Guru of the Sikhs; it is surprising that scholars in Sikh studies have paid considerably little attention to religious acts surrounding the physical scripture and practices which move the written words into oral performances. Inside the Guru’s Gate: Ritual Uses of Texts Among the Sikhs in Varanasi aims to direct the focus towards a deeper understanding of contemporary performance traditions in Sikhism. Based on field work in a local Sikh community in Varanasi (Northern India) the ethnography provides the readers descriptive analyses of local attitudes to the Guru Granth Sahib and the religious practices through which the Sikhs use and venerate their sacred scripture.
Kristina Myrvold has been a lecturer on Sikhism and Indian Religions at Lund University and Karlstad University since 2002. Inside the Guru’s Gate: Ritual Uses of Texts Among the Sikhs in Varanasi is her doctoral dissertation.