An Experience of Seva at the Darbar Sahib

One of my friends from England/Malaysia (Harkiren Kaur) is currently in Amritsar, rooming with my other good friend Guru Darshan Kaur. The below text is from an email that she sent around to friends which I thought was a funny and illustrated some of her experiences doing seva at Harimandir Sahib and being a Sikh woman.

"I think I’ve mentioned that I have joined the school (Miri Piri Academy) in Amritsar for 40 days of seva (service) at Darbar Sri Harimandir Sahib (the Golden Temple). These lists are the result of 22 days of experience and observation from seva at Darbar Sahib. Care to look through my looking glass?"


Job List
Job Title: Bucketeer
Job Description: You shall stand on the second step in the sarovar (nectar tank). It is your duty to fill up the bucket brought to you by the Bucket Carrier.
Job Title: Bucket Carrier
Job Description: You shall carry a bucket. It is your duty to walk to the sarovar, get the bucket filled up and take it to the Water Splasher.
Job Title: Water Splasher
Job Description: You shall splash water (no, duh!). It is your duty to take a filled bucket from a Bucket Carrier and splash it where you see fit.
Job Title:  Water Directors
Job Description:You shall direct water. It is your duty to use your brooms to push water towards the draining holes.
Job Title:  Squidger
Job Description: You shall dry the parkarma. Once the Bucketeers, Bucket Carriers, Water Splashers and Water Directors have cleared, you, armed with your own personal 6-foot long Squidgy, will dry off the parkarma by pushing the rest of the water into the draining holes.

Clearly, there is no doubt as to who is at the top end of the food chain. The Squidgers. They are an elite group and you absolutely need to know the right people before you can even get close to a Squidgy. (Once I saw a 3-foot long Squidgy. This was obviously someone on probation. We shall see how he turns out in a few weeks.)  

Clearly, there is no doubt as to where I am on the food chain. Right at the bottom!


I am a Bucketeer. Actually I am probably the first bucketeer in the history of Darbar Sahib, seeing as I created the word in the first place and subsequently employed myself first :)
3 Levels of Buckteering

  1. Elementary: To fill up buckets to a respectable level of water.
  2. Intermediate: To fill up two buckets at the same time (talk about a challenge!).
  3. Advanced: To fill a/ two bucket/s without completely drenching yourself and the person in front of you.

After I mastered Level 1, I kind of speeded through Level 2 (read: I’ve never actually done this yet :p) and am now at Level 3. Which, I might add, is a true accomplishment seeing as I have a regular returning clientele of Bucket Carriers, and unlike my other colleagues, our little group is without a doubt drier than any of the others. So there.  
Did I mention that seva is selfless service and we should not let our ego get in the way? That is Super Advanced Level 4… still working towards that one!
After being here for a while, you start to identify the regulars. And not just regulars in terms of who comes for seva. Oh no my naïve dears, not those good, wonderful souls.
I mean regulars in terms of their criminal classifications. We are continuously compiling a collection a mug shots to better our identification process.  

A list of Offenses

Hoggers – they struggle with two buckets and unnecessarily spill water because of imbalance, even when there are clearly others who would like a share of the work. They say: You stay away from my buckets you! (In the background: splash, splash, splash, splash).  

  • Flooders – they have no sense of balance whatsoever (even if only carrying one bucket). They tend to be of an over-enthusiastic nature. They believe in literally washing their sins (and the sins of those around them) away. 
  • Punjabi skinheads– they walk away from a white Sikh and wait for a Punjabi to fill their bucket. My personal record is so far having 3 buckets waiting to be filled while my friends Sat Pavan and Guru Darshan stood on either side, jobless.
  • Head shakers – they disapprove of the women rolling up their trousers to their knees while doing seva. Apparently it’s not respectful. Uh huh yeah whatever. And all those Singhs wandering around in their knee-hang kasheras clearly define being proper. Oh please, save the double standards for 500+ years ago, before Guru Nanak was born.
  • Pigs – they systematically avoid having a woman fill up their bucket. I am not kidding. Apparently we are lesser mortals not worthy of filling up buckets (how ridiculous does that sound?). If there is row of women, they will walk all the way to a man and then backtrack to where they started off. That is such a moronic thing to do it just has to be a man’s idea!

Ok I think I’m list-ed out for now.
A prayer: God give them understanding and wisdom and me compassion and patience.

With love, Hari Kiren Kaur

30 Responses to “An Experience of Seva at the Darbar Sahib”

  1. Harleen Kaur says:

    Is this true that women cannot do such seva? I was a bucketeer and did not realize that I was the only woman getting my bucket filled and cleaning or washing the floors of darbar sahib. I did kaar-seva also, when filters and jal were added in the sirovar of darbar sahib. I do not believe this. This was in June 2006, this summer.

  2. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
    Waheguru Ji Ke Fateh

    This article highlights many different emotions. It shows one’s love for SEVA. It shows what determination one has to do SEVA no matter what the circumstances are surrounding them. It shows the motivation and dedication of the SEVA they have created – to continue doing SEVA and demonstrating equality. It shows how educated one can become by doing SEVA. It shows how SEVA has created an emotional journey to achieve Spiritual Guidance by Guru Ji. It shows no matter what group, caste, gender, or race you belong too, remember to never give up SEVA! It is through the guidance of SEVA you will realize what type of human being you are in regards to Guru Ji’s teachings and blessings.

    Thank You for doing this SEVA and sharing this post with the Sangat!

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
    Waheguru Ji Ke Fateh

  3. hehe thats a funny post – although I see the seriousness of it…so sad that this still occurs!

  4. @ Har Kiren Kaur
    haha…tht wuz vry realistic n true …. explained in quite kiddish way!

    enjoyed readin!

    gr8 to read….xplanation of environment of sewa at harmandir sahib in a highly corporate way :)

  5. Siri Simran says:

    Isn’t washing the parkarma the most wonderful thing ever?

    As for the regulars, my experience was that I felt very protected by my “return customers” (one of whom was very pleased once he saw me move from Level I bucketeering to level III, and he said something like “I told you he can do it!” to another, more impatient bucket carrier).

  6. Dear Hari Kiren Bhenji,

    ..A great write up!!! If we SIkhs can’t even follow the basic teachings of our first Guru Ji, what hope is there of us even begining to comrehend the teachings contained in Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji which elaborate on the basic principles. The apparent egotism of some sevadaar’s even in UK Gurudwara’s is so obvoius. Seva is meant to be selfless! – it is a remedy to oust Egotism. If the Ego still comes through then just, quitely, ask WaheGuru to bless them with godspeed so that there ego’s may be played down. This will help them in their quest for salvation – and of course you. WAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA! WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH!

  7. Navneet Singh Saini says:

    Marverlous Piece of wWiting. I won’t say anything about the preciseness of the message exclaimed BUT Marvelously Written… indeed :-)

  8. Hardeep Singh says:

    Great post Bhenji – very entertaining. I think the key to seva is to stay detached while doing seva and try to focus on naam which will help you think positively; if you are still thinking negatively maybe you should try another seva – remember ultimately seva is to bring you closer to naam/god; so we should stay away from those things that make us forget naam (maya – Eh Maiya Jit Har Visre) and embrace those that bring us closer to naam. Bhul chuk maaf – i am but a sinner myself.


  9. Amarjot Singh says:

    Satnam Hari Kiren,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It makes you think that if all these people really feel the presence of Guru, even at the Gurudwara, what to talk about all the other places at all times, doesn’t it? I am sorry that you had to see this “other” side of so called “Sikhs”. Sometimes I wonder if they ever realize what they do, maybe they do and really believe that what they think it correct over all the teachings of Guru Nanak.

    I will share my experience with you just so you know that these Hoggers, Flooders, Punjabi skinheads, Head shakers and Pigs are not just discriminating to women or white Sikhs or white Sikh women, they are discriminating period. I am a Punjabi Sikh, born and brought up in Punjab and I defiantly do not have white skin but I had the taste of the similar experience. I had this desire to wash the inside floors of Harimandir Sahib so I joined the line of all the people standing to get in. At first they won’t let me enter the line coz I was wearing pants and I have to be wearing kashera, so what did I do I took off my pants right there so that they could see my kasheras. Then they started to picking on my beard coz I have curly beard and they kept passing all these remarks about how I curl my beard, someone even dared to touch my beard. We went in, they would not give me any bucket nor a rug to wipe the floor or anything.

    Now this is one view, but on the other hand there were people who gave their own bucket and rugs to me so I could be a part of the seva. In the end I guess what matter most is what are we there for. There were people like these even at the time of Guru’s, there are and there will be people who will act in a way which make us wonder but at the same time make learn the concept of “dekh ke andith karna”, to see but to forget and forgive for their action in the name of Guru. That is what makes us humble and work towards being a Sikh.


  10. Kiran says:

    Those people just let the faith down…what can I say? Great insight into how things are run there though…I actaully tried to do some seva there, I tried to help lay out the rug and some man told me to leave it…what makes them people better sevadars then anyone else?? oh well, theres not much that that can be done about it now I suppose, as long as Waheguru ji knew why I went there thats all that counts…May We all be blessed by the mighty Waheguru ji.

    Lots of Pyar


    P.S it was 10* in London today with lots of rain and wind. Leaves everywhere x

  11. Hari Kiren says:

    Satnam Jio!!

    in addition to my email above i just wanted to add that Siri Simran is right… the Parkarma seva is a beautiful seva and nothing can keep me away from it. reagrdless of all the jazz and politics that take place, the simple act of filing a bucket and watching it move along from one person to the next before spalshing onto the marble is just … wah!! even getting wet and drenched completely blisses me out. i’ll deal with all the hoggers and flooders and punjabi skinheads and head shakers and pigs that i have to, just dont take that bucket away from me!! :D

    Hari Kiren

    p/s: Siri Simran…lols loved your comment about the regulars. i know the feeling, i love our little group too, its a family of sorts although our only communication involves giving and taking buckets from each other :p. oh the love of a family!

  12. Kulwant Singh says:

    In my observation, it is not the people around us that behave discriminatly. This instance is actually a reflection of our own soul. As Guru is everywhere and everything and source of all knowledge that ever existed. Gursikh’s have to observe the happenings around and within themselves, in order to understand the lessons for soul in this life.

    The love of Guru previals through our hearts, “Je Gur jirke thann Mitha lagee”. The exact location of instance, while soul is immersed in guru’ s love,
    depth of event details reflects the concentration of soul, while it is learning from the instance.

    I am confident, that all of us can relate to similar instances in our lives, whereby we chose not to behave same as people around us behaved or for that matter acknowledge to our-selves that Guru’s Sikh should not behave as such. What a valuable lesson !!

    This journey of soul “lessons” is wonderful,although, on certain occassions, it is bitter to swallow. A sikh yearns for a sangat where he/she can reflect on self.

    Kudo’s to young sevadars of Miri Piri, who are able to be awake, observant and growing on spiritual levels at such young age.

    Waho Waho Gobind Singh
    Appe Gur Chela.

  13. Sifar says:

    What others do while doing seva is none of one’s business (I mean to judge who’s who while doing seva). People doing seva in Harimandir Sahib are people who come there more often (some even come daily) than we NRI’s who go there once in a blue; and there are all kinds of peole who do seva coz, some are there with their Big Ego and some are completely Egoless, seva does not need any qualification (I mean spiritual level). The whole point to do seva is to be able to get humble. While doing seva and categorizing people as “hoggers and flooders and punjabi skinheads and head shakers and pigs” makes the whole purpose of doing seva go down the drain along with the water, where as the purpose of doing seva should be that one’s EGO goes down the drain with water so that one could work towards being humble and much more…. My views…

    Bhul Chuk Dee Khema…

  14. Prabhu Singh says:

    Guru Gobind Singh said ‘that which I see as false, I will call false.’ Hari Kiren Kaur Ji is using a bit of humor to relay all the falsity present in what should be a sacred act. Tonight I participated in ishnaan seva at our local Gurdwara. It’s so beautiful. And one of the women there relayed to me her first time in India two years ago. She sayed she was ‘floored’ by the amount of sexism. So much shocked her there. She told me, in her mind she was thinking ‘I’m a Sikh to the core, but none of this is me.’ Like so many other members of this sangat I have great respect for her and I was really upset to hear some of the stories she told me. Which happened at Darbar Sahib!!! It’s totally disgusting.
    I will never tolerate disrespect to women. In the precincts of the Hari Mandir Sahib, disrespect to our sisters, mothers, daughters, is rampant! What are we going to do about it? Are we not the Khalsa panth? If ever I get in trouble at the Hari Mandir Sahib, you all will know why. I plan to stand for my beliefs no matter who’s ego is bruised.
    Bole So Nihal!
    Sat Siri Akaaaaal!

  15. Avtar Kaur says:

    I am writing this in appreciation, first for the gentle “hint” couched in a humorous article, and second for Prabhu Singh’s wise words.

    It is easy to act “holier than thou” by admonishing others to lose their ego and un-see disgraceful behavior going on around them. Prabhu Singh has stood up as a man and said that discrimination should not be happening, period–especially at Darbar Sahib where we all strive especially to live as Guru taught us. Was it not Guru Nanak who said, “Why call her bad who gives birth to kings”? As a woman, I pray that men who are blessed to perform seva at Harimandir Sahib will protect the honor of their wives, sisters, and daughters by insisting that all women (as well as people from all four corners of the world) receive fair and graceful treatment…and an equal chance to serve Guru and sangat.

  16. Kiran says:

    I wish there were more guys out there like Prabhu…

    Lots of pyar


    p.s it was 12* in london today with some showers. it was still well cold out here though…

  17. We have been giving too much importance to stories and people rather than gurbani veechar and its application on our life.
    As a result of this we have been trapped in the vicious web of maryadas etc.
    This I think is the root of all this anti gurmat stuff be it sexism , racisim , babaism , deraism – anything.

    only cure – more and more gurbani veechar and more and more sangat.All of in the sangat should point out these discreapancies where ever we see them – because that is the role of the sangat.

    I am sure one day all of us will be able to say ”

    Dekho Bhai , Gyaan ki aayi aandhi ||

  18. khalsa198 says:

    Pigs – they systematically avoid having a woman fill up their bucket………

    did it ocur to u that they were being respectful to u or other women…..instead of mocking them try & understand as 2 y they act this way.

  19. Naginder Singh says:

    Waheguru ji ka KHALSA.
    Waheguru ji ki FATEH.
    Koi v insaan jadon seva de anand vich aunda hai ta usnoo eh nahi lagda ke oh seva kar riha hai usnoo ta eh mehsoos hunda hai ke uh pooja kar riha hai. Atey pooja da phal pooja karan wale nu hi milda hai. Kiren ji tusi ek ‘Sachai bian keeti hai’ jo ki sadi soch te ik prashan chihn(question mark) lagaundi hai. Sanu iho jihe kamman ton bachna chahida hai. Aap ji nu mubaraque hove jo aap ji ney eh khiyal sangat samne rakhan da honsla keeta. Waheguru tuhadi seva nu Bhag lave ate ‘Man Niva Mat Uchi’ de sidhant jo har roj asi ARDAAS vich parde ha te aap nu drirh rakhe.

  20. Prabhu Singh says:

    Khalsa198 you stated the following as an assertion rather than a presumption:
    “did it ocur to u that they were being respectful to u or other women”
    How do you know they were being respectful. They may have in fact ‘tried’ to be respectful in their own limited ways, but you can’t know their intentions. Furthermore, they may think it’s respectful not to have women do physical labor, but it’s clearly not respectful to the women who want to do the physical labor. It’s their own limitations which lead to discrimination. It’s okay for people to have limitations, but we don’t need to tolerate any discrimination. Whatever their intentions were we can only guess, but their actions were not respectful. We, the Khalsa Panth, should recognize the pitiful state in which women are treated by so-called Sikhs and so-called Sikh institutions and we should do something about it. I think even male pigs probably treat female pigs with more dignity than these … misguided individuals (to put it nicely).

  21. ParamJeet Kaur Gill says:

    God is this really happening….. Seva can be done by anyone ….. at any place of the Darbar, well it’s sad to say we still have pigs. punjabi skinheads and head shakers……

    Thank u for sharing this with us

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
    waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

  22. Tajinderpal Singh says:


    when will we ever become khalsa.THE MENTALITY REPRESENTS that those who do sewa ,only do to show that they do it,actually they are performing a ritual not belief is that 90% of sikh community is driven by Hypocraccy with emphasis on show biz. How can i be a true sewadar when i am ready to spent 20 lacks of rupees to contest gurdwara elections,by distributing liquor to become a true “SEWADAR’.
    lets disown who dont want to be Guru Gobind singh Ji maharaj’s Sons in their deeds.
    Tajinderpal Singh,

  23. well fateh to every one who wrote comments o this message of bhenji from malaysia,I may not be able to write english the way everyone have but i can still explain many things.
    First of all YOGI bhajan said if we can’t see god in all we can’t see god at all.
    I live here in Amritsar Sahib and trying to survive as much as i can.
    I have done a all kinds of sewa in HarimNdir Sahib and every where there are conflicts and boundaries,and i guess when boundaries are created there is a reason behind it.
    I agree that there are lots of main meri in the sewa there but also what are we learning from that?
    I as a man have faced a lots of troubles in the sewa and even i was there when there were many singnis from US try to go to ishnaa sewa inside the golden temple where there were so many issues were created by the local sangat which goes in sewa everyday.
    I am pretty known in the Harimandir sahib to any sewadar wheather it’s an emply or a daily local sewadar,cau oi always stand for what is wrong and people do not like that,but that dosen’t mean i start doing the same calling them pigs,head shakers……
    Everytime i try go do the sewa there people tell me that if i can’t come everyday i can’t do the sewa?which is pretty stupid and i get angry too…….but i do not wanna be one of them.
    I have been trying to stop the inappropriate behaviour with the ladies now for more than ten years cauz i was always hanging around there doing nothing except sewa or just listen to the bannis playing there,but it never stopped,a lot of this comes from the villagers who come there to visit temple and seeing white girls or any girls they go crazy in the crowds so we have to beat them up really badly, but i discovered that this dosen’t solve the problem.
    Every time i try taking any step people there don’t wanna support cauz they say that they are there to just do sewa not to run around and try to teach lessons to the one who do mistakes.
    SO WE ARE NOT THERE IN THE hARIMANDIR TO TEACH SOME SOME.ONLy to learn that’s what we always think,and that’s what i always see that everyone who comes there weather a daily comer or an NRI is trying to teach some one rather than trying to understand what actaually we were there for?
    SO my dears brothers and sisters let’s get over it and let’s not call any one pigs,punjabi skin heads…..
    And lets’s focus on what we are and how long we are here for and what are we going to do for the rest?
    i am sorry for any galti…..bhul chuk di khima…

  24. Dilpreet says:

    It is a very cute post, coming from a kiddie but there is some serious thinking behind it :)

  25. Manjit Kaur says:

    Lovely writing Har Kiren. Had a good laugh.
    A note for Hardeep (comments), take it easy man, lighten up, see the humour in it…..

  26. Jaspal says:

    Hardeep Singh,

    That quote, “if we can’t see god in all we can’t see god at all”, is a reverse of what Guru Ji said ages ago.

    type in “god in all” to run a search and hey presto.

    Forgive me as this is my ego speaking.

  27. Parvinder singh luthra says:

    I am sikh and i am proud to be sikh, but i think some time some peoples divide the humans for the sake of religion. Religion is big but Humanity is bigger than any religion…Religion is made for Human, Human is not made for Religion..hope i am right…this is my views.
    waheguru ji ka khalsa..waheguru ji ki fateh..

  28. sandhu123 says:

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  29. sandhu123 says:

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  30. jagdip says:

    Sikhs are terrible at PR
    We all know that, in recent times, Sikhs have faced an uphill struggle with their public image (post 1984, being confused for radical muslims, beards out of fashion etc) but the organisers of the major new Golden Temple exhibition in London have cited this as a key reason why they chose to launch it in Central London instead of in an area of Punjabi population. Personally, I don't think we're doing enough PR wise so I commend their decision….. To read their full defense, go to