The Gift of Ishnaan Seva in the Guru’s House

Picture of the Gurdwara after it is cleared out and cleaned

Years ago marble was installed on the floors and base of the walls in the Gurdwara here in Espanola, New Mexico. Ever since then it has become a beautiful weekly get together to clean the Guru’s House. I used to hear about it from Prabhu Singh and a few others (Sat Bachan Kaur) who were always trying to encourage people to participate. Back then It took place late at night (rather than 6:30am nowadays) so I never did take part in it. At first I thought it silly to install marble in the Gurdwara when it seemed to be perfectly nice as it was. I thought, why make more work and the need to clean the marble?? Was this our sangat’s way of having a similar experience of cleaning the marble floors of Harimandir Sahib (which most are not allowed to take part in)? Anyways, that was my critical mind at work and was a factor in my not taking the opportunity to do this seva till this year.


My son Narayan Singh had come to Ishnaan Seva a few times before me with some of his uncles, and he always seemed to love the experience. So one morning I decided to go with him since he really wanted to go. How could I say no when my son wanted to serve in the Guru’s house??? Ever since that morning I wondered why I had never come before?? It was so nice to be with other sevadhars doing this seva. It’s not so much the cleaning part or the labor…. but there is something about coming together with other Gursikhs in the Guru’s House and serving in this way that is special.

On my first morning doing the seva Sat Bachan Kaur asked if I would carry the Siri Guru Granth Sahib from the Guru’s room to a different location, so that we could clean the Guru’s room. This was the first time I have done this and for some reason it was such a powerful experience for me (all of like ten seconds or so). Many Sikhs refer to the Guru as "The Sikh Scriptures" or "The Sikh Holy Book" which is totally off base, as the Siri Guru Granth is our living Guru and not a "book". So as I carried the Siri Guru Granth on my head and it was an experience that is hard to put to words. I was carrying my Guru with love and respect and feeling the "vibration" of the Gurbani flow through my being. Wow!

The whole process takes about two hours from start to finish. The two Siri Guru Granth Sahib’s are moved from their room to a temporary location as well as the two sets of the English/Punjabi Translations of Siri Guru Granth Sahib which are used to read the English translation of the Hukamnama and also for the weekly Akandh Path. After that we roll up the carpets, remove everything from the Gurdwara, sweep up the dust from the floor, wash the marble floors with water, dry everything, put everything back in, and then lay down sheets on top of the carpets for the Sunday Gurdwara. Most weeks Hari Kaur or Jugat Singh cook some yummy langar for us to enjoy at the end, which is real treat!!

On the weekends when I participate in the Ishnaan Seva I try to bring my (1.5 year old) Charanjeet Kaur and (6 year old) Narayan Singh. They both love the seva also, and help out with everything. Narayan’s favorite is taking the buckets of water and pouring it all over the floors and then wiping it all over with towels. He zips back and forth. I like going with my kids because it gives them a positive experience of seva and of being together with sangat. Some of the other people also bring their children so they all have fun together and we get the kids involved. It’s like a big family event coming together like this in the morning.

If you come to visit our community, definitely plan to participate in this seva on Sunday morning. If you are from Espanola and reading this then you don’t know what you are missing! Come join us! (Starts around 6:30am) You won’t regret it.

A few weeks ago someone suggested recording the Ishnaan Seva and making a video. So, this past weekend I did that. Here are two short videos showing the Ishnaan Seva.

The first video is from one camera that I carried around during the seva and recorded the different activities close up. In order to better illustrate the seva I sped up the video to go very fast. I suggest that you download the video which is MUCH better quality (and larger) then what shows in the below Youtube video. You’ll be able to see things better and enjoy it more.

This second video is a continuous recording of the Ishnaan Seva from start to finish (for about 2.5 hours) from a second video camera. I then sped it up so you can watch the whole thing in about 80 seconds! (again I suggest that you download the higher quality video). You can see everyone zipping around, and the transformation of taking everything out of the Gurdwara, cleaning and then bringing everything back in.

27 Responses to “The Gift of Ishnaan Seva in the Guru’s House”

  1. sukhninder singh says:


    i love ur gurdwara there sooo peace ful and niceeee hopefully il come down one day from the UK and see u lot all

  2. sukhninder singh says:

    nice love to come to do seva hopefully will get to but me in UK so might be sometime yet whos is that kirtan in the back really nice

  3. Jagjiwan says:

    Wow, I am just speechless. Next year for sure I’ll visit this place and do Seva.  I can see so much positive energy flowing there and to experience it I must visit.  Someone from another blogpost made some comment like what Gora Sikhs will know about Sikhism or something like that but I think Gora Sikhs are more spirtual then any of other born on Punjab’s land. I mean all are equal but when someone goes in those terms then I must say this we are proud of Gora Sikhs, and right now I see them as role models of Sikhism.

  4. Prabhu Singh says:

    WaheGuru! Those videos are awesome! It reminds me of my favorite time each week! Now I’m excited for this Sunday.

  5. Glad you liked the video! In case you are interested you can watch the seva live too! I recently setup a live video broadcast of our Gurdwara so you can watch what is going on all the time. Right now the Akandh Path is going on and you can listen in. On Sunday I switch the camera to the main Darbar area.

    Tune in at: (the link is on the lower right corner)

  6. Sarabjot Kaur says:

    Thanks for the lovely videos! And having the video cam for Gurdwara is great!!! I’ve only had the opportunity to be a part of ishnaan seva once, on my first visit to Espanola (back when it was late at night). It was so peaceful and meditative… I’d felt like I’d cleaned my soul. Although I’ve returned to Espanola many times since then, I wasnt able to do this seva. God willing, I’ll be able to join again on my next visit!

  7. SatSundri Kaur says:

    Bolo Ji Wahe Guru!

  8. Harvir Singh says:

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

    Awesome….. I can’t describe it in words… I love to do Seva but I am in India, I cann’t come there. .

    "Kaash main tuhade naal Seva karva sakda" (in punjabi)

    Guru Fateh.

    Harvir Singh

  9. amarrama says:

    Gurusangat is  all  a  gursikh needs .Gurusangat is wat makes him a gursikh . Its so interconnected . One-self is a gursikh because he does gurusangat , and doing gurusangat makes him a gursikh .

  10. Shanu Kaur says:

    WOW! Amasing seva… you guys have got a real nice Gurudwara, can’t wait to be able to participate in seva like that.

    Pahji do you have a download of the kirtan playing in the background of the 1st video. I love it!

  11. manvir singh says:

    Listening to the Sweet Tune, how can anyone not be enchanted?Gazing upon the Seat of the Guru, how can anyone be but humble?Blessed is the marble, which gathers the dust of the Gursikhs.Blessed are the walls that resonate the Kirtan of the Divine Praises.My only desire is to be able to have such sangat in my life, to be able to serve the Guru in such a way my whole life’s yearning would be fulfilled.May the Throne of the Guru in Espanola resonate throughout the world, and people will say ‘that is the way forward, towards Truth, Freedom, and Equality’.

  12. Manjit Kaur says:

    As I write this mail, my eyes are tearing and and my hands are shaking. I share your feelings of being blessed by the Guru while doing this seva. Here in Singapore, every Saturday mornings at 4am there is seva of washing the langgar hall at Silat Rd gurdwara. My friend had asked me to join in the seva when it first started in August last year, but I kept finding excuses not to go. I finally went in November. What an experience it was! Washing the langgar hall and the area around, I felt like I was in Amritsar doing seva there. All the sevadaars were quietly doing seva, there was no leader saying you do this or that. It was like a great seva dance moving in harmony and the choreographer, Guru himself. Awesome!! I wondered why I never went earlier. After this, I had never wanted to miss Saturday morning sessions again. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend these Saturday seva sessions presently. How it hurts……Every saturday morning, I wish I am there at the Gurdwara langgar hall, washing and scrubbing the floor, the tables, the chairs, the surrounding areas. The feeling of being there, one with all the other sevadaars in tune doing seva is a meditation by itself, indescribable.
    There are also parents like yourself who bring their children along. The children have a really good time!
    To those in Singapore who would like to come for seva, it would be on Friday (4am)this week as Friday is a holiday and more children can join in the seva. (We have punjabi school on Saturday mornings, so most children are unable to come and parents have to rush back.) Generally, this seva is always on Saturday mornings, 4am to about 6.30am, depending on the number of people who are blessed to turn up for Seva.
    Thank you Gurmustuk, for letting me share my experiance.

  13. Uttam Singh says:

    Please do not place Guroo Maharaj in a cupboard. There is no point treating Maharaj like our one and only living king one minute, and then treating maharaj like a book that can be placed in a cupboard, otherwise doing parkash of Maharaj is just a ritual if it is not understood that he is awake and alive at all times.Sache Patshaa should at all times either be given Taabe with ramalla sahib and chandani sahib, or a bed with chandani sahib and ramala.Thank You.

  14. ujjalbir says:

     May ALMIGHTY Guru bless the sangat of Espanola. The are the crucial principles of Sikhism SEVA and SANGAT .Like  Jagjiwan has commented above the sangat at Espanola would be a role model for those who are the doubting Thomases about the relevance of Sikhism . I asked a young village lad from Punjab during my last visit about Sikhism  . His reply was what will Sikhism give him, in any case  the  turban is of no use therefore he has discarded it like 80% of his fellow villagers .   What matters is not wether you belong to Punjab or Fiji or America but are you a practicing Sikh that is more important as can be seen from the sense of enjoyment and peace that is exhibited by the sangat in the video above. It is imp to have knowledge about Punjabi language but that alone is like a car without wheels THerefore those who are western origin or fiji or for that matter born abroad  adherance to the Sikh ethos in letter and spirit is of utmost significance. May WAHEGURU BLESS THE SIKH NET TEAM AND ALL OTHERS

  15. Uttam Singh, I have received a few comments (in addition to yours) in relation to your point. I just wanted to clarify that Guruji is not being put into a “cupboard” or “closet”. This space for the Guru is beautifully decorated and has been made to suit the Guru. Yes, it is small, but it is a temporary resting place. There are pillows, small Chandowa, ramallas, etc. If you had come to the seva you would see that everything is done with the utmost respect and consciousness towards the Guru.

    Everything is a matter of perspective. Five people can look at any one thing and see things from totally different perspectives. Whose perspective is the “correct” one? In order to clean the Gurdwara space the Guru needs to be moved to another location. There are certain practical situations like this that each Gurdwara has to deal with and find the most appropriate way to do so. We don’t have very much space in our Gurdwara. This sacred space has been made for the Guru as a temporary resting place while the Gurus room and the Gurdwara is cleaned. The Guru isn’t just “thrown in a closet” as some of the commenters seem to think. From your perspective you see a closet. From my perspective I see a small room and bed for the Guru.

    Another common situation similar to this is transporting the Guru in a car/airplane. Normally this is a situation where the Guru is brought in a car and held in a person’s lap while in transit. One cannot always have a full “room”, and one has to do their best to cover the Guru and transport with respect depending on the circumstances.

    Please let’s not get caught up in debating this issue. It takes away from the spirit of this seva and the Guru’s house. If you want to see how the Guru is treated in the Gurdwara, then come visit here and see it for yourself. Then come to an opinion. Until then please don’t criticize without seeing everything and the full picture. It is great to want to uphold the honor of the Guru and make sure he is kept in the highest respect, however it is important to do so in a civil way, and not jump to conclusions and start judging how something is done.

    Thank you for your concern…

  16. Uttam Singh says:

    My sincere apologies, may Guroo Ji bless your seva.

  17. ujjalbir says:

    Sorry for digressing but what happened to Charanjit Kaur ‘ s  photo based  blog . Long time no see of her .

  18. Ujjalbir, Charanjeet Kaur has been busy these days so hasn’t had a chance to post any new photos of herself. She working on her photography skills so hopefully she’ll put up some new pictures soon :)

  19. Hari Singh Khalsa says:

    I’d also like to add some background to the issue about the small Guru’s room. In the earliest days of the sangat in Española, the Gurdwara, was the Gurdwara, Kitchen and Nivas all in one. In fact there was a need for a business so that people could make a living while forging a new community for Gursikhs. This meant that at least one of the rooms was also used as an office. I have heard personally from one dear Auntiji, that she used to sleep under her desk. These are the humble beginnings of our sangat/Gurdwara/ashram. In these days, the space for the Gurdwara was less than half of the size of the current Gurdwara. If you look at these videos you’ll see where the walls are narrower in the back of the Gurdwara, this was the whole Gurdwara. The "nook" where the akandh path now takes place was where the Guru resided during Gurdwara services as well. The small Guru’s quarters were built by one of the early sangat member (at least that is my understanding) and it was clearly very fine work as it has lasted all of these years. Without these small quarters there would’ve been no way to do sukhasan in the early days. Additionally I must comment on the idea that "bigger is better" while this seems to be an almost universally found primitive concept it is certainly a celebrated and exalted ideal in western societies like the US. I call it primitive, however, because with thought one can see that this is not always the case. One could easily justify the smallest of quarters for the Guru as being exactly inline with the Guru’s teachings. I would be such a person, as I would say that we owe it to our ideals of seva and to our knowledge of history and gurmat to do so. First as a seva we are serving others by not having excessive space that needs to be lighted, heated and cooled, hence we are saving huge amounts of energy which are typically generated from a coal-fired power plant, which means we are saving literally tons (increments of 2000 pounds) of emissions from polluting people’s air space. Second with respect to our knowledge of history and gurmat we see that the Guru is not a king, but a humble servant of the lord. By king I mean that the Guru was not exalted above other men in a show of decadence purely based on birth or blood and not merit as so many kings are. From history we know that the Guru gave up his bed to the adi granth and slept on the floor. The "living Guru" not the adi granth, slept on the floor, this is an utter act of humility. The Guru also constantly refers to "slave Nanak" thus reinforcing the humility and deference the Guru had for god. After understanding the above, making the guru’s quarters even one inch larger than it needs to be, could be seen as an act of decadence or obscenity.

  20. Guruka Singh says:

    When I watch these videos, I see nothing but love and reverence. Everything is about intent and attitude. Look deeply. See the intent with your open heart. The heart sees clearly.


  21. Dilbeer Kaur says:

    Sat Sri Akaal Gurmustuk Ji,
    Re:“The Gift of Ishnaan Seva in the Guru’s House”
    I really, really enjoyed watching the video of sewa done in the Gurudwara in Española, every weekend.  I sincerely wish, sangat all over the world would do sewa like this, at their respective Gurudwaras. 
    Where I live, I have noticed with lots of sadness, that sewa is only done by the family and friends hosting the prayers for that Sunday of the week and when we have the Akand Path, there is alot of bitterness amongst the sangat as to who should do the sewa, or who is not doing sewa or who is trying to be bossy about the organising of the whole programme. 
    The sangat here does not have a permanet Granthi at the premises.  We do have a live in Sewadar, who does the best he can.  The Gurdwara comes to live only on Sundays, or other scheduled days in a year. 
    A few sewadars who were involve in regular sewa previously, have moved on and others have not filled in the vacant spots.
    It’s with amazement, I see the commaradeship amongst you seeks in Espeniola.  Kudos to you all!  You all are very worthy of being role models for the Sikh Sangat around the world to follow. 
    Boleh Sonehaal, Sat Sri Akaal!!!!!!!!!!

    PS:  I have noticed that there is a Sikh Bibiji who has sent a comment on this subject and her name is Sat Sundri Kaur.  I had the pleasure of being in her company when I lived in Boulder, Colorado in the year 1989-90.  Could you please do me a favour and get me in touch with her please, pretty please!  Thanking you in advance.

    Sat Sri Akaal,
    Dilbeer Kaur Veygal
    need to ask you a favo

  22. Sukhbir Singh says:

    What euphoric vibrations reside in the Gurudwara, wish I could be there, whilst I am just an idiot who was destined to to be severed from the Holy Satsangat, unlike you spiritual-uplifting people. The love in the Seva done cannot be described, truly the Guru abides within all, but the sincerity of SEVA is overwhleming, so much love!!! I just wish that this type of Seva will be availibe  , but sometimes its not the case, whilst I enjoy your blog which teaches us the values that we have to abide according to our Guru’s teachings. It was an blessing from the True Guru to recognize the value of life, and Sevadaars who consitently work just to please our Sikh society and Panth which can assist those in misery, thank you all!!!!

  23. SATPALSINGH says:


  24. Balwant says:

    I don’t think those people saying to not put the Guru in the cupboard are saying that bigger is better in the American sense of consumption is better or richer is better or money is better. They are saying that for a Gurdwara to have a small cupboard for Sukh Asin room is inappropriate and even a small room, but a room nonetheless, will be much better and more respectul. Gurumustuk Singh above say that those who give Guru title of scripture are wrong as Guru is living Guru. Then if living Guru lets treat as such.

  25. Balwant….again…the Guru has his own full size room (which you see in the very beginning of the first video at hyperspeed). While the Guru’s room is cleaned the Guru is temporarily kept in the smaller area that you saw in the video.

  26. ujjal says:

    How come some are able to pick up some thing short in everything . They make themselves and others unhappy. Seva can be of varying degrees and it is a journey that the devotee has to embark upon . The sangat has already adopted this path and they are far ahead in the path of seva. MAY GOD BLESS the sangat of ESPANOLA .

  27. Gurjeet Singh says:

    Dear Gurumustak,

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khaksa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

    i love Asa di Vaar played in the b’ground, is the audio downloadable somewhere ?