Why do men and women sit separately? Why is the stage always on the right side (the side of the men)?

Why do we sit on the floor?

(a) Sitting Separately

Good social behavior and manners demand that one should not be sitting very close or physically touching others' spouses. It is very difficult for anyone to avoid rubbing his shoulders with a person sitting close to him/her in the Sangat. In case men and women sit together mixed up in Sangat, it becomes very difficult for them to concentrate on hymns. One has to be always cautious to avoid physical touch with a person of the other gender and hence cannot pay full attention to the Kirtan. Even inadvertent touching or rubbing of shoulders can cause a case of misdemeanor and this can lead to serious trouble. It is, therefore, considered desirable for men and women to sit separately in one's own group.

No side can be reserved for men or women. It all depends upon convenience and situation. If the women are expected to be in large numbers, they sit on the side which can accommodate more persons. If there is a spill over from one side, and there is a space on the other side, men/women shift to that side. In the Gurdwaras men and women usually sit on the side where they sat on the first day just as a matter of understanding. Even in the house family members gets used to their chairs around the dining table. Though no chair is reserved for anyone, as a matter of daily routine, each member usually sits on his/her regular chair.

The stage has no fixed place either on the right or left side of the Guru Granth Sahib. It all depends on convenience for deciding the side for the Kirtan stage. Different Gurdwaras have their stage on different sides. The most common practice is that the Ragis sit on one side with the males sitting on the other side and the females sitting behind the Ragis on the same side. Sometimes, the stage is arranged in the same line as the Guru Granth Sahib, so that the whole Sangat faces the Ragis, men sitting on the side of the Ragis. The stage may or may not be raised above the floor. In case of big gatherings, the stage is usually raised so that the people sitting away from the stage can have a direct look on the Ragis doing the Kirtan.

(b) Sitting on the floor

Sitting on the floor is an expression of humility before the Guru. Furthermore, it also makes people feel equal and allows each person to choose a place suitable for him/her. While sitting on the floor, one can enjoy Kirtan with greater concentration than while sitting in chairs or on benches. It needs only a little training to be able to sit comfortably on the floor without being tired. A common problem with sitting on the floor is caused by skintight pants, which are not supposed to e worn in a Gurdwara, anyway.

If a person has a medical problem and cannot sit without support for his back, there is no objection for his/her sitting by the wall of the Gurdwara. However, in practice it has been found that most of the people want to sit there for the sake of comfort and convenience, which needs to be discouraged. It is, therefore, suggested that the people having a medical problem may be provided with a speaker in a separate room other than the Sangat hall. They may sit there with some support to overcome their medical handicap. In the Gurdwara we are supposed to be attentive and responsive as a student is supposed to be in his class room while his teacher is teaching.

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