There is recently been a lot of renew chatter about the Sikh Wedding or Anand Karaj. This has become a very hot topic in the last few years. There are protests outside gurdwaras in the UK when a Sikh and Non-Sikh are getting married. There have even been gurdwaras that will just turn a couple away if they don’t believe the marriage is correct.
As we Sikhs get more integrated to our new Western homes, our ideas or thoughts on how the ceremony should take place changes something sacred and holy. Weddings are a very big deal, we all know that, making that commitment to another person for the rest of your life. The joining of not only two people, but of two families. Living in the west and seeing Christian wedding makes many think. Most non traditional Christain weddings aren’t very structured. Bridgesmaids and Groomsmen dancing while walking to there places near the alter. Dance and HIp Hop music playing in the backround. Nothing at all like a Sikh Wedding ceremony.
Sikh weddings have a set process and a set procedure. We have things that are done in a particular fashion with tradition and meaning. Most Sikh Weddings go through the following process. This is what I remember seeing, so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
The families and friends of both the bride and groom gather in the Gurdwara, for the Anand Karaj the Sikh marriage ceremony. Wedding parties and guests assemble together in the presence of the Guru Granth. Hymns are sung as men and boys sit to one side of a central isle, and the woman and girls to the other. Every one sits on the floor reverently with legs crossed and folded.
The bride and groom bow before the Guru Granth, and then sit side by side at the front of the hall. The couple and their parents stand up to signify that they have given their consent for the wedding to take place. Every one else remains seated while a Granthi offers Ardas, a prayer for the success of the marriage.
The Raagis sit on a low stage and sing the hymn, “Keeta Loree-ai Kaam“, to seek God’s blessing and to convey a message that a successful marital union is achieved through grace.
A Granthi counsels the couple with the verse “Dhan Pir Eh Na Akhee-an“. They are advised that marriage is not merely a social and civil contract, but a spiritual process uniting two souls so that they become one inseparable entity. The couple is reminded that the spiritual nature of family harmony is given emphasis by the example of the Sikh gurus, who themselves entered matrimony and had children.
- The husband is to love and respect his wife, encourage her with kind consideration, recognize her individuality, regard her as his equal, offering guidance and support.
- The wife is to show her love and respect with loyalty, support her husband’s objectives willingly, harmonize with him, and share in happiness and sorrow, prosperity or adversity.
- The couple are to ally themselves with each other in an endeavor to achieve a harmonious union, intellectually, emotionally, physically, materially and spiritually.
The Bride and groom, affirm the acceptance of their marital obligations, and bow together before the Guru Granth. The bride sits to the left of the groom directly in front of the Guru Granth.
A member of the grooms family drapes a long scarf, shawl, or length of turban cloth, called a palla around the groom’s shoulders, and places the right end in his hands.
The bride’s father (or one acting in his stead) takes the left end of the palla and arranges it over the bride’s shoulder and gives her the left end to hold.
The ragis sing the hymn:
“Pallai Taiddai Lagee” symbolizing joining the couple by the palla to each other and God.
Lavan, the Four Wedding Rounds
The four wedding hymns of Lavan represent four stages of love. The hymns describe the development of marital love between husband and wife, while simultaneously signifying the love and longing of the human soul for God.
The bride and groom walk around the Guru Granth, as the ragis sing the words of the Lavan. The groom walks to the left clockwise. Holding his end of the palaa, he walks around the Guru Granth. The bride follows him holding on to her end of the palaa. The couple makes their first marital adjustment by keeping in step with each other. They bow together before the Guru Granth concluding the 1st wedding round and resume sitting. The 2nd, 3rd & final, 4th round, are conducted in the same manner.
The entire congregation sings “Anand Sahib”, the “Song of Bliss”. The hymn emphasizes the fusing of two souls into one as they merge with the divine.
The ragis sing two hymns to complete the ceremony:
- “Veeahu Hoa Mere Babula” – celebrates the marriage of the couple and their union with God.
- “Pooree Asa Jee Mansaa Mere Raam” – describes the happiness at having found the perfect partner.
Every one stands for the final prayer. After it has been said, everyone bows, and resumes sitting.
A Granthi reads a random verse called a hukam which concludes the ceremony. Lastly, a ragi serves everyone a handful of prashad, a sacred sweet blessed during the prayer.
The married couple and their families, express thanks to all present for taking part in the celebration. The wedding party guests congratulate the married couple usually in Langar Hall or outide the main Diwan Hall.
So how much as Sikhs should be be willing to Bend on these processes or procedures? Should we allow the bride and groom to walk side by side during Laavan? Is it ok for a Sikh and Non Sikh to get married in this manner? For a religion that expresses openness, love, caring, and equality. We are pushing people away saying they can’t get married in a Gurdwara. We are a religion that does not care about color, sex, caste, or even religion. Everyone is equal i our eyes. So what’s right and what’s wrong? Should we be willing to bend on tradition and if so how much?