Anand Karaj (ਅਨੰਦ ਕਾਰਜ, ) is the Sikh marriage ceremony, meaning "Blissful Union" or "Joyful Union", that was introduced by Guru Amar Das. The four Lavan (marriage hymns which take place during the marriage ceremony) were composed by his successor, Guru Ram Das. It was originally legalised in India through the passage of the Anand Marriage Act 1909 but is now governed by the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh code of conduct and conventions) that was issued by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). It dictates that only those who follow the Sikh religion may marry under the ceremony, therefore, Sikhs cannot marry persons professing to other religions under it. It also states that child marriage is invalid and that no account should be taken of the prospective spouse's caste. However, in practice, many Sikhs take preference in people from their caste.
The Anand Karaj usually takes place at a gurdwara (Sikh temple), although not necessarily so; the marriage may also be conducted at the bride's residence or any other place where the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) has been installed. If the marriage takes place somewhere other than a gurdwara, the place must be suitable and the Guru Granth Sahib must be installed following the proper procedure. Any Amritdhari (man or woman who is a strict adherent of Sikhism) may perform the marriage ceremony.
The following are other important points that must be adhered to by the Sikh couple and their families:
- Both partners must be Sikhs. - Marriage is a partnership of equals. - No consideration is to be given to Caste, Social Status, Race or lineage. - No Dowry is allowed. -No day is considered holier than any other; No astrological considerations are to be made; No superstitions are to be observed in fixing the date of the wedding. - The religious ceremony to take place in a Gurdwara or home of the Bride in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. -The religious ceremony must not take place in a hotel, wedding palace or Banqueting Hall. -Burden of the cost of the wedding to be shared as equally as possible.
These days, the selection of the partners is left predominantly to the couple – with the families acting as supportive introduction service. However, in the past, the selection of the partners was left completely to the parents and other senior family members. This trend has slowly changed and communities will have varying attitudes to the selection process. Although, the ultimate choice of partners is always left to the would-be bride and groom, most couples will seek their parents consent and blessing.
The arrangements for the wedding are almost always undertaken by the parents of the couple, with the bride's side footing a larger slice of the total bill. The Anand Karaj ceremony is joyous and festive event in which families and friends from both sides are heavily involved. The atmosphere is informal and lively. Most Sikh wedding take place in the morning but there are no restrictions as to what time the ceremony should start or end. The religious part of the ceremony lasts about 1 to 3 hours, depending on how important the families feel this is to their lives. The wedding event however will last for the whole day and may spill into the next day.
Most families combine the wedding ceremony with the engagement ceremony called the "Kurmai", where the Kurmai is held just before the wedding vows or Laava. The engagement ceremony can also be held as a separate event on a different day. It is usually conducted in the Gurdwara or at the home of the Groom-to-be. It involves Ardas, Kirtan , "Sagaan" (Exchange of gifts) and Langar. In the "Sagaan" ceremony, the groom is presented him with a kara, kirpan, Indian sweets, fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts. The bride-to-be's family in turn are presented with garments and sweets for the Bride-to-be.
"Anand Karaj" literally "joyful ceremonial occasion or proceedings" is the name given the Sihk marriage ceremony. For Sikhs married state is the norm and the ideal; through it, according to their belief, come the best opportunities for serving God's purpose and the well being of humanity, and it affords the best means of fulfillment of individuality and attainment of bliss. Sikhism repudiates monkery, vows of celibacy, renunciation or the sannyasin state.
Unlike in the West, most marriages among Sikhs, as also in India as a whole, are arranged. It is regarded as a duty for the parents to arrange for and actively contribute towards the marriage of their offspring. Prem Sumarag, an eighteenth century work on Sikh social code, lays down: When a girl attains maturity, it is incumbent upon her parents to look for a suitable match for her. It is neither desirable nor proper to marry a girl at tender age. The daughter of a Sikh should be given in marriage to a Sikh. If a man is a believer in Sikhism, is humble by nature, and earns his bread by honest means, with him matrimony may be contracted without a question and without consideration for wealth and riches.
The history of Anand marriage ceremony is traced back to the time of GURU Amar Das (1479-1574), who composed the long 40 stanza hymn Anandu, in the Ramkali measure, suitable to be sung or recited on all occasions of religious import. His successor, Guru Ram Das, composed a four stanza hymn, Lavan, which is recited and sung to solemnize nuptials. During the time of Maharaja RANJIT SINGH and his successors, however, this ceremony fell into partial disuse under renewed Brahmanical influence at court as well as in society.
The Nirankari reform movement of the mid 19th century made the practice of Anand ceremony a vital plank in its programme as did the later, more widely influential Singh Sabha. But there was opposition from the Arya Samajis and Brahman priestly classes, the former anxious to prove that the Sikhs were but a sect of the Hindus and hence subject to Hindu Law, and the latter apprehensive of a reduction in their clientele and income. The Sikh form of wedding ceremonial eventually received legal sanction through the Anand Marriage Act which was adopted in 1909.
The ceremony is now universally observed by the Sikhs. According to Sikh Rahit Maryada, a formal engagement or betrothal prior to marriage is not absolutely necessary, but if the parties so desire, the betrothal ceremony takes place usually at the boy's residence where a few near relations of the girl go with some gifts, sweets and fruit. The gifts may include a ring or kara and kirpan for the prospective groom. They are handed over to him in the presence of relations, collaterals and friends assembled usually in SANGAT in the presence of Guru GRANTH Sahib.
Formal engagements are not deemed necessary, however, if the parties so wish, the engagement will take place at the groom's residence. The relations of the bride will go to the groom's residence, taking with them a Kirpan (Sikh sword which is part of the five Ks) and some currency, both of which will be handed to the groom in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. The parents of the groom will present the bride with a dress and a gold ornament. In the West, it is now customary to present the bride with a wedding ring. It is argued by some that it is more in step with Sikhism if the ceremony takes place at a gurdwara. Either way, the effect will a binding engagement of the couple.
Roka:As soon as the couple agree to wed, the roka or saith ceremony, which is an announcement that the boy and girl have found their soulmates and will look no further for a life partner, is held. The girl's mama (mother's brother) gives her the nath (nose ring) which she will wear on her wedding. The origin of this ceremony lies in the arranged marriage norm where the parents would let out the world that they are looking for a suitable match for their son or daughter. And once they had found that match, their search had come to an end. Though rings are not exchanged, the couple stand unofficially engaged after this ceremony
Shagun For "shagun" (engagement), the bride's family goes to the groom's house with sweets, fruits and other gifts of clothes and jewellery. The girl's father (in his absence, the brother or any other elderly male member of the family) gives the groom-to-be a gold ring, a "kara" (bangle). They also take a Kirpan, a holy Sikh sword. The parents of the groom will give the bride's mother and father gold jewellery, cloth, and many other things. This is not mandatory - it is optional.
Sometimes the family may wish to have a very large party for the engagement, and most Sikh families do have large engagements of their children in halls, instead of a simple occasion. If this does happen, the Shagun will sometimes occur at this event, in the presence of all the guests at the engagement reception. In addition, when the bride makes her way to the stage, after the speeches, entertainment, and snacks, the groom's side will place a red chunni on her head, sindoor on her forehead and mendhi on her palms, to symbolize her engagement. After this the groom may make a formal proposal to his future wife. This will be followed by Sangeet (traditional Indian folk songs) and then a slow dance, and then dinner and dancing.
This ceremony is optional, but is strongly suggested for a strong married life. It is a three-day prayer before all the other functions are to start. Here the Guru Granth Ji Sahib is present and read non-stop, and divas and incense are also lit. Guests can come whenever they wish, in the first two days of the prayer, but should be present on the last day of the prayer in the morning hours. It is done in the morning hours because Sikhs believe that the morning is the most peaceful time of the day. At this prayer, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided depending on when you are present at the prayer.
A few nights or weeks before the main wedding, the Anand Karaj, ladies from one or both sides come together for a night of mendhi, dancing, food and singing. Here the bride's hands and feets are covered in a mendhi design. This is also where all the other ladies who are friends and family can get their hands stained in mendhi for the wedding. There is a saying in India that when you get married, and have mendhi applied to your hands, that the darker it is, the more love your future mother-in-law has for you. The groom, by tradition is also to have a little bit of mendhi on his palm or on the front of his hands. This function can be in a banquet hall, if large, or at home.
The sangeet is where ladies from both sides come together for a night of great food, dancing and singing. The sangeet is the Indian version of the Western bridal shower. At the sangeet, ladies sing traditional Indian songs, using the dholki (a two sided drum). This function is commonly in a hall, but can also be at home.
After the "shagun" (engagement), the groom's family (usually close female relatives) comes to the girl's residence with the wedding "chunni" (veil) and is given gifts, gold ring and other jewellery. The boy's mother or close female relatives such as sisters and aunts puts a bit of mehendi (henna) on the girl's palms, a red chunni on her head, gold jewellery on her neck and ears, makeup, bindi on her forehead, sindoor on her forehead, and red bangles on her arms to symbolize her marriage.
The mayian is a day before the main wedding. It consists of many ceremonies in one night.
On the day before the wedding, a ritual of chura (involving a set of ivory bangles) is performed at the bride's residence. Her maternal uncle makes a gift of clothes, jewellery and some cash called nankey-shak. He puts the bangles on his niece while the women sing traditional songs depicting the role of maternal uncles. Before the wedding ceremony, the bride-to-be takes a ritual bath and wears clothes provided by her maternal uncles, and she gets wed in those clothes. Similarly, the bridegroom-to-be also receives a set of clothes called jora-jama from his maternal uncles which he, too, wears at the wedding ceremony. It signifies the importance of the role of the mother's natal family at the wedding rituals, which also reinforcs the alliance established at her (mother's) own wedding.
Vatna is the ceremony where the couple's families rub yellow tumeric paste (made out of chick pea flour and mustard oil) on their legs, face, and arms while they sit on a patri (a special red board with embroidery) and are under a red cloth held by four women. This ceremony is done to cleanse and balance the body for his/her marriage life. The tradition of Vatna originally arrived from early ages when facilities weren't available to pamper the bride and groom prior to the marriage. Vatna in these days can be considered as a facial treatment which wasn't available in the olden days. There is always rangoli in front of where the groom/bride is sitting. A red thread is tied to the wrists of the bride and groom. After this the mother will clean the rangoli, and mix it with water, and put it on the front walls of the house. Indians say the longer it lasts, the more love a mother has for her son or daughter.
The Jaggo ceremony is where the family dances and sings on the road in front and around the beauitfully decorated wedding home. Jaggo is in the last hours of the night. They decorate copper vessels called "gaffers" with divas (clay lamps) and fill them with mustard oil and light them. The bride/bridegrooms maternal aunt (mammi) carries it on her head, and another lady will have a long stick with bells, and she will be shaking it. The ladies will then go into other friends and families homes and be welcomed by sweets and drinks, they will then dance there and move on. It is a loud ceremony, filled with joy, dancing, fireworks, and food. And if the family wishes the ladies' sangeet (ladies night of singing) and mendhi will follow the mayian and dinner.
After all the ceremonies, and family has started dancing into the early hours of the morning, dinner is served after the jaggo or last ceremony. Sweets are distributed to all guests families at all the ceremonies. All ceremonies nefore and after the Lavans are purely social, and do not have any religious significance. Hence, a Sikh can married with just the Lavans.
The actual wedding day is really just one day, but Sikh weddings can last for many days, they are mainly 3-5 days. These include one day being the mendhi, another day being the Sangeet, and another being the Mayian ceremony. The wedding usually begins in the morning with the two sides meeting in a ceremony called "Milni". The word "Milni" literally means 'meeting', and typically involves an exchange of gifts by the father and maternal uncle of the bride and the groom. During the Milni, the family and friends of the bride and groom will assemble in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. An "Ardas" (prayer) called Asa di Var is read. When the Milni is complete, the parties retire for tea and other refreshments.
The marriage ceremony will then begin with the congregation gathering in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The male takes his seat in front of the Holy Book and shortly afterwards, the bride will take her place on his left. The person presiding over the proceedings will first ascertain that both parties are Sikhs and that they both unequivocally agree to the marriage.
He will then ask the bride, groom and their parents/guardians to stand whilst the rest of the congregation remain seated and will then initiate an Ardas seeking the blessings of Waheguru (the great giver of knowledge) and begging Waheguru's grace on the couple. It entails the following passages:
This prayer publicly indicates the consent of the couple and their parents to the marriage. When this prayer has been said, the parties return to their seats as another short hymn is read. The officiant will then give a speech mainly directed at the couple explaining how the Sikh Gurus held marriage in high regard and how they taught that marriage is the highest and most ideal purpose to fuse two souls into a single spiritually inseparable one. High importance is also placed to the equality of the couple as this allows them to achieve the basic aims of life together and attain a deeper spiritual bond.
During the Anand Karaj, the four lavan (hymns composed by Guru Ram Das (the fourth Guru) in the Suhi Raag section of the Guru Granth Sahib) are sung. They condition the love between husband and wife as the love between the human soul and the Almighty. Under these, the bridegroom and the bride vow to be faithful to each other in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and the congregation. They accept the obligations of marriage by bowing before the Guru Granth Sahib.
During the main ceremony, the end of the cloth which is worn by the bridegroom is placed into the hands of the bride by her father/guardian. The four lavan are read by the person who is performing the marriage ceremony. After the first lavan has been read, the bridegroom will lead the bride around the Guru Granth Sahib whilst ragis (religious musicians) sing the same hymns. They will both sit down after having taken one trip around the Guru Granth Sahib. This step will be repeated until all four lavans have been read.
When the four lavans are complete, the hymn of Anand Sahib is read by the ragis. There is also an ardas, which marks the completion of the ceremony. A Holy "Vaak", which is a random reading of the of a hymn in the Guru Granth Sahib is read out whilst Krah Parsad (Holy food) is distributed to the whole congregation.
Below is a brief guide to what to expect and what to wear at a Sikh wedding.
The wedding day protocol usually consists of:
Sarbala: A young nephew or cousin also dons similar attire. He is called the sarbala (caretaker of the groom) and accompanies him.
Sehrabandi: Where the sisters of the groom place a sehra (piece of attire, where the face is covered by flowers) and Kalgi (A gem and store piece of jewellery with a feather place on his turban.) and where relatives give their blessing to the groom and his future new life.
VarnaThe groom's bhabi (eldest brother's wife) lines his eyes with surma (kohl). After this, the groom's sisters and cousins feed and decorate his mare. varna, a ceremony that is supposed to ward off the evil eye. The cash is given away to the poor.
Departure of Barat: Barat is the term used to describe the party from the groom's side. The Barat will leave from the groom's house to the gurdwara, usually near the bride's house, where the wedding will take place. The arrangements for the rest of the day are normally made entirely by the bride's family. However, some of this is now changing.
Reception of Barat: The groom's party is "received" by the bride's party at the gurdwara. The groom's side arrives in a parade style, with dancing and dhol music. The groom arrives on horse back.
Milni: (means "Introductions") The Ardas is performed by the priest (Giani) followed by the formal introductions of the main male players in the families. Example is both eldest Chachas (father's younger brother) will come together and exchange garlands of flowers and money. After or during the wedding, ladies will do the same thing, but a much smaller affair.
Jaimala:After Milni, the bride and groom come in the middle of the circle where the family is standing, and place a heavily made garland made of flowers on each other to state, they accept each other and will love and live together with one and other. The brothers usually lift the bride, while the groom tries to place the garland over her. This is a way of teasing the groom.
Juti Chhupai:This is when the girl's young relatives grab the groom's untended shoes and hide it away to be returned after the ceremony for a fee which is Kalecharis of gold for the bride's sisters and of silver for her cousins. This joyful custom is called juta chhupai.
Tea: Tea with savouries and sweets will be served and are normally taken standing at tables. Chairs are seldom provided.
Main Wedding Ceremony The Ceremony:
-Before the ceremony begins, you are to be seated in the gurwara. You are waiting for the groom to enter. -While you are waiting you will be listening to kirtan (the singing of hymns) -When the groom arrives hewill be seated in front of the Guru Granth Sahib (holy scripture). -The bride will arrive traditionally escorted by her father and brothers as well as brother-cousins, but it is not uncommon for her to be escorted by her parents alone. -Now that both the bride and groom are present, the anand karaj will begin. -The priest will address the significance of the union that the couple is about to embark on. -Next, the couple and their parents will rise for Ardas (prayers asking for God's blessing for the union). -Ardas will be followed by the Palaa Ceremony. -The palaa is a shawl that is folded lengthwise and the right end is draped over the groom's shoulder and into his hands. During this ceremony, the bride's father takes the left end of the palaa and places it into the hands of his daughter. The palaa bonds the couple together with the consent of the bride's father. -Next the most important ritual in a Sikh wedding ceremony is the Laavan. The laavan is a series of four prayers that describe the four stages of love and married life. -During each of the four prayers, the groom leads the bride around the Guru Granth Sahib. -The bride walks behind the groom and is assisted by her brothers or in the absence of brothers, her brother cousins. -After each verse, the couple bows to the Guru Granth Sahib.
Lunch: Previously this used to be Langar at the gurdwara but now it is lunch at a commercial venue. When held in a commercial venue, it is like a normal "dinner & dance" type of event, where "Bhangra" music is usually played.
Departure of Doli: The bride departs from her parent's house (a very sad and touching occasion). In some cases, she changes into new clothes that are presented to her by the groom's family before departing. She throws puffed rice over her shoulders in four directions, and can not look back. This symbolizes her new life, with her new family.
Reception: (optional) This may be held on the same day or another day and is an evening "dinner and dance" type occasion, sometimes not too formal (please check with the party) where only invited guests from both families can attend. At other and most times, it is a grand affair, with sometimes over 1000 people. There are speeches, entertainment, a grand entrance and dancing.
Pani Barna: The groom's mother performs the traditional aarti with a pitcher of water. She makes seven attempts to drink the water from the pitcher. The groom must allow her to succeed only at the seventh attempt. The bride must, with her right foot, kick the mustard oil that is put on the sides of the entrance door before she enters the house.
Phera Dalna: the newly weds visit the bride's parents on the day after the wedding, for dinner. They are usually fetched by the bride's brother
The main part of the Anand Karaj is the reading and then the singing of each laav in turn. When the Laav is sung, the couple as a pair joint by a piece of cloth circle the Guru Granth Sahib. This has relevance to the occasion and should not be considered a ritual without meaning. When the couple circle the Guru Granth Sahib each time they making a commitment to God with the Guru as spiritual witness and support. And as one circles the Sri Guru Granth Sahib you are reminded that the Guru should be the center of your life, from which springs your spiritual guidance and understanding that you require for your souls long journey across this world ocean. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the center and the Sadh Sangat is your worldly witness and support.
The four nuptial rounds were written by Guru Ram Das for his own wedding. They explain the journey of the souls toward the Almighty. In them he tells us of the duties that a person undertaking a life of marriage should perform. In the first round, the Guru asks the partners to:
In the second round, the Guru asks the partners to advance further towards meeting the True Guru - God:
In the third round, the Guru says that the partners mind is filled with "Divine Love":
In the final round, the Guru says that the partners mind become peaceful and they will have found the Lord:
Translated into English the Lavari quartet or the Sikh epithalamium would read:
This completes the religious part of the ceremony. What follows is Punjabi cultural rituals and customs and do not in generally adhere to the strict Sikhi principles. However, they are included for general information about the cutural tradition of Punjabis and for general information only.
After this and ahead lies a whole labyrinth of spectacular custom and rite. The dual sources of significance of Sikh marriage as an institution are:
The prescribed marriage ritual, the anand karaj, is an expression of the basic principles of the faith. It was first given statutory recognition and thus officially and legally distinguished from the observances sanctioned under Hindu Customary Law, by the Anand Marriage Act of 1909.
According to Sikh rules, religious endogamy is essential, but not endogamy within the caste or sub caste group. Though customary rules of exogamy are held to prohibit the marriage of near consanguines, the precise position in this matter is difficult to determine and no ruling on this question is included in the Sikh code of conduct.
Before the groom departs with the bride, first the groom's party and then the bride's take lunch; the bride eats food provided by her parents-in-law and this is known as sauharian di rod. As the bride is about to leave her home, her mother, female relatives and close friends come out to see her off.
The band breaks into farewell songs. The bride and the groom leave together for the home of the latter's parents. The bride is usually accompanied by a younger brother, or traditionally, by the village barber's wife. This ceremony of the departure of the bride from her parents home is known as doli, a word denoting the litter which was formerly used as transport for the couple; nowadays a decorated car is usually provided for this purpose.
As the car or carriage starts off, the father of the groom showers small coins over it, thus expressing his happiness over the successful conclusion of the ceremony. A basket of sweets (bhaji), to be distributed to the groom's kin and friends, is sent along with the bride. The couple is ceremonially received at the entrance of the groom's family house.
Then follows the ritual of uncovering the bride's face (munh vikhai) in the presence of the female kin, friends and neighbours of the groom. The bride is fed with cooked dal and rice (Khichadi) signifying that she has become a member of her husband's household. She removes her veil and offers obeisance to the senior women kin who give her gifts of money after sirvarna (revolving money around the head).
The custom of giving a reception by the groom's parents is becoming popular in urban society although some Sikh institutes do not allow this. The reception is held after the marriage ceremony. Close kin and friends of both families are invited. A day or two later the bride usually returns to her parental home. Only after the groom fetches her from there for the second time, may the marriage be consummated.
This second trip is called muklava. On this occasion and on her subsequent visits to her parents home, her parents give her gifts of clothes and ornaments. The word denotes the gifts given at the time of the marriage to their daughter and to the groom's parents by the bride's parents. The gifts given to the bride by the groom's parents are called van.
Besides, giving the dowry (again this is strictly against Sikh principles), consisting of all the things that the bride will need to set up a household clothes, ornaments, utensils, furniture and beddings the bride's parents undertake expenses on the marriage ceremony, feasting, illuminations, etc. All this is not to be taken as constituting the Sikh marriage, but is the general practice in Punjabi society. Sikh reformers since the emergence of the Singh Sabha have been urging simple and inexpensive marriages strictly in accord with the spirit of the anand ceremony.
The eatables include a chhuhara (dried date) of which the boy takes a bite signifying acceptance of the match as well as of the gifts. This ceremony concludes with sirvarna (money waved around the head of the boy in offering, given away thereafter in charity) and ARDAS (liturgical supplicatory prayer). Actual wedding takes place at the girl's residence. The date of the wedding is set by mutual consultation to suit both parties.
Astrological or horoscopic considerations are discountenanced in Sikh calculations. Matters such as the strength of the barat (the bridegroom's party), timing of arrival and departure, duration of stay, are also decided mutually so that the bride's parents may make suitable arrangements. Before setting out, the bridegroom may go to a gurdwara to make obeisance and offer ardas before the Guru Granth Sahib.
What to wear?
At Indian weddings, people prefer to always stay in the latest Indian trends. Here are what most ladies and men will be wearing at these ceremonies
Sikhs practise monogamy in marriage. Both the husband and wife are seen as being equal. Any Sikh widow or widower is allowed to marry another person.