In the religion of Sikhism, a wedding ceremony, or ‘Anand Karaj’ (‘blissful event’) as it is called, is the joining together of two equals. Marriage is a sacred bond of mutual independence between a man and a woman and the Sikh wedding ceremony is filled with rituals to represent that connection.
Guru Ram Das introduced to the foundation of ‘Anand Karaj’ the composition of a ‘lavaa’, which is a set of four hymns. The hymns describe the spiritual stages of married life.
Some of the most important aspects to consider in a Sikh wedding are that:
- As mentioned, marriage is a partnership of equals. The husband and groom are no longer considered to separate people but rather ‘two bodies with one soul’.
- No dowry (money brought by the bride’s side for the groom’s) is allowed.
- There must no bias based on social status, race or caste.
- No superstitions are to be observed and no day is to be considered holier than any other.
- The main portion of the ceremony is to take place in a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship).
- The cost of the wedding should be shared between the two families as equally as possible.
To begin the day, the groom will be dressed at his home sat by his ‘sarbala’ (associate groom – e.g. a young cousin or nephew). Female members of the groom’s family will place the ‘palla’ (ceremonial scarf) on to the groom before his mother places a coconut on to the ‘palla’ to represent the new beginning. His family will give him ‘sagaan’ (blessing) in the form of money and ‘ladoo’ (a traditional Asian sweet).
The groom will then leave alongside his family to arrive at the ‘Gurdwara’ (the journey to the gurdwara is often accompanied by dhol players) where the families of the couple will meet in the ‘milni’ (meeting). This joyous ‘milni’ will often involve the exchanging of gifts and sometimes, members from each side may even engage in playful competition as they try to lift each other up.
Once at the gurdwara, a priest will recite a very important prayer called the ‘ardaas’. This prayer is recited before and after any important Sikh event.
The attendees will have breakfast before the main portion of the ceremony. The groom will enter the ‘darbaar’ (court), joined by his ‘sarbala’, where he will first acknowledge the Guru Granth Sahib (the Holy Scripture of Sikhism) by bowing his head on the floor in front of it. The groom will sit at the front, his sisters behind him, as he waits for his bride.
The bride will arrive and sit alongside the groom with her sisters too joining her. The priest will again recite the ‘ardaas’ with the parents of the couple standing showing their support for the marriage. The bride’s father will approach, handing over a side of the ‘palla’ to his daughter to signify the passing on of his responsibility to his new son-in-law.
The ‘granthi’ (reader of the Guru Granth Sahib) will recite the first of the four ‘lavaa’ before the couple walk around the Holy Scripture four times clock-wise.
A longer version of the ‘ardaas’ is recited by the priest once again before the ‘granthi’ reads a selected verse of the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’.
Following that segment, a ceremony called ‘sagaan’ begins with the congregation taking turns to bless the couple with gifts.
The ‘dholi’ (bridal goodbye) comes next. The groom will arrive at the bride’s house where he will be met by the bride’s female relatives. He will offer what is essentially an entrance fee which is notoriously difficult to negotiate! Once an acceptable amount has been agreed he will enter and wait the arrival of his wife so they may leave.
His bride will join him and another short ‘sagaan’ ritual begins before her father once again places the ‘palla’ in her hands. The two will rise, and the bride will throw rice in four directions. The groom will then lead her towards the front of the house where she will say an emotional final goodbye to her family before they depart for her new home.
The newly married couple will arrive at the groom’s house where the mother will greet them. She will circle a jug of water around their heads for the ‘pani bharna’ (water ceremony). The couple will sit on the floor of their new home where they are given blessings by their family members once again before sharing a glass of milk to conclude the day.