Our Sikh wedding anniversary is on June 26th and as the day approaches I thought I would write about our Sikh wedding ceremony in some detail. It really is quite a beautiful ceremony. It is called Anand Karaj, meaning Blissful Union in Punjabi.
I have mentioned in past posts that maintaining both my husband’s religion and culture and my own religion and culture is incredible important to us as a family. When we got married four years ago we had both a Christian and a Sikh wedding ceremony about a month apart. We had a very small ceremony. It was just him and I and my brother and sister and mom and step dad. His family sadly was in India at the time. We got married in a tiny little Gurdwara. We lived in Sonoma county California and there are not a lot of Sikhs in the area. My good friend had given me the pink wedding suit for the ceremony, because Punjabi clothes were not readily available in the area. Most Sikh weddings are quite large and lavish! Ours was simple but sweet. There were a lot of traditions we were not able to do, like the henna, reception, the engagement ceremony and so many others. Someday I would like to do a re-commitment of vows and do those traditions. We did complete the religious ceremony properly, which in the end is what matters.
So for beginners, here is a crash course. A Sikh wedding takes place in a Gurdwara typically, but you can have it anywhere a Guru Granth Sahib is located ( holy book). The bride wears red or pink typically. Sikh brides wear an Indian Suit ( tunic with pants) or a lehenga ( two piece dress). The man typically wears a turban of a matching color to the brides dress, and can wear traditional wedding Kurta Pyjama ( long decorated tunic with loose pants), or they can wear a western type suit.
In Sihkism marriage is a partnership of equals. There should be No consideration to Caste, Social Status, Race or lineage. Dowry is also not allowed in the Sikh religion. Sadly some Sikhs ignore these basic rules. Most arranged marriages are based on caste lines. Dowry is illegal but many families of the bride are pressured into buying expensive gifts for the husbands family. This can include things like gold, jewelry, blankets, suits and turbans, a car, appliances and even cash. It be can be a great burden on the girls family to provide enough “gifts” to the grooms family. In some cases, not enough gifts can be an excuse for the brides new family to be mean and cruel to her. I have even heard cases of weddings being called off or divorce because not enough “ gifts” were provided. Most good Sikhs will not even consider taking a dowry from the brides family.
Most worship in Sikhism is done through song, called Kirtan. There are musicians called Ragis that sit and play musical instruments and sing the hymns, there are two main instruments.
THE BAJA (Harmonium): It has a keyboard like a small piano . It can be carried easily because of its small size (approximately 2′ x 1′ x 1′). In Punjabi terminology any instrument which produces a musical note by blowing or puffing of air is called Baja.
JORRI (Tabla) Jorri literally means ‘pair’. These are two one-sided drums, one narrower than the other, made of hollowed wood and the surface made of quality skin, usually goats’. Both drums are played by hands; the narrower top is played with the fingers only while the broad top is played with different parts of the hand, the finger-tips, the lower hard part of the palm and the whole open palm.
The Sikh wedding ceremony has a special set of hymes called “The Four Laav”. Each of the four Laav ( hymes) has a special significance and describes the marriage of the bride to the husband.
1. In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord sets out His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life.
2. In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord leads one to meet the True Guru.
3. In the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with divine love.
4. In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, the mind becomes peaceful having found the Lord.
The man wears a long scarf/sash around his neck. During the first part of the ceremony an Ardaas is done. Then the bride’s father places the end of the cloth into the bride’s hand while the man wears the remaining part around his shoulders. I remember my husband told me it was very important that I not let go of this cloth, or it was a bad omen! So I held on to for the life of me! At the end of the ceremony the Baba ji (priest) tried to take it from my hand and I would not let it go. I thought it was some kind of test . The priest laughed at this misunderstanding.
After the conclusion of the recitation of each stanza the bride and groom walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib in a clockwise direction led by the groom while the Ragis sing out the recited Lavan stanza. The couple than bows in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, placing their forehead to the ground in respect. The couple than sits and listens to the next stanza. It was nice because during my ceremony the priest gave my family an English version of the verses. The entire ceremony is in Punjabi so it was nice for us non Punjabis to be able to understand the ceremony as well.
This process is repeated four times in total for each stanza of the Lavan. The religious ceremony is concluded by the recitation of the Ardaas by everyone in the Gurdwara. Ardas is prayer of supplication performed by a Sikh. The word Ardas means to petition. Prayer may take the form of a request, an entreaty, or of an offering.
After this Sri Guru Granth Sahib is opened to any page at random and the Hukamnama (hymn ) is read. This hymn is often significant to the couple. The priest wrote ours down on a paper and we keep it in our car as a blessing for safety when we drive.
At the end of the ceremony Prasad is distributed to everyone. Prasad is a yummy sweet made of whole wheat, Ghee (clarified butter), and sugar. This marks the formal conclusion of the ceremony.
After our wedding we had a barbecue at my mom’s house. Most Punjabis have a large reception with many guests. We just had close family, but it was a lot of fun. I loved my Sikh Wedding ceremony. Listening to the kirtan and walking the path around the holy book connected by cloth to my husband signified the path we were going to be walking together in life.Tied together, making the journey as one. Someday we will have a larger ceremony with all the traditions, but I am happy with our lovely day!