Anand Karaj – Sikh Marriage Ceremony
The Anand Karaj ceremony is normally conducted in the Prayer Hall of a Gurdwara a Sikh place of worship. The service is traditionally conducted in Punjabi, according to the principles set out in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gurmukhi Script. An outline of the ceremony is provided here in English to enable wider understanding to the Service. The families and friends of the Bride and Groom gather in the Prayer Hall, for the the Anand Karaj – the blissful union. The congregation assembles together in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture). The Groom enters the hall and bows before Guru Granth Sahib Ji and awaits the bride. At the start if the Anand Karaj, both the bride and groom bow before Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and then sit side by side at the front of the hall. The couple and the parents stand up to offer Ardas (prayer), signifying the that the parents have given their blessing for the wedding to take place. Everyone else remains seated while the Ardas is read, a prayer for the success of the marriage. The musicians, who are called Ragis, sit on a low stage and sing the hymn ‘Keeta Loree-ai Kaam’, to seek Gods’s blessing and to convey a message thats a successful martial unions is achieved through grace:
Whatever work you wish to accomplish, tell it to the Lord Your affairs will be resolved the True Guru gives his guarantee of truth In the society of saints, you shall taste the treasure of the ambrosial nectar The Lord who is the merciful destroyer of fear, preserves and protects those who serve him, O Nanak, singing the glorious praises of God, ones see the unseen Lord (Shri Guru Granth Sahib)
The Ragi councils the couple with the verse ‘Dhan Pir Eh Na Akhee-an’. The are advised that the 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, recognise her individuality, regard her as his equal, offering guidance and support.
The wife is to shoe her love respect and loyalty, support her husband, harmonise with him, and share in happiness and sorrow, prosperity or adversity.
The couple are to ally themselves with each other in an endeavour to achieve a harmonious union, intellectually, emotionally, physically, materially and spiritually.
The Bride and Groom, affirm the acceptance of their martial obligations, and bow together before Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The bride sits to the left of the groom directly in front of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Groom’s sister then drapes a long scarf or length of turban cloth, called a pall, around his shoulders, and places the right end in his hand. The Brides’s father takes the left end of the pall, arranges it over his shoulder and gives the bride the left end to hold, signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husband.
The Ragis sing the hymn: ‘Pallai Taiddai Lagge’ symbolising joining the couples by the palla to each other and God.
Lavan, the Four Wedding Rounds
The Granthi (Sikh Priest) initiates the four wedding hymns of Lavan representing four stages of love. The hymns describe the development of martial love between husband and wife, which is parallel to that between the soul (bride) and God (the husband).
The Bride and Groom will walk around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, as the Ragis sing the words of Lavan. Holding his end of the pall, the Groom walks around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the bride follows the Groom holding on to her end of the palla. The couple makes their first martial adjustment by keeping in step with each other. They bow together before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji concluding the first wedding round they will resume sitting. Every time the bride and groom arise or sit down during the ceremony they will bow down to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji out of respect by touching their foreheads to the ground. The second, third & fourth Lavan are conducted in the same manner.
The First Laav Hymn
The first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord gives you His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life. Instead of performing rituals by routine, embrace the righteous life of Dharma, and do nothing that separates you from God. Meditate on God Name. Embrace and practice Simran – the continuous remembrance of your True Identity. Worship and adore the Guru, the Perfect True Guru, and all the errors of your past shall be washed away. By your great destiny, you shall know that bliss which passes all understanding, and the Lord – Har, Har, will become sweet to your mind. Servant Nanak proclaims that in this first round, the marriage ceremony has begun.
The Second Laav Hymn
In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord guides you to meet the True Guru – the Primal teacher. Filled with the awe of the Infinite, your ego dissolves away. In awe of the One who is forever pure, sing His Wonderful Praises and see God in all. The Lord – the Supreme Soul, is the Master of the Universe. He fills everything, everywhere. He fills all spaces. Deep within you, and outside as well, there is only One God. God humble servants meet together and sing the songs of joy and ecstasy. Servant Nanak proclaims that in this second round, the music of the spheres resounds.
The Third Laav Hymn
In the third round of the marriage ceremony your heart is filled with Divine Love. By my great destiny I have met the humble Saints who love the Lord and I have found God. I have found the pure Lord and I sing His Wonderful Praises. I speak the Word of the Lord Bani. By great destiny I have found the humble Saints and I speak the silent language of the Infinite. The Lord Name – Har, Har, Har, vibrates and resounds within my heart. Meditating on God, I have realized the great destiny inscribed upon my forehead. Servant Nanak proclaims that in this third round, the heart is full with Divine Love of the One God.
The Forth Laav Hymn
In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony I have found God and my mind is filled with peace. Living as a Gurmukh, I have met Him with simple ease. My mind and body are full of sweet delight. I am pleasing to God – and night and day I lovingly focus my awareness on the One. I have merged with my Lord and Master and all my desires are fulfilled. The Lord Name resounds and reverberates within me and all around me. The One God, my Lord and Master, merges with His Divine Bride and her heart blossoms with His Holy Naam. Servant Nanak proclaims that in this fourth round, we have become One with the Eternal Lord.
Conduct within the Gurdwara
On the occasion of a wedding at the Gurdwara, the bride’s family will have arrived first, to welcome the Groom with his family and friends. The Groom’s wedding party (the Baraat) often arrives at the Gurdwara, often dancing to the sounds of Dhols (drums). The Gurdwara Management Committee ask that the playing of drums and dancing only takes place up to the car park in front of the Gurdwara, and not on the paved area immediately in front of the Gurdwara.
The Sikh Code of Conduct is very strict in respect of alcohol, tobacco and other intoxicating substances. None of these should be brought on to the Gurdwara premises under any circumstances, and no one should be under the influence of such drugs.
The Milni Ceremony involves the formal introductions of members of the Bride and Groom’s families. At this Gurdwara, this ceremony can take please wither in front of the entrance, or in the entrance flyer, depending on the families’ preference and the weather. Please cover your head and remove your shoes as you enter the Gurdwara. Scaves and handkerchiefs for covering the head are available near the entrance, but hats and caps are not considered suitable. Please wash your hands after removing your shoes. In the prayer Halls where the Anand Karaj ceremony will take place, the Guru Granth Sahib will be present on the That or Palki directly opposite the entrance. Sikhs will walk to the Takht, place money into the box in front, and bow down to the touch their forehead to the floor, as a sign of respect and obedience to the Guru Granth Sahib. Other visitors are welcome to observe the same practice but are not required to do so. However, everyone is expected to be respectful and maintain a peaceful presence in this space, sitting on the floor and being careful not have your backs or feet towards the Guru Granth Sahib. The Gurdwara Management Committte have a policy of appealing for donation of funds towards the Building Fund after the Anand Karaj ceremony. The Gurdwara has been built through such donations, and the Sangat are invited to continue to provide support to the running costs. At the end of any Service and on leaving the prayer Halls, Parshad is served to everyone. This is made from flour, sugar and ghee (clarified butter), and is regarded as food blessed by the Guru. It should be accepted in cupped hands. Parshad should not be thrown away so please ask for a small amount if you are taking it for the first time. Finally, please feel free to ask any questions of ‘Sewadars’ who are present in the Gurdwara.