THE ANAND KAARAJ
SIKH MARRIAGE CEREMONY
A Brief Explanation And Guide
by Manvir Singh Khalsa - firstname.lastname@example.org
Milni And Tea
The marriage party is received and shown respect by the bride’s family and relatives. The Granthi would recite Ardaas (prayer) before the Almighty to seek blessings.
Ceremony of Milni (the greeting and meeting of families of both side) is performed where parents, uncles, brothers and relatives meet and greet each other. Father meets father and mother meets mother of the bride and groom respectively. They shake hands; garlands are exchanged and they embrace each other. The exchange of gifts including gold rings, bangles, clothes, shawls or blankets is ‘manmat’, contrary to the Guru’s way and condemned in Sikhism.
Thereafter, the bride’s parents serve breakfast to the guests of both sides in the Gurdwara or at the house of the bride’s parents. Then the wedding party proceeds to move forward towards the hall where the Guru Granth Sahib Ji is present, for the performance of the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the Sikh’s Sacred Scripture, which is regarded as the living Guru, the speaking light and voice of the soul of the Ten Sikh Gurus. The Divine teachings and the Divine ‘Word’ is revered as the ‘Guru’. Since Gurbani (the Guru’s message) came direct from God, and as there is no difference between God and His order (Divine Word), Gurbani is the embodiment of the Divine Light, which enlightens an individual to conquer life and become one with Supreme One.
Discipline and protocol inside the Gurdwara or when appearing before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Alcohol, narcotics, intoxicants and tobacco in any shape or form are not allowed on the Gurdwara complex or in the building premise where there is parkaash (exposition) of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. As a matter of respect, visitors are required to take off their shoes and cover their heads at all times whilst they are inside the Gurdwara complex or in the marriage hall. The congregation are to avoid unnecessary talking and remain silent except for reciting or singing along with Baani (hymns). Meat or meat products are not allowed to be prepared or served in the langar (community kitchen) or in the Gurdwara.
No one should sit with the legs and feet facing towards the Guru Granth Sahib Ji or stand with their back towards the Guru.
There is no compromise for anybody over this protocol while appearing before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Four Laava (Marriage Hymns)
Four hymns (called laavan) from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji are read to solemnise the Anand Kaaraj (Sikh marriage). These hymns are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib at pages 773-74. In these hymns, Guru Raam Daas Ji, the fourth Sikh Guru has written about the marriage of the individual Aatma (soul) with Parmaatma (the Eternal Soul). These four hymns mention four stages in the progression of love between spouses and also of human souls towards union with the Supreme Soul. Marriage is a spiritual journey of one soul in two bodies, which needs love, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual adjustment and commitment to attain unity with the Almighty Lord. The essence of the Laavan may be summed in the following word:
Ø Contemplation of God’s Name
Ø Fear of the Immaculate God
Ø Bairaag and longing of Divine Love
Ø Harmony and attainment of God
Guru Raam Daas Ji mentions that the married life should be moulded to the spiritual and ideal teachings contained in these hymns.
During the marriage ceremony, the Granthi recites the first Laav.
Musicians then sing the same verse, while the bride and the groom walk clockwise around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. When the musicians finish singing the verse, the bride and the groom bow and sit down. This protocol is repeated for the four wedding verses.
A gist of the teachings of the Laavan, the Sikh marriage vows
The First Laav
In the first round (Laav), the Lord expresses the daily duties and adjustments in wedded life, which will bring change in the lives of two individuals. Guru Raam Daas Ji says that the Lord has ordained to perform marital duties and social responsibilities devotedly while living as a householder in society. The person must have love and reverence for the Almighty Lord and always recite His Name in the performance of worldly duties. He ought to follow the path of righteousness and meditate on the true and perfect Guru that would eliminate all the sins and misdeeds. Bliss is obtained through good fortune. Nanak proclaims that by the first round, the initial marriage ceremony has begun.
The Second Laav
Second Laav emphasises that as a true partner, the couple must be ready to understand and appreciate each other. Guru Raam Daas Ji lays emphasis on holy fear, selfless love and eradication of ego.
“Without fear, the love of God is not kindled, nor does heart become pure.”
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, p. 472)
Where there is immaculate fear, there is true love.
The respectful fear and devotion of the Fearless and All-powerful Lord can purify the mind and remove all the illnesses. A person becomes like Him. The holy fear of the Immaculate Lord and the singing of His Name, will also make the person fearless. It will remove the filth of ego and pride. By praising His Greatness, the presence of All-pervading God can be experienced.
The Third Laav
The third Laav directs that life means togetherness and no separation. Guru Raam Daas Ji signifies about detachment from worldly desires and attractions. This is a stage of spiritual advancement, where the Divine love gets priority over worldly love. When the person detaches or restraints himself from worldly relationships and attachments, there emerges a feeling of Bairaag (longing of Divine love) for attainment of God in mind. Therefore, awaken the love for God and yearn to contemplate on His Name.
The Fourth Laav
The fourth Laav is about love, trust, respect and care for each other. It is a stage of equipoise, where there is complete oneness with God, no pangs of separation, no fear and no mistrust. This stage of perfect balance and eternal bliss is attained through love, full devotion and detachment from worldly attractions. This is a stage of ‘Sehaj’, unity and harmony with God, which knows no mistrust and duality (there is no ‘me’ and ‘you’).
Thus man’s quest for realisation of God begins with the first Laav and concludes with the attainment of God in the fourth Laav.
Conclusion of Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony concludes with singing of the six-stanzas of Anand Sahib, ‘the Song of Bliss’, which is then followed by the singing of some other hymns appropriate for the occasion.
The singing is concluded by the Ardaas, which is a prayer in which the congregation participates in by standing up with folded hands. Then everyone sits back down to listen to the Guru’s edict for the day, called Hukhamnaama, which is a random reading from the Guru Granth Sahib Jee, as an instruction for the congregation and the married couple. The ceremony ends with the distribution of Karaah Parshaad (sacred sweet pudding), which one receives with folded hands.
The bride and groom, and all guests then would eat Guru-Ka-Langar, free communal meal in the Gurdwara or where the marriage ceremony took place. Serving or drinking alcohol after the marriage ceremony is strictly prohibited by Sikhism, and is not to be confused with Panjabi culture which in some aspects is contrary to the Guru's instructions and the Sikh discipline.