Sikh Marriage Ceremony – Anand Kaaraj
The Sikh marriage goes through a lengthy process, which can last for many days, in which almost every member of the extended family has a role to play. Generally speaking the traditional Asian marriage is not just between two individuals but the two families. It is for this reason that members of the maternal and paternal families of the bride and groom look forward to playing their individual roles in helping to complete this happy ceremony. This involves some activities, which have to be carried out even long before the engagement and wedding day itself, relative’s views are sought through consultation about selecting the partner for the individual that is of marriageable age.
This page is mainly about the actual marriage vows that the couple have to go through and not the other numerous activities and traditions that have to be completed before and after the Anand Kaaraj. The word Anand means ultimate bliss and Kaaraj means action or activity. According to Sikhism there is no happiness which is greater than Anand. Similarly Anand Sahib is one of the five Banies (prayers) of Sikhism which is always recited at the end of every religious service. Before commencing the vows-taking ceremony the bridegroom would bow down to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Holy Scriptures of Sikhism) and sit on the right hand side in front of the congregation facing Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Shortly afterwards the bride is usually escorted by her brothers and/or male cousins or sometimes by the maternal uncle(s) as well.
After bowing down to the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the bride will sit down on the left hand side of her groom.
The groom’s sisters usually sit behind him similarly female relatives of the bride sit behind her facing the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The musicians sing the God’s hymns as all these activities are taking place and will also instruct the individuals to carry out their activities as part of the marriage ceremony. Once the couple have sat down cross-legged in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the priest or the musicians (Ragis) will ask the couple and their respected parents only to stand up in a prayer asking permission from the almighty to commence this important ceremony of Anand Kaaraj. Then the bride’s father is requested to give his daughter away to the groom. He would physically tie the knot or hand the trailing scarf from the groom’s shoulder to his daughter signifying that from now on she is joining with her husband for life. Following the father’s blessings the musicians will sing the praises to the Lord and in taking the four marriage vows the couple would have to sit in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji amidst the congregation usually in a Gurudwara. However this marriage sometimes could also take place in the house or another place where Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji could be taken from the Gurudwara with the appropriate respect. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the only witness needed in a Sikh Marriage.
The priest (or any initiated Sikh – male or female) then reads the first Laav – vow from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, once he / she has completed reading, the couple are asked to bow down and stand up. The musicians then recite and sing the first Laav accompanied by the music, the bridegroom is asked to lead the way and walk around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji clockwise followed by his bride. The bride’s brothers and male cousins who are standing around the holy book in a circle escort her from one to the next while the couple are walking. This encirclement usually finishes simultaneously with the musicians completing their singing of the Laavan and the couple then bow and
sit down again in their respective places.
This activity is repeated three more times when the remaining vows are recited and the musicians sing them whilst the couple are guided to encircle the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at a slow pace paying respect to the Guru. The marriage is then officially completed with the blessings of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Following are the four Laavan (vows) taken by the couple:
The First Laav – (1st Hymn / Vow to Solemnise Marriage)
The Promise to love forever: This Laav explains the duties towards God, to each other, to the family and to the community at large. In the first laav, Waheguru (God) asks the bride and the bridegroom to promise that (a) Only Gurbani (teachings of the Gurus i.e. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the spiritual form of the Sikh Gurus and their beloved holy men) for a Sikh, is the Guru, and to practice truth and recite Waheguru and (b) Love your partner forever from the bottom
of your heart and the Waheguru will bless you with happiness. Love is a delicate thing; the slightest departure from the truth or sincerity may injure it. Great sensitive art of loving tact, patience and sympathy are required to make two strange lives grow into one.
The Second Laav
The promise to merge completely into one another: Waheguru has caused your union and now you both promise that: (a) You will dispel all the fears of past life and will throw away all your pride and ego; (b) You will respect each other and will always live in other’s eyes and heart; (c) You will descend in each other’s soul and will always remain each other’s beloved one; (d) Your relation will be forever and you will always share your happiness and sorrow.
The Third Laav
The promise to be faithful: Your mind, which until yesterday had only distinct dreams, is today filled with utmost happiness. You are very fortunate that you both have been united in the presence of this congregation. Now you promise that you will always: (a) Live in humility; (b) Speak to each other with sweetness and love, and you will not forget Waheguru; (c) From today, you will think of no one else except each other, and will share each other’s dreams and aspirations and be faithful for ever and (d) From today, both your actions and fortunes will be joint as one.
The Fourth Laav
The promise to be together in both happiness and adversity:
The fourth stage is that of harmony or union, of complete oneness, of perfect balance, which knows no separation, no mistrust. This is the stage in which effort is eliminated. The bride’s past and present become the groom’s past and present and vice versa. They feel and think alike and both are completely identified with each other i.e. they become one spirit in two bodies. “Waheguru has blessed you both. This marriage has been solemnised in the presence of God. Human love is superseded by divine love”.
Now you both promise that you will always remain together in both happiness and adversity and will live in each other’s heart.
Couple is then declared husband and wife at the end of this Laavan Ceremony.
(c) Ref: BS Devsi / Anand Kaaraj – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org