The Sikh marriage is described as “Anand Karaj”. Anand means ‘bliss’ and Karaj means ‘ceremony’. So Anand Karaj means a ceremony of spiritual bliss, health of mind and body; and to be a step forward, merging of one’s soul into another and thereby attaining unity with “Ultimate Reality”.
The word Anand Karaj sanctifies the marriage institution. Marriage in Sikhism is a religious obligation. It is neither a contract nor a business but a life long sacred and spiritual commitment. It is not a game but a union for the performance of social and religious duties to achieve the goal of human life and live for one-another. It is a tie of conjunction but there must be an element of consent. It is a spiritual union and an opportunity for serving God through service of humanity. It is sacramental and permanent marriage. It is unbreakable. Only death can break it.
- Rokana – Rokana means stop or pre-wedding agreement. There is a trend these days for the parents of the girl to go to the house of prospective groom. Take consent of the boy and his parents for a new relationship and give a small sum of money (known as Shagun) to the future groom to be.
- Ring Ceremony– One nearly universal tradition has been that of the engagement ring. This custom can be dated back to the ancient Romans. It is believed that the roundness of the ring represents eternity. Therefore, the wearing of wedding rings symbolizes a union that is to last forever. It was once thought that a vein or nerve ran directly from the “ring” finger of the left hand to the heart. The ring ceremony is performed sometimes before marriage and sometimes at the time of performance of marriage. Sikhism believes in making the wedding ceremonies as simple as possible.
- Chunni Chadauna– Parents of the prospective groom go the house of girl’s parents to give Shagun to the would be bride.
- Mangni– (also known as Betrothal) Before marriage takes place, a betrothal ceremony is generally performed which is called Mangni. When both sides are satisfied as to the compatibility of the match, a day is fixed for Mangni (betrothal). Literal meaning of Mangni is asking or begging. Betrothal also corresponds to Kurmai, Sagai or Shagan but it is not very essential ceremony (See Sikh Reht Maryada). Usually the betrothal ceremony takes place at the boy’s residence but some people have started performing this ceremony in Gurdwaras while few others perform it in hotels. The parents and kin of the girl go to the place of the boy for Mangani ceremony. Boy is seated in midst of the assembly in presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Ardas is offered which is a requirement in Sikhism. Father or guardian of the girl gives Shagan / Chhuhara and puts some cash in the Jholi or scarf of the boy. In some cases, gold ring or bracelet is offered to the boy on betrothal ceremony. At this ceremony, the bride’s and bridegroom’s families exchange gifts but all this is not in consonance with the Sikh Reht Maryada. The congratulations are extended to each other and sweetmeats are distributed. The boy’s family in return sends some gifts to the girl. The giving of gifts is not mandatory. Generally, the betrothal ceremony takes place in presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib attended by friends and relatives. However, betrothal ceremony and other ceremonies are not an essential part of the marriage ceremony and are not encouraged by Sikh families
- Fixation of the marriage date– The year and day of wedding is fixed. Meet together my mates and pour oil at the door. Fixing of the date of marriage in Sikhism is not negotiated through astrologers. Marriage day is fixed as mutually convenient and suitable to both the families. In the olden days, there was prejudice about the time, day, month and year of the marriage. Sikhism does not believe in omens, auguries or auspicious days. There is no prejudice in fixing the day, time and month of the ceremony. Normally, the marriages are solemnized on Saturdays or Sundays. Invitations are sent to the near and dear. Preparations are made for special food, clothing and gifts.
- Letter of invitation– (also knwon as Sahe Chithi) – After fixation of the marriage date, a letter of invitation giving the summary of the arrangements is dispatched by the bride’s father to the bridegroom’s house. Sahe Chithi is a letter of invitation notifying date of marriage. This letter is normally written by the guardians or parents of the bride to the parents of bride groom. This letter is considered to be customary fixation of the marriage date and invitation for marriage ceremony specifying place and date of marriage. Certain social ceremonies take place in houses of both the families and there remains a great hustle and bustle. In the past, the connected wedding ceremonies were started about a month before the actual wedding day.
- Maiyan– is the Ceremony of bathing and cleaning the body of groom and bridegroom before nuptials. The ceremony of Maiyan is performed one to three days before actual date of marriage by the girl’s and boy’s parents and relatives in their respective homes. This has been an exclusive ceremony performed by women. A yellow fragrant paste made of Haldi (tumeric), Vesan (gram flour) and mustard oil is rubbed on the face, arms, legs and body of bride and bride groom in their respective homes. The ceremony is performed to clean and make the body glow and soft so that boy and girl give the best of their look on the day of marriage. After Vatna ceremony, the bride is made to sit on a small stool for ritual bath.
- Sangeet – Music, dancing Giddha and singing by ladies is performed at both the houses of bride and bridegroom. The songs sung (epithalamium) by ladies at the groom’s house are called Ghorian(wedding songs in groom’s house) and songs sung in the house of bride are called Suhag (Wedding songs in bride’s house). Light refreshment and gifts of sweetmeats are given to all in attendance. These days, the custom of ladies Sangeet and wedding shower has shortened the long ceremonies held in the past. The wedding has become a one day event which spread over three days in the past.
- Jaago– There is a well known practice that relatives from the maternal side called Nankaa Mail, take out a Gidha parading party at night through the streets of village of the Bride / Bride Groom. A day before the wedding day, the ladies carry lighted earthenwares on their heads and sing traditional Bolian and songs full of jokes. They sing folk songs with the beat of Dholki and knock the doors of the village residents and take the household ladies along to a bigger Ladies Sangeet Party (Gaun) being held at the home of bride / groom. This heightens the wedding festivities.
- Ghorian– Certain social ceremonies take place before marriage when there is great hustle and bustle in the house of the bride and groom. Invitations are sent to the nears and dears. Preparations are made for special food, clothings and gifts. Music, dancing and singing by ladies is performed at both the houses of bride and bridegroom. The songs sung by ladies at the groom’s house are called Ghorian (wedding songs in groom’s house) and songs sung in the house of bride are called Suhag (Wedding songs in bride’s house). Light refreshment and gifts of sweetmeats are given to all in attendance at the time of ladies Sangeet. The mare (Ghori) was used in the past as a form of transportation. The bride groom would dress in his wedding attire and ride on a mare to proceed to his in laws house for performance of wedding ceremony. The bride groom usually carried in the past a sword in his hands to be used to protect himself and his bride in case of an attempted abduction. At the time of departure of marriage party, wedding songs are sung when bridegroom rides on a Ghori (Mare)
- Ghori– In good olden days, there were no aeroplanes, cars, buses or trains for transportartion purposes. People would travel on foot, use donkeys, ponies, camels, horses, elephants or other animals for transportation purposes. Many people would use carts, Buggies, Dolies (carried by labourers on their shoulders), Palkies, chariots ( Four wheeled horse driven vehicles) and Raths etc. as means of conveyance. Boats and small ships were also used to travel on water surface. In the modern times when fast modes of transportation are available, horse riding has become merely a symbolism and ritualistic ceremony. Ceremony of Ghori does not serve any purpose other than a symbolic wedding show, dances and performance of Bhangra. Although this ceremony is not normally practiced by the Sikhs but whosoever is practicing it these days would hire a decorated mare for ritualistic riding of groom. The groom in his best attire would ride a mare, may it be for the first and the last time in his life. He is accompanied by a Sarbala (Escort) normally a small boy. The groom would give monetary gifts to his sisters called “Waagh Pharaei” and to Bhabis called Surma Pawaie before departure of Baraat (Marriage Party / Janj). Ghori has been substituted these days. Majority of people in western world hire limousines or decorate their cars substituting ceremonial Ghori. People who accompani marriage part are called Barati and people who come fromrelatives side especially maternal side are called Maili.
- Milni ceremony– The marriage party is received with respect and honor by the girl’s family and relatives led by religious singers. At the time of reception of the marriage party, Shabads are sung and prayer is offered. The Granthi would recite the Ardas (prayer) praying Almighty God to shower His blessings.Ceremony of Milni ( greeting and meeting of families of both sides; Dheta, girl’s father or his kinsmen and Putreta, boy’s father or his kinsmen) is performed where parents, uncles, brothers and other relative of both the families meet and greet each other. Father meets with father and mother meets with mother of bride and groom respectively. They shake hands, garland and embrace each other. Similarly grand fathers, grand mothers, uncles, aunties and maternal uncles and maternal aunties meet with each other. Exchange of flower garlands, presents and salutations (not essential in Sikhism) takes place at the time of Milni. Some times, the gifts include gold rings, bangles, suits of silk clothes or costly shawls and blankets (This is Manmatt and decried in Sikhism).The Dhetas put some sweets in a plate and offer to the groom’s party as Shagan. Thereafter, breakfast is served by the girl’s parents to the guests of both the sides in Gurdwara or at the house of the girl’s parents. Then the wedding party moves to appear before Sri Guru Granth Sahib for performance of Anand Karaj ceremony.