Program Guide for Anand Karaj, the Sikh Wedding Ceremony
The families and friends of both the bride and groom gather in the Gurdwara, or a wedding hall, for the Anand Karaj Sikhism marriage ceremony. Wedding parties and guests assemble together in the presence of the Guru Granth. Hymns are sung as men and boys sit to one side of a central isle, and the woman and girls to the other. Every one sits on the floor reverently with legs crossed and folded.
The bride and groom bow before the Guru Granth, and then sit side by side at the front of the hall. The couple and their parents stand up to signify that they have given their consent for the wedding to take place. Every one else remains seated while a Sikh offers Ardas, 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 God's blessing and to convey a message that a successful marital union is achieved through grace.
A Sikh wedding official counsels the couple with the verse "Dhan Pir Eh Na Akhee-an". They are advised that 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, recognize her individuality, regard her as his equal, offering guidance and support.
- The wife is to show her love and respect with loyalty, support her husband's objectives willingly, harmonize with him, and share in happiness and sorrow, prosperity or adversity.
- The couple are to ally themselves with each other in an endeavor to achieve a harmonious union, intellectually, emotionally, physically, materially and spiritually.
The Bride and groom, affirm the acceptance of their marital obligations, and bow together before the Guru Granth. The bride sits to the left of the groom directly in front of the Guru Granth.
The bridegroom's sister (or other female relation) drapes a long scarf, shawl, or length of turban cloth, called a palla around the groom's shoulders, and places the right end in his hands.
The bride's father (or one acting in his stead) takes the left end of the palla and arranges it over the bride's shoulder and gives her the left end to hold.
The ragis sing the hymn:
"Pallai Taiddai Lagee" symbolizing joining the couple by the palla to each other and God.
Lavan, the Four Wedding Rounds
The four wedding hymns of Lavan represent four stages of love. The hymns describe the development of marital love between husband and wife, while simultaneously signifying the love and longing of the human soul for God.
The bride and groom walk around the Guru Granth, as the ragis sing the words of the Lavan. The groom walks to the left clockwise. Holding his end of the palaa, he walks around the Guru Granth. The bride follows him holding on to her end of the palaa. The couple makes their first marital adjustment by keeping in step with each other. They bow together before the Guru Granth concluding the 1st wedding round and resume sitting. The 2nd, 3rd & final, 4th round, are conducted in the same manner.
The entire congregation sings "Anand Sahib", the "Song of Bliss". The hymn emphasizes the fusing of two souls into one as they merge with the divine.
The ragis sing two hymns to complete the ceremony:
- "Veeahu Hoa Mere Babula" - celebrates the marriage of the couple and their union with God.
- "Pooree Asa Jee Mansaa Mere Raam" - describes the happiness at having found the perfect partner.
Every one stands for the final prayer. After it has been said, everyone bows, and resumes sitting.
A Sikh reads a random verse called a hukam which concludes the ceremony. Lastly, a ragi serves everyone a handful of prashad, a sacred sweet blessed during the prayer.
The married couple and their families, express thanks to all present for taking part in the celebration. The wedding party guests congratulate the married couple. Everyone gathers in the langar hall to eat. Parents distribute boxed confections such as ladoo to guests.
The bride's in-laws may bestow upon her a new spiritual Sikh name taken from the hukam to welcome into her new family. Bride or groom may also take the name of their spouse followed by surname of Singh or Kaur.